A fellow yoga teacher friend recently posted on Facebook that she was “ready to come undone.” Willing to unravel the limiting myths and untruths about herself that she had held on to for most of her life. To come completely undone so that she could, at last, become completely and unapologetically herself. Finally.
Baron tends to do this to people.
I knew My Weekend With Baron was going to take me to That Place. That Place of Utter Undoneness. About four years ago, I had my first experience with Baron Baptiste. I spent three days at what was called a “Personal Revolution Weekend” and who I showed up as on the first evening of that weekend was not who I was come Sunday afternoon. I had, in fact, become undone, and it radically changed both my yoga practice and my teaching. It was this journey to That Place again that had me nervous as hell. Oh sure, there was the daunting aspect of the physical practice. It was Baron Baptiste, after all, and I knew that I would be challenged beyond comfort physically. But it was my stoic Scandinavian background, that mythological belief that I had to “hold it together” and perhaps not feel anything too deeply that scared me the most.
Friday afternoon commenced with a playful and poignant practice led by Africa Yoga Project founder, Paige Elenson. Paige is a young woman who truly is being the change she wants to see in the world. Inspiring, to say the very least. We spoke about the importance of community, connection and approaching life from the strength of “Yes!” rather than from our weak excuses and apologies. Paige encouraged us to truly “see” each other, to touch each other and to support each other in our practice. What we manifest on our mat in our practice we can then take into our world–perhaps “seeing” others around us more clearly, without judgment and reaction–but instead with the understanding that together we can hold each other up and create endless possibilities. Through the magic of Skype, we were led through our opening sequence by Moses, one of Paige’s newly minted teachers in Kenya. Moses’ beautiful, melodic voice led us through our practice from thousands of miles away in Africa, powerfully illustrating that our perception of community is limited only by our own beliefs and imaginations.
There is something very unique about a Baptiste training. Through questions, discussion and sharing, (and a whole lotta yoga) Baron effortlessly and masterfully facilitates a powerful experience. We journaled…a lot. We were asked to look honestly at ourselves and our lives, but then to shift our gaze outward. Too many times I have been to yoga classes or events where navel gazing becomes the theme and people leave immersed only in their inner life, without much concern for who or what is around them. Baron teaches that as we change ourselves, we change the world around us. How important it is to open our eyes and truly see our world and the people in it, warts and all. That even though we may be peaceful yogis, the world around us isn’t all unicorns and rainbows. He encourages us to dive headlong into our community, wherever that is, and make a real difference through those things that touch our hearts.
So did I come undone? Oh yes and how! Each night I made the trek back to my condo (all uphill, at 7000 feet…just sayin’…) letting the tears flow. I didn’t always know why I was crying, but I knew they needed to come out. Something substantial was being released in my body, my emotions, my beliefs—something that was not serving me any longer. For me, the entire weekend was about letting go. Letting go of fear. Fear of leaving my family, fear of being “seen” by strangers in a vulnerable state, fear of lifting my feet off the ground, fear of caring too much, fear of truly being me, fear of the unknown. In one big leap of faith (cuz really, that’s all I had) I let it ALL go and found nothing but unconditional love, support, and freedom…from others, in my body, and most importantly, in myself. I came to realize that I have allowed fear and worry to dictate much of my life and even shape who I am. Worry about what others will think of me, fear of appearing foolish or weak or vulnerable or even too smart, too strong, too successful. Always wanting to “toe the line”…staying right in the middle of the road because that was my perception of safety and security.
The middle of the road does not serve me. It doesn’t serve anyone.
On the final morning of our weekend, I walked into the yoga studio sore, spent, and wishing instead I was sitting in a Park City cafe with a latte’ and the Sunday paper. On both Friday and Saturday I had positioned my yoga mat at or near the end of a row, wanting to cling to the security of the wall beside me. What I thought was my security blanket had actually became a source of irritation by Saturday evening, limiting my reach and range of motion. As I strolled in on Sunday, my teacher from Seattle caught glimpse of me and steered me into the middle of the room. “I want you in the vortex today, Tracie.” WTF? The vortex? That seemed far too extreme for where I was at physically and emotionally that morning, but I really had no choice. After our meditation, our practice began. As I began to move and deepen my breath, the soreness of my muscles transformed into strength, my mind became focused and clear, my breath deep and even. How could it be that I came to my mat depleted in every imaginable way and yet seemingly fly through this practice? I was exhilarated and joyous and so much stronger than I had ever imagined! As the day went on, there was more journaling, more sharing, more tears, more revelations and finally, inversions. Oh holy crap. Staring my fear right in it’s eyes, (and with the help of an angel named Karen) I rooted down through my forearms and lifted up into headstand. Trusting the strength of my arms and shoulders, my feet lifted off the ground into handstand. YES! I was, without a doubt, practicing my yoga from the strength of “Yes!” rather than from fear and doubt. The feeling I felt was indescribable.
Returning to my condo that Sunday evening, I had every intention of showering and hitting Park City like the tourist I was. Instead, my body and mind told me otherwise. A glass of wine, a bite to eat, and me, myself, and I alone in That Place, That Place of Utter Undoneness. I knew that all too soon I would be boarding a plane, returning to life as usual. That Place isn’t necessarily a place that feels good–quite frankly, it makes me squirm a lot. It can feel messy and empty and directionless and maybe even a little desperate at first. But breath by breath, the pieces get put back into place. The right pieces in the right place, not the pieces others have put in for us. Not the pieces that we think others will like best or make someone happy or not mad. But instead the pieces that are right and true for us. In the end what is created is a masterpiece like none other.
I thought back to my wise teacher valeting my mat to the center of the room on Sunday. On the edges, I was clinging. On the edges, I was there, but not truly energetically part of the group. Perhaps even hoping to be just a bit invisible. On my own. What I thought I had needed that morning—security, the wall, alone—was not what I needed at all. In the vortex I was held up and supported by the collective energy and love of the whole. “We are powerful when we exceed ourselves and find our exceeding selves” Baron wrote in “Journey Into Power.” Happily, I found my exceeding self that morning in the middle of the vortex–completely, utterly, powerfully and perfectly Undone.