The River

The weekend was definitely a little stressful with our finals.  I always feel happy for the drive in, and enjoy the time to gather myself before heading into the storm, so to speak.  My emotions ramp up somewhere between my driveway and the highway.  I’ve learned to expect that now on Friday nights and just let it be.
Friday night was spent practicing in our groups for our final which was scheduled for Sunday afternoon.  Nerves were running rampant.  By the end of Friday night, the teachers proclaimed that none of us were ready for the final.  (Yikes.  No, wait, blimey!)  We decided the decision could be made Saturday morning after another practice, and if we needed to move it to the final weekend, we could.
Saturday morning I drove slowly, not in any hurry to arrive at the Perfect Storm (another of my favorite movies.)  I missed my mom.  And I felt grateful for that sorrow.  There was a time I would not have believed I could feel this.  Through our later years together, the movie I felt more of a connection with was “Throw Mama from the Train.”  I used to joke about that all the time, and I have to say, my mom really did remind me at times of Anne Ramsey.  She once gave me a portrait of herself she had taken at Sears, she was probably around 70 at the time, and I’m not sure what prompted this gift (maybe she was upset with me that I didn’t have enough pictures of her in my home) but when I opened the box, it was scary.  It was a close-up head shot of my mom with a completely serious look on her face.  No smile, just completely serious.  I was a little speechless, but thanked her and put the picture away, far far away for safe keeping.  If you don’t know who Anne Ramsey is, google her.  I’m looking at her now, and by God, they could have been sisters.
My friend, Peter (at that time we were just getting to know each other) came to my mom’s place to notarize some papers for us.  My mom was pretty hard of hearing, and actually wasn’t really listening to others too much anyway (a lot going out, not much going in) and she was in a mood.  About half way through as she was bad-mouthing me to whoever in the room wanted to hear it, I leaned over to Peter and quietly asked him if he’d ever seen the movie Throw Mama from the Train?  His eyes grew wide in disbelief, and I think probably that moment was when our friendship was cemented.  A sense of humor is your best friend sometimes.
These days I reminisce about our antics, and because we did have it so rough for so many years, I feel such gratitude for the simple blessing of missing her company.  Like I quoted a few posts back “Unthinkably good things can happen even late in the game.  It’s such a surprise.”
Appreciating my feelings, I drove slowly sorting through my emotions, enjoying the beautiful moon greeting me, shining ever so brightly to light my way. The day would be eventful.  We collectively decided before lunch that our group was ready, and would lead the way.  We would perform our final Saturday afternoon and Group 2 would follow up on Sunday.
As I think I already mentioned, we each had sections to lead, a total of a 90-min class, so eight people in the group, we each were responsible for about eleven minutes.  I was the greeter, opening the practice and guiding everyone through a meditation, breathing, chanting, and relaxing.  If you had told me 40 years ago that I would one day be sitting in front of a group singing a chant, I would have told you, no way.
When I was in about tenth grade, I was in a drama class.  Much like this class, we were divided into groups and had to prepare a skit that we would perform for our final, on stage.  I had one of the opening lines, and also the closing line.  I was so nervous that I entered the stage, said my first line, followed by the last line, and the curtain went down without any of my classmates being able to say a word.  Hilarious in hindsight.  We got a courtesy D from the teacher and my classmates were, to say the least, not too happy with me.
Well, good news, I didn’t let my yoga mates down on Saturday.  I definitely was nervous, but I managed to for the most part, park that anxiety and get through my eleven minutes.  I joked, and taught, and sang and read something I wrote to the group.  I fought back tears while I read it, and let that be okay, because that is me.  I received nice feedback afterwards, as did the rest of our group.
The knowledge I came away with this weekend, and have continued to contemplate yesterday and today, is how important it is in life that we bring our authenticity, even when we might think we are showing our weakness.   It’s also what I have been learning throughout this blog.  When I am vulnerable and blog about something personal, that’s when I feel the warmth of others come flooding back.  I have learned this lesson before in life, but I think more from the perspective of loving others who showed me their underbelly.  If someone cries with me, they become a friend for life.
