The Journey of the Warrior

It’s Tuesday morning.  I wake up early, probably 20 minutes before little one starts chant-singing, Mommy-Mommy-Mommy.  I lay in bed watching the gray dawn through my bedroom curtains.  I’m thinking about my journal session the night before.  There are many days when I write and it doesn’t amount to much.  But sometimes, when I’m really ready to look, I break out my mental flashlight and start digging around in the corners.  I encounter the thing that I’ve stashed away in hopes that I will never uncover it.  Something I’m afraid of.  Something I sense is true but can’t look at yet.

Monday night I finally had the courage to pull this thing out.  This fear that if I’m not wanted, then I am not enough.  I pulled it out and put it squarely in front of my face.  I repeated it to myself as I wrote it over and over again.  I figuratively sat with it as I considered the origin and reach of this belief.  I saw the part of myself that wanted to escape it again.  I told her I love her even if she runs from the pain of that belief.  And the compassion of that moment healed me by a degree. 

So the morning light feels like a call to rise again but today it’s confusing.  I don’t have to work today because my babysitter cancelled.  I have a full day of freedom but it comes with the pressure to carpe diem.  The DAMN carpe diem.  I considered taking R to Disneyland.  But it’s spring break season and that sounds about as fun as running a marathon with no training.  I consider going to a museum.  It’s free-day for residents at the Balboa Park museums and we never take advantage of it because I’m always working…but really?  A museum?  Is that what you want to do with a three-year-old on your day off?  

R is up by now and I’m making breakfast.  I decide to treat myself to an omelet and cut up some peppers and onions.  R asks, so sweetly, to help me that I let him use a little paring knife with meticulous supervision.  My patience with that lasts about two minutes (solid performance in my mind!).  He’s upset when I shoo him out of the kitchen, but I get to cook without anticipating a trip to the ER.  We eat and and I lay the good news on R, no preschool today.  He is delighted!  We talk through our options and thankfully he agrees to go to the gym without a fight.  Pro tip: It helps to describe the child care there as a “toy room.” Yoga is at 9:30 and that’s what I’m craving on this Tuesday morning.  

We get dressed, in the car and on our way.  He’s happy to be among the bustle of kids and upbeat music.  I walk into the already-begun yoga session.  I always feel guilty about arriving late.  The room is dark.  People are breathing deeply.  The instructor is murmuring about intentions and breath.  I sneak in as quietly as possible but I have to take a spot in the center of the room as every peripheral space is already occupied.  

My brain is so funny.  I imagine that these zen-looking folks are all silently swearing at my disturbance instead of centering themselves.  My unconscious response to their imagined aggravation is to imagine my own defense, You don’t know what I’ve been through this morning!  You don’t know what it takes to get a toddler out of the house!  You don’t know about my emotional journey!   Thankfully as I sink into my own breath, I realize the silliness of this.  Most of these women–and maybe even than one guy in the corner–know EXACTLY what those things are.  Then I shift from their business to my business.  

I think about Glennon Doyle’s first encounter with the Journey of the Warrior.  She had recently started attending yoga classes after a jarring life change (I won’t give it all away–read the book, Love Warrior–it’s excellent!).  She walks into the studio one day to realize that she is in a HOT yoga class.  As she sits on her mat in the boiling room, everyone in the class states their intention for the practice.  When it’s her turn she says, “My intention is just to stay on this mat and make it through whatever is about to happen without running out of here.”  

The instructor tells her, “Yes. You just be still on your mat. Yes.”  I decide this will be my intention for my practice.  I am simply going to stay on the mat today.  

This intention was incredibly clarifying for me.  I was able to stay present in the practice.  People that teach yoga always tell you to listen to your body and only go as far as feels good.  I’ve always struggled to hear my body.  I’m competitive, even just with myself, and it’s hard for me to not push myself in every possible way.  But with the stay-on-the-mat intention, I find that my body does speak to me in a quiet voice. 

As my practice concludes I feel clear and open.  I’m lying in savasana and I think of Glennon again.  She writes: 

“And for the next 90 minutes, I sat still on my mat. It was excruciating. All the ghosts I’d stuffed under my bed when I got married, all my fears for my family’s future, all the pain and rage I’d been denying caught up with me as I sat. I had no way to escape, nothing to use to numb myself from the feelings. I just had to sit in the middle of it all. I had to stay on my mat and let it scare me. I cried until I couldn’t cry anymore. And when it was over, I was still alive. I’d stopped running and faced my pain. I’d let it all come, I’d felt it all, and I’d survived. “

As I lay on my mat, I think of the courage that would take–to sit in a room with strangers and face all of that pain.  Glennon writes:  

“Later that day, I rediscovered a line in When Things Fall Apart, by Pema Chödrön, that had been pressing against my consciousness, not quite remembered, ever since my time on the mat: “So even if the hot loneliness is there, and for 1.6 seconds we sit with that restlessness when yesterday we couldn’t sit for even one, that’s the journey of the warrior.”

I think about Monday night when I sat with the hot loneliness.  That was the journey of the warrior.  That’s what made the space for a clearer Tuesday.  But don’t worry, the hot loneliness will be back.  And I’ll keep learning to sit with it.

And I’ll keep learning to sit with perfect evenings full of mud puddles and grilled hot dogs and curly-headed boys too! Namaste.