I’m back. I’m back in my body. And I’m back in class. Happily so.
OK, so I’ve been here all along in this same body, but now it feels more at ease, less as though I’ve gone a few rounds in the ring and come off distinctly the worse. So practice in class today was less an ordeal than of late.
Part of the theme of class was about not seeking external validation — in practice, in life. We don’t need Facebook ‘likes’ to feel good about who we are! We could just be ourselves. So we were invited to keep our eyes closed during practice, eliminating the external validation of checking out how we compare to others. I like practising this way. I find visual feedback really difficult — seeing myself or watching others. Other people don’t look how I expect… I’m never sure whether I want to emulate them or ignore them. I see some weird-looking stuff as much as I see some amazing stuff. I’m not sure any of it really helps.
So back to class today. Eyes closed and following the teacher’s instructions to work from the inside out, to feel any blockages to the flow, to prāṇa, and adjust accordingly. And my newly-comfortable body was a nice place to be, a good place to explore these lessons of validation. Because today I’m not feeling particularly in-valid, and I’m not feeling a sick invalid.
So what am I feeling? What lesson is my body teaching me today? Curiously now that my body is feeling more capable after a couple of ‘off’ weeks, it’s revealing to me how much I habitually hold back, exercise caution, seek ease rather than challenge. Is this a good way to practise? Sometimes it is, of course, and I feel as though this is what I’m taught, not to follow the ego in pursuit of ever-deeper poses, but to be compassionate and listen to my body. Keeping it real.
But how does habit fit with this? Habit that’s rooted in fear is not the same as compassionate listening. It’s not an honest practice. It’s not real. I’m not seeking a massively extravagant practice, but I do value truth and honesty. And the more I listened in during class, the more I was aware of a whispered internal monologue. It was really, really quiet. But it offered persistent doubt, consistent self-sabotage. As I moved into each āsana the whispers subtly undermined my ability, telling me to take the most superficial expression, the easy option. Sometimes this is right — but surely not all the time? Come on body, you can do better than this! You are better than this. You deserve more than this.
I am not an invalid.
My practice is not in-valid.
I’m not about to wrench my body into places it doesn’t want to go, but I am going to try to offer it some love and gentle encouragement and see where this leads. I am going to listen out for this insidious whisper as I set up each pose and then I can consciously choose to ignore it. I am going to be a best friend to myself, not a worst enemy.
In fact tonight I was practising next to a new, but good friend (accelerated intimacy is another spin-off from teacher training!). At one point she turned awkwardly to face me during practice and she gave me such a dazzling look of love. It was a look that suddenly silenced the whispers in my head.
She doesn’t see an invalid body. She just sees beautiful me. And I would see this too if I found a new perspective.