Accepting Limits and Letting Go

I have never been all that accepting of limits and the things I have let go of generally have claw marks on them.  A friend once told me that my issues with authority were so severe that if I were dictator of the world I would stage a coup d’etat.  I once looked backed and saw how much of my life was set up so that no one could tell me know.  I had a lot of attitude and very little trust in others – a product likely of being on my own at such a young age.

But even as a grown adult now, there are few areas in my life where someone other than me sets the limits so when I bump up against a limit I really struggle.

Six and a half weeks ago I had major neck surgery – they cut out a section of four vertebrea in the cervical spine and put in two rods to hold my neck together.  This happened while I was in the middle of my 300 yoga teacher training with a very busy schedule of training, teaching 4 classes a week, two kids and just life happening.

At first I did not want to put teacher training on hold and wanted to miss as few days as possible and was working a plan to make up the time I would have to miss as quickly as possible.  Post surgery in a hard collar life started to change.  I could barely life my arms up to wash my hair.  I was not allowed to drive.  And was in too much pain to do much of anything.  Thankfully I had a strong community, sangha, that organized visits and taking me out so that I would not be too lonely or bored.  My surgeon cleared me to go back to training provided I did no asana.  I went for one day and was in so much pain that night and the next day.  Then I started dreading going back.

I have learned things in yoga.  One is called ahimsa.  Non-violence.  Compassion to self and others.  The other was non-grasping or clinging to things.  I sat with this for a few days and contacted the head of my teacher training and let her know that I would not be able to finish this year.  They are letting me suspend training and pick it up where I left off at no additional cost.  Very kind and gracious.  But it was a big letting go.  I could hear myself saying “I am not a quitter!!”  But then I could hear the quiet little voice saying – ahimsa, compassion.

But there was also the limits my body has set.  I could not drive for six weeks and had to depend on others for pretty much everything.  Hard.  I have a great and kind sangha but I struggle still with trusting that they will be there.  And the limits my body sets every day. That I can only walk slowly right now until my neck heals rather than do all that yoga.  That I can teach yoga now but I had to become practiced at teaching with more verbal instruction/assists and less demonstration.

Everything as I age – I will be 50 this year – is a new limit.  A new opportunity – welcome or not, to let go.  Its hard.  But the moment I let go is the moment that I get peace.  So that I can be happy for my fellow trainees who will finish this year without resentment or bitterness – which would have been a thing for me in the past.  And every yoga pose as I slowly start to do them will be learning what my new limits are and offer me an opportunity to meet myself with ahimsa rather than aggressively pushing through something to potential further injury.

And finally, as I age so do my children and there is big letting go there.  I no longer dictate all parts of their lives and have to let them figure some things out themselves.  Let them make their own choices even if it is not a choice I would make.  With guidance for sure but there are more and more areas where we talk things through and then I let them make their own choices.  Its interesting to watch the progression.  And the progress I make all the time in more easily and quickly, accepting limits and letting go.

As they say, let go and let God.  Surrender.

Adoption Unfolding: Finding the Birth Mother For My Kids

Not being able to have kids of my own was a huge issue for me.  I went through a long, protracted, agonizing grief period.  I was angry at God and my body and filled with longing and despair.  It was something I longed for since I was small.  A family of my own that no one could ever take away.  I remember feeling entitled to this because things had been so hard and screwed up in my family when I was a child.  This continued well beyond the time when I adopted my kids.  I love my kids beyond words, that is separate from this longing that I experienced.

When we adopted the kids, it was basically a closed adoption.  We met the birth mother once and there was no communication between us after the day we first arrived in Arkansas to adopt the kids.  She had lunch with us and then took us up to the NICU to see the kids.  She left suddenly, I imagine because the pain was so great.

The kids have always known that they were adopted.  My 13 year old daughter has gone through many periods of longing to know her birth mother.  She was and is young and I did not really imagine that I would be dealing with her meeting her birth mother before she was 18.  That all changed this week.

My daughter again brought up the issue of wanting to know this woman who gave birth to her.  The desire, the longing, pulls at her maybe in a similar way to how wanting children pulled at me.  So this week I searched for and found her birth mother.  I spent some time crying while looking through this woman’s FB page.  I looked at her family, her husband, her daughter, her life.  It seemed like she had pulled her life together and was pretty happy.

So I sent her a message, sobbing the entire time not exactly sure why.  The message basically said that I’m the woman who adopted your kids and my daughter wants to know you.  I told her that I hold her in a place of immense gratitude, that I hoped my message would find her well and not cause her pain.  I asked her to contact me and welcomed her to look through my FB page to see the kids.  I was not sure she would contact me and hoped both that she would and a little bit that she would not.  Mostly that she would.  Then I told my daughter that I had found her and let her see her birth mother’s FB page and the message that I had sent.

