Sunday Serenity: The Real Question

March 14, 2010

I had a totally different post for today, but I wanted to address something more important. Yesterday, I received a very powerful and generous email from a woman who reads this blog, and it really made me stop and think. In the last line of her email, she left me with the question “I know how to achieve relaxation and comfort, but what does the word Serenity truly mean to you?” Now that is a great question.

By the age of 20, I was studying yoga religiously. At that time in my life, I had been battling a serious chronic illness for over 6 years, and it was starting to get the better of me. I needed transformation, I needed to be able to move beyond my body’s weaknesses, and to find the center of health and vitality that I knew was there. I believed that if I just continued to find a way towards peace, towards my body’s center, towards the present moment, that I would heal myself.

In some ways, I turned out to be right. I gained the knowledge of how to control my breath, my heart rate, my adrenaline output. I learned how to genuinely relax my body, and how to use my body to ease the pain and discomfort.

No matter how “well” I was doing at the peace and tranquility thing, I clearly was not getting out of my own head. Unfortunately, that became clear one night, when I went from peaceful yoga girl, to almost getting into a physical fight with a man twice my size.

Like I said, it all seemed to be going so well.

I was only about two weeks away from the end of my first yoga teacher training, and after about 5 hours in the studio together, our class broke for dinner and all walked over to the Whole Foods across the street. As we were entering the parking lot, a man, who did not look behind him, backed out his parking space and hit a friend of mine. Jeff was actually not hurt that badly, but the man who was driving got out of his car, and began screaming at us. I don’t know what I was more shocked at, my friend being hit, or the man screaming in my face about what kind of idiots we were.

It didn’t matter, because the next thing I knew I was on my feet and screaming right back. Every bad thought I could find was currently coming out of my mouth, and if it had not been for my friend Matt, I am pretty sure that I would have been charged with assault for laying this guy out.

When I was on my way back to the studio, I was so shocked at myself. Everyone was laughing and joking at how strong I was, and how no one would ever mess with me, but inside I knew that what had just happened was going to change everything I felt about myself.

My teacher pulled me aside and brought me into the meditation room, and he asked me how I felt in that moment. All that I could say was “I spent four years trying to find the peace inside of myself, and I lost it all in less than 4 seconds.”

He laughed. He laughed and laughed and laughed, and he was serious. He actually thought that this was funny. “Heather, I had no idea that you were spending so much energy on denying such a beautiful part of yourself. Yoga is about balance, and about being able to find the core of yourself, where who you are makes sense, and you accept every part of your existence. It is not about denying a part of yourself that you consider to be bad, just so that you can walk around like a peace guru who never experiences the dark side of themselves. That is not enlightenment, it is not faith, it is fear, and as you experienced tonight, it never works. You came here, and you worked this hard because you are determined to lose the part of yourself you are most scared to face? You are a passionate person, you choose to fight for whatever you believe in, at any cost, and you will not back down when someone is at risk. That is not a flaw, but in extreme, it looks like anger, like hatred, like jealousy, and it is your job to find the balance. That is what yoga is about, that is why it is helpful. It does not ask you to deny yourself, it only guides you towards finding harmony between all sides of yourself; your dark and light, your yin and yang. The rest is up to you”

And with that, he laughed some more, and walked out the door.

It wasn’t what I expected, it wasn’t anything I had ever thought about. It was liberating. I didn’t have to work so hard to either try and be something that I was not, or to deny who I was at heart? This was so new.

I work hard as a mom, as a friend, as a daughter and a wife. I also make HUGE mistakes, everyday, and some days I cry a bit, or want to run away, or throw a fit. I want to believe that there is something “wrong with me”, but it is the moment in the meditation room that always brings me back. Nope, I am not perfect. I have a side of me that is not always pretty, and I walk through the maze of dark and light every day, and as much as I would like to wrap up my self-worth in the ideas that others have of me, that just isn’t the way that life works.

So to the question of what true serenity means to me, it is honestly being able to look myself in the mirror, and not see all the things that I lack. Serenity is seeing myself as already being whole, and my life as a journey of balance. Serenity is acknowledgment that I have a choice to be me, and that who I am kind of rocks. That not only allows me to accept myself, but all of those around me as well. That is my serenity.

Have a beautiful Sunday

{ 0 comments… add one now }

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: