During the last week, feelings have come and gone in waves but I’m learning to keep my ahead above water.
Two weeks at this yoga retreat! Two weeks so far!
It’s like being turned inside out emotionally and thrown in a washing machine. At least for me. I came in with the attitude “go big or go home.”
So I have.
I’ve been going to the classes and giving it my all every chance I have to the point of exhaustion. And the surprising thing is, the exhaustion doesn’t necessarily come from a two-hour yoga class. More often, it comes from the classes that deal with emotional topics. Those classes leave me so exhausted I sometimes skip yoga to go back to my bungalow to faceplant on my bed.
Under the Water and Above the Surface…
When I feel down, I feel like there is a concrete block around my ankle that’s dragging me under the water. When I feel up, it’s like my first breath of air in years. It feels clean and good and like I’m finally free! Then another wave comes and I sink again for a while.
Throughout all this, I’ve started feeling like this spot on Koh Phangan is home for now. It’s the little bits of routine that help make it that way. At the café I go to for coffee in the morning, they now know me and what table I like and that I’ll be having a coconut latte. At the place that serves my favorite mango sticky rice, they know I sit in the shade but not in the corner near where the gecko lives and they always bring me a pillow to sit on.
I have friends here at the retreat and we talk and laugh but everyone understands that some days are hard and some days are good. The ones who have been here longer say it gets better. The ones who are newer look wide-eyed and are surprised at the intensity of the place. Some people really respond well to yoga but not meditation and vice versa so I will not see some for days at a time.
That is, until the sunset is really beautiful. That’s when almost everyone is out near the water.
Throughout all this, I’ve learned to watch my thoughts and feelings so much more closely. And by thoughts, I mean those thoughts that are buried just a little deeper beneath the “I’m so hungry I could eat a butterfly” thoughts and feelings. Those types of thoughts are the surface of the ocean. But if I dive beneath the surface, there is so much going on! I’ve learned volumes the past week about what has been holding me back and why I do the things I do.
Now reading this, you may think I was am a super dysfunctional adult in my day to day life. But I’m not. I’ve had good relationships, great friends I really love, and a reasonable amount of success in my career. However, something was awry and for a while I’ve felt like I was stuck when I wanted so much to be learning and growing.
These last few weeks, taking a step back, and listening to my thoughts and feelings, I realized I had some unconscious beliefs that completely sucked. These beliefs or ideas came from difficult experiences mostly and without knowing it, changed my attitude towards people or life.
They are still dictating my actions and I’ve been totally unaware of it.
As an example, I was mercilessly bullied for a few years. There was a group of girls who were my friends that turned on me in middle school. I went from having a fun group of friends to feeling absolutely alone. Now, I’m sure I wasn’t without fault either, but I can tell you I was the one singled out and ostracized for three, miserable years. If there are any of you out there who haven’t suppressed all your middle school memories, you will recall that girls that age can be savage and relentless.
“Your art project looks like a retard did it.”
“Your new jeans make you look like a cow.”
“Is that coat from the thrift store?”
“Hey guys, I think Rachel is going bald.”
Now, if you would have asked me two weeks ago if this had any effect on me, I’d say, “Hell no, that was a long, long time ago. I have good friends now and besides, everyone is a little crazy in middle school.”
The crazy thing is, what I wouldn’t have realized two weeks ago is that I’ve allowed that experience to change how I talk to girls my own age. In fact, I avoid girls overall. If I go to a class, I’ll sit by the boys. It’s safer there. If I hear a group of girls laughing, I still tense up because somewhere, deep down, I still feel like they are laughing at me. If there’s a girl alone, I’m 10x more comfortable talking to her than if she’s with a friend. But if a friend is there I’m outnumbered.
I’m 30! This is crazy!
It’s like PTSD from bullying!
It feels bad. It hurts to go back to that place and that time. And what’s worse is, it’s hard to realize that those silly things, still influence my actions.
I go under the waves for a little bit. Weighed down by the bad feelings of the situation and memories.
Then I realize, some of the girls here actually want to be my friend. In fact, they have been trying to get me to hang out with them between classes and I just brush it off and do my own thing. But I still believe the crazy thoughts that came out of middle school.
Now that’s just middle school, three years of my life. Imagine the thoughts and beliefs I’ve gained from the other 27 years.
It’s lucky any of us are functional.
Actually, I feel a bit accomplished for not being insane.
Breathing the Air
So yesterday, I was out in the waves (literally, out in the ocean) and I realized, I have let some ideas that really suck shape my thoughts about myself. And it happened without me even knowing it. Those people in my life who have been hurtful and unknind have no place influencing my thoughts and feelings. In fact, they probably wouldn’t want that responsibility either.
Some of these people were probably even well-intentioned and I just interpreted the situation wrong.
And those people who have been flat-out unkind? They were probably doing things out of fear or lack of self-esteem and that’s not my problem to adopt.
Sometimes people are crazy. It doesn’t alter reality.
So, I’m changing the way I think on a level deep beneath the surface. Because holding on to these ideas is a silly way to live.
When I thought this way, it felt like a breath of fresh air.
The waves feel fresher. The sun on my skin feels better. My body feel lighter.
I meditate on it. Then, I recognize the thoughts when they come up and I choose not to believe them. I keep working.
Then I go to a class on relationships or childhood or grocery shopping or whatever! Unless you have really worked to go back and heal yourself, there will be things that need to be adjusted or healed. I realize some ideas or feelings I need to change and I go back under the water for a day.
Every wave is different. But now I’m learning to see under the water and how to come up for air. And when I do come up for air, it’s like I’m shining brighter and more myself. Sometimes, the next wave even takes a little bit longer to come.
One breath at a time, one wave at a time, it feels like things may be beginning to shift.
Does any of this familiar to anyone else?