Last week, I was teaching a class full of teenage girls who were mostly beginners. I began verbally guiding them into Side Angle. Feeling that they had the flexibility, I gave them the option to take their top arm behind their back for a bind. A few of the girls that had taken yoga classes before started to attempt the full bind (reaching their bottom hand under the leg to grab the top hand behind the back). They were grunting and uncomfortably contorting themselves to force their hands to meet. I gave them some tips to get into the bind more easily and demonstrated it for them.
I heard whispers of, “Wooooooah.”
I looked around to try to find what had impressed them so much, and then I realized it was me. I briefly blushed, but then the negative internal dialogue started in, “I’m not that great. I can only hold Crow for like…two seconds.” My self-proclaimed, unimpressive practice had suddenly become remarkable, and I didn’t know how to react. I thought I was the girl who couldn’t do that much, and there I was, doing.
The old tape playing in my mind hadn’t caught up to the present reality. I can be disciplined and be proficient at something. I have made progress. Logically, I know this. There was this old residue of my past self instantly back again. I have come across this before. I fully convince myself I’ve laid all of that baggage to rest only to find that it pops up, unannounced, uninvited, and hell, not only does it want to crash on the couch, it wants to move in.
Somewhere in my life, I wanted to be small and go unnoticed to protect myself. When you are small, no one expects too much of you, you never disappoint anyone, and you never get hurt. For a time, I needed to do that. That voice that says, “You can’t do that” isn’t some sort of evil, self-sabotaging flaw within me to be banished, shamed, and denied. It’s just an old coping mechanism. Those same coping mechanisms show up time and again at our most vulnerable, and we find ourselves saying, “You, again?! I thought I was done with you!”
Buddhist nun Pema Chodron wrote, “Nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know.” For the past two weeks, that old emotional baggage was knocking on my door, and I let it sit there. Yeah, I know you’re there, but I’m gonna be in here just binge watching Netflix until you just go away. (Have you tried Broadchurch? It is SO good.) We can get drunk, take a nap, eat all the cookies, wait 80 years, and that nagging voice just stays. It stays until you finally just open the door, welcome it in, and listen. You just have to make the choice to let it teach you everything you need to know.