About four months ago, I sought help. I didn’t know what to expect.
In the past I had only gone to therapy as a last resort or when “forced” to confront the internal dialogue that threatened to destroy me. Now, here I was, feeling perfectly “OK”, but still shakily typing out an email to make an appointment with my “teacher”.
After my last two long term relationships ended in flames and I lost myself in a Rebound (think – I was going to drop everything- including a budding business idea (Social Yoga!) – to drive across the country with a guy I had known for three weeks), I put myself on a one year “Mantox” – a man detox. And what a year it’s been – some of the most incredible friendships forged and strengthened and the opportunity to do work that I never would have thought possible. As I saw the end of my “mantox” near, I began to feel a rising sense of dread and nerves. It was okay to be single when I willed it – purposefully shutting out opportunities for relationships – citing my mantox excuse. It would be a completely different story once I opened the gates, and subsequently my heart, to relationships again. For a gal who’s been in relationships her whole life, in my head, being single meant being unloveable. Not good enough. Cue: all the negative self talk.
So I wanted to be ready.
You know how some people want to get “beach bod ready” in three months? I wanted to be relationship-ready in three months.
I admit, it was a completely superficial reason to see my “teacher” but it got me there.
And at first, that was what we talked about. We hashed out my fears about getting into another relationship and did the whole “explore your childhood” activity – which was a beast in its own right. I’ll spare you the details and the sob sesses but one thing that kept resurfacing is the practice of self love. The practice of holding myself with compassion and kindness.
Since I started my regular meditation practice well over a year ago, it’s been phenomenal at keeping me grounded in what is true and present – rather than becoming swept up in stories and anxieties in my head. What I’ve learned through the last few months is like the next layer of meditation – the use of meditation as a time to sit with myself.
Similar to how couples have “quality time” with one another, my meditation is an opportunity to have “quality time” with myself.
For someone who has never learned to be alone, this concept of quality time and time to reconnect and plug into a practice of self love has been a game changer.
And yet, there have been so many times where tears would stream down my face during meditation. In the stillness, I find the darkest of emotions and thoughts and it takes all of my energy to stay with it. Nowadays, it isn’t so much the dark thoughts of the past (you know – the “wouldn’t it be grand if I ended my life” thoughts), but more so the loud internal dialogue that I have with myself and have had with myself since I was a child. Stories I tell myself of failure, falling short, and not being enough. Not being loveable.
The word sanskara in yoga refers to our ways of being that are so deeply ingrained and imprinted in to us that we fall back into them naturally when we are at a loss. Whenever we aren’t conscious, we slip into our patterns. Recent studies in neuroscience support this yogic principle, that the pathways and connections in our brain are strengthened when we think down a certain path and we are likely to get stuck in those particular pathways of thought until we consciously make an effort to break the pattern (as we do with meditation).
What I’ve discovered through hours of sitting with myself is one of my many patterns. As I’m sure some of you can relate – whenever I sense an environment in which someone I care about may hurt me, I harden and distance myself. It becomes a “Well, fuck it, I didn’t want to be here anyway.” Or “Who needs you anyway”. While this mentality has worked in the past to protect me, it not only becomes a self fulfilling prophecy of exclusion and hurt, but it also leaves me feeling even more distant from people I obviously care about.
Lots of love songs (shoutout to T-Swift and Omarion) croon about how hearts become ice boxes or buried under layers of hard armor. I had a conversation with my therapist & “teacher” a few months ago about how I haven’t felt Joy the way I felt it back before what I call “the dark ages”. I expressed my concern that perhaps this was a result of a calmer yogi life.
I was unfazed- neither easily upset nor easily overjoyed. In a weird way, I missed my ups and downs – despite the crazy roller coaster ride of it all. I was worried this would be it for the rest of my life. That I would only feel just content.
She explained, very eloquently, that
if I don’t open up to the darkness, I can’t open up to the light.
Boom. I spent so long resisting feelings of sadness rather than allowing them to surface and pass by. As a result, I was shutting myself out of joy.
So what now? Am I relationship ready?
Who knows. But I am committed to showing up, as hard and painful and scary as it may be, arms wide open and heart vulnerable. And every night, I take the time to heal and hold myself with unconditional love. A friend asked me two weekends ago during my retreat how I was feeling and for once in my recent life, I felt 100% right about saying – I feel happy.
If you can measure beach ready bodies by inches, then perhaps you can measure relationship ready hearts by the moments of elation and joy they feel – in which case, I’m doing alright.