The last couple of days I have been a mix of struggle and beauty. I am finding it difficult to keep up with the physical pace, not simply the the morning practice but the long hours of the day. I am working so hard to be gentle with myself to allow breaks and to step away from the social aspect to get rest but I am feeling left behind in so many ways.
Bumping up against my personal physical limitations, whether it is a lack of strength in an asana pose or fatigue from the constant pace of our days is triggering a chain reaction of physical, mental and emotional break down. Sitting here at the half way point through the first short week of only 4 days I fear that I am slipping behind and I become overly self-conscious about falling too far behind.
In these short few days we have been reviewing the history of yoga, discussing the Yoga Sutras, which include memorizing Patanjali's eight limbs of classical yoga (Yamas [ahimsa, satya, asteya, brahmacharya & aparigraha], Niyamas [Saucha, Santosha, Tapas, Sadhyaya & Ishvarapranidhana], Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi), the Nadis, Pranayaa and meditation. Plus there is the sequencing of sun salutations A & B (the Surya Namaskar) which must be memorized not just the sequencing and breath (which I feel fairly comfortable with) but all the sanskrit names for the postures. And after lunch today we jump into anatomy! We only have a two hour break mid-day including lunch and dinner eats up most of our post-class time in the evening after which I barely have enough energy to read before falling asleep by 9 pm.
I am fighting myself as I bump up against these limits of my mind and body and I either start criticizing my own ineptness and failure to keep up or I harden toward the instructors for setting such a rigorous pace. I feel resentful that I can't spend my breaks at the beach or stay up late talking with the others. I am currently pushing through but I will not be able to keep this pace if I am carrying all of this negativity. I feel isolated and alone in this challenge and bristle at the prospect of being a slower student. That is my ego. That is the harsh voice that has always motivated me to excel.
This morning one of the teacher's singled out my struggle with the sanskrit in class and instructed me to specifically study and memorize with others tomorrow on our day off. This was my plan already and it just hurt to feel singled out as the one lagging. My defenses flew up and I wanted to cry out how hard it is for me, not just the physical practice but the endurance of such long days.
If I step away from that injured self who is projecting harshness onto others, I can learn from this. Learn empathy for others who are slow to pick up what I may feel is easy. I can learn gratitude for my own strengths - that the sequencing of the sun salultations come readily even when the sanskrit escapes my memory or gets twisted on my tongue.
But oh does this hurt. I cannot help but long for my pre-chemo brain that was quick to memorize and my pre-cancer body that had the energy to push and push and push for hours and days on little sleep. What a blessing it was to have that energy and quick mind.
I have to continually remind myself that my intention for coming to an intensive yoga teacher training in the jungle of Costa Rica was not to finish as the BEST yoga teacher ever, nor was my intention on coming down here to push my body into physical positions beyond my reach. I came here to teach myself acceptance. To breathe peace into my heart and mind and learn to love myself as I am - not as I once was, not as where I would like to be, but right here and now. I realize this is not an overnight process and will have a lot of bumps along the way and I need to accept those bumps for what they are, small hiccups on the path. I just wish I wasn't the oldest and largest person here, the most tired and among the slowest memorizers. . . .
On a more positive note, this morning I managed to rise into an assisted straddle hand stand!! It felt amazing! It also gave me hope that going forward I will be able to continually improve my physical practice as well as the mental.
Last night we walked down to the beach for our first guided meditation. Over the last few months, after the repeated advice from various therapists, I have been trying to integrate a daily meditation practice into my life. So far it has not been very structured other than with my therapist and it is often only a few minutes. I am enjoying learning more tools to deepen my own meditation and learn how to guide others to that peaceful lightness of the mind. We walked down to the beach and sat on the sand below the rising, nearly full moon. Our beach is in the gulf so the sun was setting far beyond the jungle trees behind us and over the Pacific Ocean. The teacher talked us quietly through various pranayama breathing and with the sound of the crashing waves I felt my mind settle and become more gentle. My muscles relaxed and I was not as sore. Despite the hermit crabs carting their homes along the sand and flies that flitted around and sweat that trickled down my face, I felt less fidgety the further we sank into the meditation. Near the end we opened our eyes and I felt the gaze of the moon shining as if just for me reflecting in a long beacon of light across the water straight to me sitting cross legged on the sand. Our eyes locked and I felt acceptance of myself for myself in that moment.