Dare boldly

A blog by Louise Gallagher


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There is no separation between mind and body.

If I Knew Then... Art Journal Cover Mixed Media

If I Knew Then…
Art Journal Cover
Mixed Media

river  flowing forward
dawn breaks 
darkness falls back

I am on my mat. Body bent in child’s pose, forehead touching mat, posterior reaching for heels, arms outstretched above my head. Torso pressing down towards the earth.

I am a supplicant bowing before the altar. I am a priestess offering up her prayers. I am hot and sweaty and I am crying.

They are unexpected these tears. Not particularly welcome either. Who cries in a yoga class?

My eldest daughter tells me it’s not unusual. Yoga touches the core. At the core, emotions flow and when released, can express themselves through tears.

Yeah? Well I don’t cry in public.

Good thing my forehead is pressed to the mat.  Good thing I’m sweating so profusely. No one will be able to see my tears.

I replay the teacher’s words through my mind once again.

“The body needs the mind to be engaged. They need each other for strength, courage, balance…. Where the mind goes, the body follows.”

Even as I type the words, I can feel the emotional tug of recognition, remembrance, awakening.

My body and my mind. I have treated them as separate. Independent. They have continually battled for voice. To be heard. To be recognized. To be known — as independent. The mind fighting for control, the body fighting to lead the way, to take charge, to be in charge.

Connect. Make peace. Body bows to mind. Mind makes way for body.

I imagine a bridge. Water flowing beneath. My mind wants to take the bridge, the route of safety. My body wants to swim. To immerse itself in the raging waters and go with the flow.

From above, the water looks dangerous. “Do not go in,” my know-it-all mind cautions. “You do not know what lies within. The current is too strong. You might drown.” And then it adds for good measure, “Someone built that bridge to make it easier. Why not take the path of least resistance?”

“I will never know what lies within if I do not venture,” my dare-it-all body responds, desperately trying to break free of mind’s control. “Anyone can cross a bridge. But to swim across, to tempt the fates, to venture into the depths, to discover what’s really there, ahhh, that takes courage. Fortitude. A spirit of adventure. A willingness to risk.”

“The bridge is there for a reason,” mind parries back. “The object is to reach the other side. It doesn’t matter how you get there, what matters is you get there.”

“I disagree,” yells body. “You always decide where we’re going but I am the one who carries us there. I am the one who decides how we take the journey.”

And they duke it out on the safe side of the river, the distant shore forgotten in their fight for freedom from one another.

And the water keeps flowing and I keep holding back from stepping away from the shore where I am comfortable in what I know to be true. Whether I step onto the bridge, or enter the waters, it isn’t about how I take the journey, it is that I take it with mind and body engaged, each one supporting, loving, carrying and caring for the other.

To live means to risk. It requires stepping into the unknown. Pushing against boundaries, forging new trails.

Many years ago, Henry David Thoreau wrote, “Pursue some path, however narrow and crooked, in which you can walk with love and reverence.”

And I remember what I have forgotten in my flight and fight to get to the other side.

On the journey, no matter where I am going, there is only one thing that carries me across, through and over. There is only one thing I need to carry to wade into the waters or step onto the safety of the bridge.

Love.

In Love, I am safe no matter where I go or how I travel.

In Love, body and mind travel united.

In Love, all things are possible.

I bent my head to the mat. Tears flowed and I found myself once again, flowing in Love.

 

 

 


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On my mat, there is no room for fear.

I am hot. Sweating hot. It drips off my chin. It runs down my back.

I am lying on my mat, my feet, thighs, stomach, shoulders, arms, left ear pressed to the mat.

It is almost over. I am almost at the end.

I let the thought go.

It is not about beginning and endings. It is about this moment right now. Being present.

That was my intention when the yoga class had begun 70 minutes earlier. To be present.

I want to review my process but remember the instructor’s words at the beginning of the class. Yoga is not a competition. There is no judgment in yoga. There is only you and your body, present in the moment.

It is my fifth hot yoga class in five days.

I have set an intention to be present on my mat at least five days of the week.

I smile to myself. I wonder if my week began last week or if this day is the beginning of my new week.

Dang. There goes my mind. Off on a little jaunt.

I breathe. Bring myself into my breath. In. Out. Breathe in Love. Exhale gratitude. A continuous circle of renewable energy filling me up with all that I need to be present in my practice and my day.

I am relatively new to yoga.

I have intermittently practiced it over the years, okay more off than on, and have only come to the mat with any intention recently.

Yoga was never fast enough for me. Hard enough. It wasn’t filled with pounding feet and racing heartbeats and if I didn’t feel like I’d run a marathon, what was the point of doing it?

I am learning the truth. After thousands of miles hitting the pavement, my knees and joints are grateful. Yoga is about presence. Strengthening and lengthening. It is about the moment, not the destination.

I look around the class. Candles flicker on wooden blocks set into one wall. The lights are semi-dim. Bodies lay supine on multi-colours of mats spread out throughout the room.

There is peace here. Contentment.

And the gratification of a hard workout.

Oops. There I go again. Looking for the win.

I bring my thoughts back to my breath.

I give a quick scan of my body for points of tension.

I meet myself where I’m at.

I feel present. Relaxed. Strong.

The instructor invites us into the frog pose.

I have forgotten my towel. For a moment my mind races with concerns around pressing my upper body into bare floor.

I am dripping. Wet. The scooped neckline of my t-shirt soaked. The nape of my hair soggy.

I move into the pose, my torso pressing down through my knees on the mat, my upper body cradled between my splayed out arms. I rest my forehead on my hands.

I breathe into the pose. I smile as my mind imagines a bullfrog sitting on a lily pad. He gives one giant croak as his tongue whips out to capture a passing fly.

I breathe in. Pull up slightly from my bend and exhale as I deepen once again into the pose. I am seeking the comfort of no tension (not to mention no frogs catching flies).

“I like to read a verse as we finish off the pose,” the instructor says, her voice a melodic chant high above my head. There is a slight burble of laughter in her voice. “It’s a good way to distract your thinking as you hold the frog.”

I smile.

“Fear or Love,” she reads.

I listen, my mind forgetting the discomfort my body is starting to feel as it pushes itself over the edge of what it knows is possible into holding the pose longer than it thought it could.

I listen and smile again. No matter what you choose to do, ask yourself if you are doing it through fear, or love.

Do you  work because you are afraid of poverty or do you do work for the love of doing something worthwhile, contributory?

Do you fear not having food and a roof over your family’s head, or do you provide for them as an expression of your love?

No matter what you do, let go of fear and move through love.

I began my practice afraid I would not be able to do it. That I would look ridiculous compared to the other supple and toned (and did I mention youthful?) bodies in the class.

I let go of my fear.

I am here on my mat because I love my body and want to provide it what it needs. I want to take care of it so that it can carry me through my days effortlessly and with grace.

I came to my mat, my mind filled with fearful thoughts of how less than the others I was.

There is no less than on my mat. There is no room for fear. There is only Love.

Namaste.

PS — do try out  Calgary Hot Yoga.  Great studio!