I feel the need to confess something that I'm not proud of. A month or so ago, I attended a Yoga Therapy Teacher Training with Doug Keller at a retreat center in Maria Stein, OH. At the center there was a labyrinth. (Not the one pictured above, that one is compliments of wikipedia.org). I'm familiar with labyrinths, but had never been on one.
I seized the opportunity and thought it was great. Throughout the workshop (3 days) I walked the path several times. Each time I got something different out of it.
"Coincidentally," the gal sitting next to me at the workshop had just come off of a seminar about labyrinths. She shared the idea of using the walk to the center as a time to surrender and let go. The return path is about receiving. Sounded simple enough. My past focuses had been different, so I decided to give her suggestion a try.
The walk in went very smooth. So much of Yoga is about surrendering, releasing, and letting go. "This is easy", I thought. Upon reaching the center, I felt cleansed and light. I sat for a while before the return trip out of the labyrinth. "An empty vessel ready to be filled," I smiled to myself. To my surprise, this was very difficult. My steps were not as sure as when I had entered the winding path. My stomach knotted up. How could this be? I'm always reminding students (and myself) to love yourself, nourish yourself, be open to the beauty around you and in you. It simply didn't make sense that I'd struggle on the path of receiving.
Not understanding why this was, I simply stuck it in the back of my mind. Then a couple of days ago I saw a U-Tube of Iyengar taking a full breath, and I mean FULL! This man took about 45 sec's for one inhale and another 30 for one exhale. Inspired, my pranayama practice that day focused on using a 1:1 ratio of inhale and exhale. No holds, no alternate nostril. Just long 1:1 breathing. Using the Ujjayi breathing made it even easier to watch my breath as this technique produces a smooth sound.
My exhales were like clear running water--smooth, serene, and steady. At first the inhales ran just as nicely. As I began to slowly lengthen the breath, the inhales became halting and "jumpy". It was as if something didn't want to accept the air. I could overcome this with force by drawing in through my nostrils--like sniffing a sweet perfume. However, one thing that I've learned in pranayama is to allow and guide the breath--never force. (A story for another time....)
The light in my brain turned on. I knew how to take not receive! That was it. I had worked hard to earn what I got--love, respect, a home, car, savings, etc. But an out of the blue compliment for something that I haven't actually worked on or an unexpected gift, is more difficult for me. A stroke of "good luck", makes me question. True unconditional love, fills me with fear.
Just this very morning, I was meditating and realized that I open the door of my heart, but then I run outside to see if anyone is there. The key, I think, is open the door of your heart, and then patiently wait for grace to step in. I've been chasing the butterfly, instead of allowing it to land on my shoulder.
This took a decade of practice to realize. Now that I see myself more clearly (Svadhayaya), a deeper journey is before me.
I knew that pranayama was a huge part of the practice, but little did I realize it would help me uncover a hidden block in my life.
Thank you so very much for indulging me by listening to this personal experience.