I had no idea what would happen.  Would she respond at all?  Would she be upset?  Would my daughter be ok if she did not respond?  If she did respond, how would I feel?  Would my daughter prefer her to me?  Would my daughter forget me?  Would she still love me?  Questions that don’t need an answer for the most part.  They are patterns of not feeling worthy and patterns cannot be reassured.  So I took a deep breath,  One of the gifts I learned in yoga and the personal work I have done the last several years is that I can breathe into any kind or amount of pain and it will lessen, it will ease.

Yesterday afternoon the birth mother replied to my message.  She said she had wished for this day for many years, that she thought of the kids and us often.  She said she needed a little time to pray about it but that she was grateful that I had reached out.  I was surprisingly excited to hear from her.  Not just for my daughter, but for myself as well.  This too surprised me.  After sitting with it for just a short period of time I realized that I want to share them with her.  I want her to see that I cherished the gift I was given.  I want her to know all about them and know that I did a good job.  I want her to see that they are happy and well adjusted.  I want her to like me.  Then I did the unthinkable and told her all of that in a message.  She thought it was sweet and said that she never doubted the kids were wonderful and well loved.  We have not had any communication since that and I expect it will be a few days before we do.  I told my daughter about all of this with my husband who is having a really hard time with it all.  My son just doesn’t want to know.  He said, “look Wuddles, I’m fine and I’m going to be with you forever so don’t worry.’  He also said he is not interested in meeting his birth mother at this time.  But he is at a different stage of development and has challenges of his own.  He may change is mind, he may not.

So all of this is a lot to sit with, and here I am surprised again.  I have no fear that this is going to be a negative experience.  I know that my daughter’s innate nature and the way I raised her means that her heart is big enough for more than one person.  And so is mine.  I can see a world at some point where the birth mother and her family become a sort of extended family to my kids.  We share the biggest possible thing together, the kids.  Likewise, I know that none of that may come to pass.  My husband is upset and having a really hard time with it.  My son is on the fence.  I have no idea whether the birth mother’s husband and family know that she had these kids and gave them up for adoption and what them knowing might do to her life.  I don’t know what fears she may have and whether she is willing and able to face them.  There is a lot that I don’t know.

What I do know is that I have done so much work on myself and learned so much from my yoga practice that I can sit with not knowing.  My mind can spin fears and I don’t have to believe them.  I can allow my heart to be open enough for any of these possibilities.  I can sit in the contradiction and be ok.  I can breathe anytime it hurts.  I can feel relief rather than fear.  I can know that this may be one of the biggest gifts I can give my daughter, that she doesn’t have to wait until she is an adult to find this in her life like so many do.  I can wait while this all unfolds and not feel the need to rush to see how things work out.  I can be thankful for whatever this brings to my life and the lives of my kids.  I can watch all of this unfold and know that God sent me nothing but angels to bring us to this beautiful place where we can grow and experience ourselves and each other in a place of light and love.  I can do all sorts of things today that I could not do before I started on this healing journey.  For all of this, I am grateful.

Namaste.

Suffering and Contradiction

One of my teachers often says that its not that we have problems that is the issue, its that we have a problem with the fact that we have problems that causes us so much distress.  Its true enough for me.  There is the problem and then there are the stories that I have surrounding the problem.

I have had a fair amount of time in the last three years to become more familiar with yogic and buddhist philosophy.  The idea of suffering and living in contradiction.

Suffering first.  They say that pain is inevitable and suffering is optional.  To a point I agree.  Being human we have things that happen in life that we don’t like, don’t prefer, and so we have pain when they happen.  Its about attachment.  I want certain things.  Some are big like wanting my kids to be healthy and happy.  Some are small like wanting people to get out of my way when I’m driving and I’m in a hurry.  But big or small, the pain comes when in the form of resentment, anger and fear around the things that I am attached to.  Many years ago someone explained it to me like this – you have resentment when you realize you did not get your way in the past, anger when you are not getting your way right now, and fear when you think you might not get your way in the future.  Part of me rejected this statement on the basis that some things it is legitimate to be attached to because anyone would – like having the kids be healthy and happy.  And its true that nearly everyone wants their kids to be healthy and happy.  This does not change the fact, however, that this is an attachment to things being a certain way and once I become attached to things being a certain way I experience pain, anger, fear, resentment, sadness, happiness, joy.  But being human I tend to focus more on the feelings that I have that I have deemed unpleasant rather than the happiness and joy.

Suffering though, true suffering, comes when a few things happen.  When I attache to an outcome.  But also when I believe the things my mind tells me about anything.  My mind does what minds do.  It thinks so many thoughts.  And most of them are not true.  And many of them are incredibly negative.  And yet I believe many of them without ever questioning the truth of my thoughts.  The statement that I should not believe everything I’m thinking because it might not be true threw me for a loop when I heard it the first time.  After all, everyone told me I was always right and how could I think something that wasn’t true?  The mind is a powerful thing.  But back to suffering.  I have attachment and belief in what my mind says.  When it comes to suffering the way my mind becomes a problem is that it tells me that whatever feeling I am having around what is happening is going to last forever.  So the anger, fear, resentment, sadness that I experience when I am attached to something being a certain way and it isn’t my mind says is going to last forever.  And I often believe this at least temporarily when in the midst of discontent and so I suffer.

