Oh so glad it happened


Two years ago I had a major life change. Those that know me or read past articles know I had a stroke.  There are many kinds of strokes but mine was from a vertebral artery dissection that happened spontaneously and is quite rare.  It happens to young people and there is no warning and science knows very little about why it happens.

Yes young, healthy and active and yet it happened. Many, including myself, tried to understand it, push past it and I found myself trying to put others at ease. Life doesn’t provide guarantees or answers though – why becomes because that is life. I know many who are young, healthy and die way too early. I also know of many who are unhealthy and yet live to an old age.

Looking back on the past two years though I can really embrace that this major event happened. Strange huh? I have told many that I was grateful for my yoga practice at that time but I think many thought I was talking about the exercise when in fact I was referring to so much more. My awareness really made me mindful when I was grasping or pushing away. When I would want to cry but instead would resist and deny the feelings. The Pushing Away -we simply refuse to admit what is going on. Instead we’ll fight it all the way.

Aversion. Also known as anger, fear, dislike, resistance or hatred. We may not think to call or identify it as Aversion but that is just what that is. For me yoga isn’t just an exercise but should allow us to tap into our emotions and improve awareness. Instead of what I WANTED we can work towards what COULD happen. That is why Yoga doesn’t have to be contained or just held on the mat – it is all inclusive in our daily life. It is the way we move, stay still, sit, eat, sleep, work, interact with others and ourself. This is why I prefer yoga with an experienced teacher rather than a video. It is way too easy to hide away and maybe miss what someone else can see; good or bad. Helps us to expand past our habits and maybe break free of our aversion. A good teacher should allow you to have a safe place to experiment, try things and be yourself. Right now I am reading Stephen Copes latest book and love a saying he wrote: “Pain will happen but suffering is a choice”. Thats it! The choice is how I wish to hold that experience.

Aversion doesn’t have to be in major activities though. Often we experience it many times each day. Ever gone shopping for Clothes? Of course you have. So many us hate it and are scared of what the clothes will tell us about ourselves. We resist or resort to blaming ourselves. We hate that our body doesn’t match up to our expectations or even worse to societies expectations. If we can pause there though we may be able to just accept that some clothes will fit and others won’t. It isn’t personal! Stop it! We can start to see the difference between “this outfit isn’t right for me right now” vs “I’m ugly and therefore not good enough for this outfit”. For me it has been a struggle learning this body over the past couple years. I have changed and needed larger sizes. Once I started to let go of this I simply stopped blaming myself, I dressed myself with what looked and felt right. I cut the tags out so I don’t have to have a reminder of what someone else calls a large, medium or small. Instead I was dealing with my body as it is now. We even set up this resistance in the styles or kind of yoga we practice. We associate our self or status with it. Sad to say I find that some clothing lines for Yoga as well as some Yoga studios have a long way to go in accepting different bodies, types and styles. Models in the name of yoga are typically there selling the idea that you too could be something other than yourself.

Of course it is easier to see Aversion with major events. We declare war on it instead of just seeing the moment as it is. Even when I was in the hospital two years ago I remember they ran so many tests and were there telling me that in addition to what was happening my tests showed signs that I am a candidate for Arthritis someday. Really? My choice right then was to thank them but laugh about this. I told them I can’t live my life worried about what may or may not happen. Including if I could have a stroke again. The manner I was told about the results didn’t offer me more than just fear. No suggestions to living a happier life.

What we see visually is tough because for many of us we put so much value on what we see. We see signs with tests and determine someone’e future with it. We look into the mirror and judge what we see. We see pictures of a model and long to be them – unsure if they are happy –  but heck if I could be them I sure would be. Right? It never works that way though. There is more to each of us than the image. That is why I’m not a big fan of pictures of yoga poses especially on social media. To me it seems the complete opposite of what Yoga is really about. It isn’t about “Nailing it” or look at me in my practice. I believe in letting myself experience the entire process of the pose; beginning, middle and end. More than simply using our sight we feel, smell, touch and taste the experience and that can’t be seen in an image.

It is hard not to compare though – that is just human nature. It is normal to lock down and sometimes resist the moment. Human nature fights really hard and whether politics, religion, race, groups or classes – each one is busy averting from anything unlike them. They rationalize that one is better than the other. It snowballs until it resorts to being harmful, painful or killing in the name of it. Even last week in Paris those who were threatened by differences decided to kill and try to use fear to suppress. Unfortunately it never works the way many intend. I’m glad too see that it unites and reminds us to embrace our human right to our thoughts & opinions. Even North Korea tried this recently and for me it really made me appreciate what I could easily take for granted.

For now and today all I can do is be the best person I can be – faults and all. My actions can help or hurt another. So it starts with what I choose. That is why when I had the stroke I found myself returning to teaching yoga and helping others. I examined that I had even more to offer after this experience and I’m glad that it happened. Sure I did experience a lot of pain but I didn’t have to suffer. The choice was mine.