This time around I’m learning the lesson from the reverse side, me opening up and being completely blown away by how great it feels and how truly accepting and welcoming others are.   Our journey is much like going to school.  You have certain courses, maybe a foreign language for example, and you learn a word and move on to more words, but at some point you circle back and truly begin to learn the proper enunciation of that word and the exact way to roll your tongue through the new and uncomfortable sounds, and at some point, the lesson is over and will not appear again in your curriculum.
I am witnessing first-hand that it’s our weaknesses that collect us and draw us closer, as we can see ourselves in others if they are willing to show us that they are fallible.  If someone does not show me any vulnerability, I can’t see them, and when I can’t see them, I find it hard to trust them.  Much like if I were walking through a forest at night, if I can’t see my way, I am going to feel frightened and guarded.
Something I probably enjoy the most about blogging is when someone says, “hey, you made me think and I’m going to give that a try.”  If you decide to try this vulnerability idea out, I would say this, remember that what you are giving is a gift.  You are sharing a part of yourself, and you are a GIFT.  If someone doesn’t seem to care for it, then oh well, bye Felicia.  Just means maybe they are not open to feeling at that moment, and that’s okay.  They may have a mountain of their own to move, and your openness scares them for fear they might have to look at themselves.  Their reactions will always be more about themselves than you.  And trust me, the truth is you’ll be enjoying yourself so much with those who do gravitate toward you, that you really won’t have much time to be looking in that rear view mirror for Felicia.
I’m planning to move forward in life embracing this new-found vulnerability, one day bring it to my yoga class, and create my own little yoga community filled with those who enjoy what I bring, people who are looking to improve, heal, and move whatever is in their way.
Will close with sharing my opening in our final practice.
“Welcome all of you.  So happy you are here with us.  We wanted to set a theme to our class today, and we’ve decided on dedicating our practice to the beauty of the majestic rivers we are graced with in our world, and especially here in our little community with the American River.  Ally has a gorgeous reading she will share with you at the end of our class.
And I will begin with something I wrote.
Please get comfortable on your mats, cross legged. Eyes closed.
Tap into your body, pay attention to what you’re feeling.  Just take note, is your mind quiet this afternoon or lively?  Notice the flow of your breath.   How is your spirit feeling today?  No judgement, just acknowledge where you are this morning and greet that spirit.  If you are feeling happy, remember what a blessing that is and please share that with us.  If you for some reason are feeling sadness, try to nurture yourself during your routine.  And if you are angry for some reason, maybe your boss pissed you off at work or your mate, kids, whatever, remember that there’s much power in anger so use that to do something amazing on your mat today that typically you might not have the power to do.  Take this time and make it yours, as for some of you, this might be the only time you have to spend on yourself today.   And remember, above all, you are right where you are supposed to be in this moment.
As you breathe in, take that breath all the way down to your sits bones, and then let it out through your mouth.  Inhale,  hold at the top, exhale.  Breathe at your own pace.  As you do, adjust your posture if needed, sit nice and tall.  Soften your brow.  Relax your jaw, your neck.  Lift your rib cage.  Drop your jaw ever so slightly.  And settle in.
All rivers begin with a droplet … one droplet after another of melting snow cascading down from our majestic mountains.  It almost seems impossible when you think about the wonder of nature.  Yet it’s true, snowflakes come down one at a time from the heavens above, form together, freeze together and then at some point melt together, making their way down the mountain sides toward our rivers.  We see the streams every day moving down the canyon toward our beautiful American River.
There is no end to the number of tiny individual streams trickling down to the river where they will become strong and united.  They will learn at times to rage and destroy much in their path.  They will change the shape of our land.  They will move what gets in their way.  They will dance in the sunlight. They will be a vessel for creating and sustaining life.  And sadly they will die in time if they lose too many of their droplets.
Are we humans really any different?   We are a million and one snowflakes, each one bringing our own beauty, but traveling in unison, creating a universal flow.
Our tiny tribe has united for our short journey, and soon we will all be off to the oceans, but for this brief moment in time, we have come together to move what’s in our way.  And I think we’ve done an amazing job.
I hope when you each practice this morning, you keep in mind your power, what you’ve accomplished in this six weeks, what you’ve helped others to accomplish in this six weeks, and know your power going forward.  You are the river.  We all are.