“Hi God, are you there? It’s me … Audrey”. Ok, ok, this isn’t a Judy Blume book, and I’m not in pre-pubescent angst- but I was struggling. I AM struggling. There is a line of communication to be had and I admit, I allow it to occasionally (more often than not lately) be clogged. I’m trying to pray as selflessly and with the purest intentions as possible. And I’ve been struggling these last few weeks. Like the old adage says- I’m not trying to pray for lighter burdens, I’m praying for a stronger back. (I’m not sure if it’s working.)
When I get stressed- everyone in my micro world can tell. Mainly because I smell like lavender and everything around me is infused with lavender essential oils. Something about this particular scent tingles in my nostrils and makes me yearn to breathe more deeply, which in turn relaxes me, so I keep the scent on hand- all the time. How sad that I play games with my olfactory system to remind myself to breathe right? Lauryn Hill’s MTV Unplugged Concert can also be found playing on repeat- why you ask? The words of every single song speak to my soul.
So as I trick myself with trigger scents and music that makes me want to sob, I supplement these actions with yoga. Now I know what you’re thinking- how “LA” of you. Stop right there- I think it is helping and not just my ego because of the girl with dreads who stares like she wants to motorboat me, but because of the following reasons:
1) I am physically vulnerable.
As I contort my body into positions that thrust my chest and heart chakras into the air, I give myself up to the moment- the space of trust that I have just created. Only with trust, balance, and breathing can I get into these positions. To feel your breath in and out, expanding your ribs, distributing pressure evenly… brings on such calm that only simple thoughts can be processed and I boil down my prayers to the core.
No more: “Dear God- I’m scared ” or “Dear God- I feel alone and I can’t talk about it- I can’t share that I’m vulnerable or it will be perceived as weak” and the best self defeating thought I perpetually think: “No one knows what I am going through and no one will care”.
In yoga it turns into: “I seek your light to find abundance and gratitude in each moment”. Things change from “it has to look THIS way” to: “I am creating a space for you to manifest your will, and I am open to what that might look like, and trust that it will be exactly what I need”. I find that “in my solitude I find the peace I seek, it was always in me and no person other than me could have brought it to light”.
2) I find my most unfiltered, pure thoughts
In yoga, things boil down to your breath and your intentions. With each breath, you release all that holds you back. That sounds funny to say but its true! If you don’t release, you won’t be able to inhale into the next posture. You will fall out of it because your mind will not be present. In yoga, I am called to my most inner thoughts- the ones I quiet during the day with my Blackberry, work, frivolous problems, and self imposed anxieties. Chuck Palahniuk said it best:
More and more, it feels like I’m doing a really bad impersonation of myself
That’s what it feels like to compartmentalize the things I am struggling with so I can put on a happy face and continue my way through each day. These thoughts silence me. When I hear them, I think- how can this be me? This looks nothing like who I think I am and the strong movement I am all day- in the mirror, these thoughts are my vulnerabilities. They are the emotions I never show the light of day staring back at me in a 100 degree 20×40 room lined with brightly colored mats.
(Note: The irony that I am seeking God in a literal hell- a room intentionally above 100 degrees and forcing myself into uncomfortable and painful positions has not escaped me)
These thoughts remind me that someone else’s experience doesn’t have to be my reality- all that I acknowledge is a choice. If I pay attention to it, then I have acknowledged truth in it. If I choose to see it as someone else’s truth, then I can respect that without taking away from my intentions.
I’m learning to pray without noise. As I strip down my walls, emotions, and physical restrictions I find myself praying in yoga without influence or outside noise. I find that my prayers come from the deepest parts of me that I have discovered so far. I find that they fill me with peace and gratitude for the opportunity to cast my vote in the universe.
3) I can physically tell when I have been deceiving myself
This is the most obvious to me of when I have betrayed myself. Gone out drinking? Guess what- my pores will smell of wine or gin and I can smell it in the sweat of each posture seeping through my pores. Ate something outside of my diet? I can tell- it’s oozing through my pores and giving me heart burn as I pull into cobra. A bit of gluttony – no worries, the discomfort in my mid section is screaming “too much” with each twist. Each of these things is a physical reminder that yoga does not let me escape. Each of them reminds me that I have substituted something physical to mask pain instead of seeking strength in prayer.
So why am I struggling? I have both a priest and a rabbi (thanks to the whole interfaith thing) and both have said what I already know:
“Audrey- you need to silence the outside. You need to find a space or outlet to seek peace. You can’t find/hear the message if you’re always trying to control the outcomes”.
Well, that was easier said than done. That’s how I’m stuck here in a Bikram class or using Yogaglo when I can’t make it to a studio. It’s like stretching for hippies and divorcee’s, everyone is trying to find peace- it must be working because we keep coming back. I’m just a girl, seeking conversations with God through prayer, trying to find a bit of peace through religion and sweat.