Thank God for yoga.  I have heard most of the things that have helped me in yoga classes.  That the mind thinks thoughts.  That I am attached to things.  That I can focus my attention on the present, on a point of focus like my breath and to the extent I can live in the present I don’t suffer.  That I can strive for a place of witness consciousness where I can notice what my mind is doing without becoming engaged with what my mind is doing.  Notice without judgment.  Its a very hard thing for me.  For most people probably.  I’m working on it, every day with varying degrees of success.  Running away from these feelings and ideas does not alleviate suffering but opening to them does.  Opening to fear and really allowing myself to experience fear is what has helped to dissolve fear.  But it is a day by day thing that I have to keep practicing.

One of the other huge things I had to learn is about contradiction or perceived contradiction.  That you cannot have or appreciate light without dark, happy without sad, good without bad, etc.  It is in the agony that we find the ecstasy.  I had to learn that it is ok to have contradictory thoughts and feelings and in fact that this is healthy.  Two opposite things can be true at the same time.  My mind likes for only one thing to be true when most often I have to open up to contradiction.  It is easiest for my mind to think of this in terms of light and dark.  We all are light and good at the soul level but darkness had to be introduced in order to see, appreciate, or experience that light.  The things that seem like contradiction are what happen to open me up to both things.  I can open up to light because I have experienced dark.  It has been a great tool for me in this healing because it grants perspective to the darkness and then allows for light.  But this too is a process not an event.

No Mud No Lotus

I hated this expression when I first heard it in a yoga class.  I’m not sure why but I think what came up for me around this was “where is the the lotus?”  I was so lost in the mud I could not see the lotus; so lost in the struggle I could not see the joy.  And, even when I got a glimpse of the lotus, my cynical mind would tell me that flowers die and look at all the mud on it, not seeing the beautiful flower at all really.

Today, sometimes, I can see the flower as a beautiful flower.  That has been a hard fought battle.

I have been neck deep in the struggle all of my life.  In the earlier years it was a struggle just to survive.  Survive things at home and then just survive on my own at a pretty young age without support.  Making choices that don’t make sense to me even now.  When I look back at my life I often wonder how I did not become a serial killer, end up homeless addicted to something, or just die from one of the many horrible things I did to my body.  Those moments of Grace were huge for me.  Those times when I was able to go left instead of right and make a choice that would radically change my life.

And now that I am older with a family of my own, it is a struggle to find meaning, to let go.  To remember that many of the horrible things that happened are in fact over and that I can relax now.  To know that I don’t have to live in a constant fight or flight response.  Fear had become such a part of my life that I did not recognize it anymore and would actually tell people I was not a worrier even though I was terrified nearly all the time.  It has been so hard to learn, even a little bit, to relax into what is and tell my mind to let go.

From all objective standards my life is good.  I have two amazing children, I am working on the marriage thing but it is not horrible even when it is hard, I am financially secure and don’t need to work, and I spend much of my time doing what I want whether that is yoga, visiting with friends, therapy and lots of it.  But even with all of this goodness, I struggle to find meaning.  My mind will tell me that my kids don’t really need me and that I have nothing to offer the world – that there is no reason for me to be here.  I know on another level that my children do need me and they would be devastated without me.  The struggle is with my mind and the feelings of worthlessness that I have cultivated over the years.  This is not a surprise given where I have come from.

My life has undergone tremendous shifts at different times.  Externally.  Huge shifts that changed the course of my external life.  But while things changed on the outside very little changed on the inside.  I was looking for an outside solution to an inside problem.  The last three years have been working on the inside problem.  The problem of me, my mind and how much I believe my mind the minute it comes up with a thought.

Witness consciousness is a terribly hard thing to achieve.  I get moments of it now, sometimes long moments when I can observe my mind and my feelings without being disturbed by them.  It is there that I find a little peace.  And it is in working to get there that now I get glimpses of the lotus.  I get moments of joy.  Like teaching yoga and talking with a person new to yoga who says she was so terrified but now is feeling relaxed and is so enjoying coming to class.  To watch that transformation on someone else knowing what it was the first time I relaxed and let go of my mind in a yoga class (which might have been the first time I relaxed in such a way in my life).

My children are beautiful.  I have amazing friends.  A therapist who has gone to battle with and for me relentlessly to bring me to that place of freedom.  I live in a place with many beautiful things.  The real lotus for me now though is none of these things.  The lotus for me is in being able to rest my mind and personality so that I can have peace and see and enjoy each of those things in the moment.