I felt kinda dizzy and car sick on the bus. Could I be hungover from having two beers the night before? Most likely, yes. Mostly, I was tired and nervous, and the bus was bumpy. As I was changing buses, a soft, gentle voice asked me if I was going to yoga. I was instantly bummed to have to small talk, and not be able to sleep on the bus. The gentle voice, I eventually discovered, belonged to a woman named Sharon, who was one of the most kind, funny, positive people I’d ever met. I later confessed to her I was unhappy to see her initially, but my comment was poorly timed, and I don’t think she understood what I meant.
My throat started hurting. I was mad at myself for being stressed.
When we arrived I was really tired. I was just not in the mood to be nice to people and be spiritual right now. We were asked to put our white clothes on which was something I didn’t understand. Actually, I still don’t. Why we have to wear all white was never explained to me. It’s hard for me to respect things I don’t understand, so I subconsciously rebelled.
The night before the 5am wake up call for the bus, Joey, my brother, and I had probably the first real conversation we have ever had, and I drank two beers after that. He told me that I think I know more than everyone else. I wrote in my journal that I should ask about the white clothes, but I never did.
How silly of me; following rules I don’t understand.
Why is conformist the worst thing imaginable?
I wrote in my journal during celebration music; chanting they called Kirtan. I hated it. I always hated repetitive music. And this was like 30 min of the same couple words, over and over again, and I didn’t know what any of it meant. People were really into it and it bothered me. I tried to decide if I believed them, or they were faking it.
I don’t like trusting people. Also, I’m hungry. My throat hurts. This is all dumb.
No it’s not. Instantly retracted.
I'm gonna have to learn to trust people this month. I hate being told what to do. I hate not being in charge.
I have been dealing with a chronic form of Laryngitis, from vocal cord overuse, for over 9 months. It started with pain in my temples, eyes, jaw, and what I thought was sinus pressure, and turned, eventually, into throat pain, when I talk, and then just constantly. The doctor said it was from coaching over clanging barbells and music and weird noises in improv, and I kinda believed him. The speech pathologist was mean, and judgmental, and unhelpful. She told me I need to get a microphone at work. When I told her I would work on it, but it’s just not really possible right now, she said “Well, do you care about your health of not?”
I hired a vocal cord specialist, working with something called The Alexander Technique, who told me that I hold my tension in my temples and throat. I half believed her, maybe a little more than the doctor. We did some techniques to help me relax but I get nervous when anyone touches me. She taught me that I live my life in peak muscular tension, and don’t really know how to relax my muscles. I believed that fully. I walk around like I am waiting for the world to attack me. She told me we have a lot more work to do as I left for yoga. I believed her.
The chanting is going to be hard for me. I was really, really hoping they were done soon, like the whole time. But they just kept going. I tried to sing to pretend, but my voice hurts. First thing tomorrow, more chanting, but without musical instruments this time. Um. Ok.
I told her that I won’t be able to chant and she seemed cool. I had to keep telling myself not to wish it was different than it is. This is going to take patience. Honestly, I really don’t want to be here. I’m not excited about this. They keep asking me if I’m exited. I keep smiling awkwardly.
The morning mantra was really hard. I was really hot and my throat really hurt. I know that my assumption of what is happening, will manifest, but I can’t pretend to be happy right now. The sounds were so annoying. The other students were trying, but I know they didn’t like it either. There’s no way they did. Why am I being forced to pretend like I like this? Why am I so rude?”
I hate not having an identity. I hate dressing like everyone else. If I hate being like everyone else, does that mean that I hate everyone else? I think the answer is yes. Why am I so angry? Why do I have to hate normal people? Why am I proud of that?”
I like not having to talk in the morning.
I’m craving intensity.
I like not having my phone. It’s nice
Writing in this journal is more clarity than anything else right now.
I wanna play
Nutrition talk. I might have to poop soon.
What if I didn’t rebel?
I really, really thought about this one.
During morning Japa (chanting) this morning my throat hurt so much, so I didn’t even try. I tried to breath in for 4, hold 2, breath out for 6, hold 2. It was ok. I more or less did this the entire 40 minutes.
I decided to give up coffee. This seemed like a good place/time to do it. It seems like the more caffeine I have, the more my throat hurts.
To treat yourself well-increase tendencies that reduce fear.
We learned about Equanimity. I felt personally attacked. I wrote in my workbook, “I hope that isn’t true” under the descriptions. And I went on a run listening to Rage Against The Machine, and running sprints instead of having lunch. Just to prove that intensity is a good thing. I felt better. I felt right. I felt justified.
Everything you try to change in another person is a distraction from you trying to change yourself.
I don’t trust what they tell me.
We don’t fix people. They aren’t broken
I had a really bad headache that afternoon. We did Yoga Nidra, which is laying on the ground somewhere between dreamstate and awake. The teacher will read a script that helps students to focus on a body scan, and then visualizations. We did it in class together to each other, in like 15 min segments, and I really enjoyed it. It’s like intentionally daydreaming. I’m good at that! But my headache distracted me slightly. We had dinner, pureed vegetables in a cup again. Then we had to drag bolsters, props, blocks and mats across the facility for the Yoga Nidra class that was open to the public held that evening. My head was pounding by then. The old, familiar caffeine withdrawal. I knew this headache well.
During the public Yoga Nidra class, the first 15-20 min was very enjoyable, as before, but soon after, my head felt like it was becoming the floor. So much pressure on the bone on the back of my head. Then my nose, and eyes felt heavy like they were sinking into my head. My tailbone was being bulldozed by the hard floor, thin yoga mat and blanket beneath me. My fingers tingle and twitch. My abdominal muscles contract. Everything about my body wanted to move. An absolute refusal of stillness. I have never been this still in my life. My brain hurt. It needed out. It needed out of this body and it was pushing out of my nose, throat, and eyes, I could feel it. Spirals of energy poured into my muscles. Stay still, stay still, I pleaded with my body to relax, but it was an angry unruly child. Everyone was so still.
I tried to count the ceiling tiles to distract me, but all I could visualize was my bag of skin I was stuck in, and stampedes on energy surging through my insides. When my muscles refused to move they made their way to my brain. Every bit of energy in the entire world was clearly swirling in my brain eventually and was pouring out of my throat, eyes, and nose. I held my breath for as long as I could so my lungs would hurt. I was mad at myself for giving my muscles and brain enough oxygen to keep doing this to me. I daydream of killing them. Drowning my muscles and brain in a refusal to inhale. I tiled my head slowly so I could see my watch without anyone knowing I was moving. I had about 50 minutes left.
We watched a sciencey YouTube short documentary about involution. It was kinda interesting, but I was having trouble connecting the dots. I’d watched lots of documentaries like this before, and I didn’t really hear anything I didn’t already know. At least I thought.
I was suddenly asked by the lead teacher what I learned from it, “I don’t know.” I replied unconfidently. My brain searched for some something to say that wasn’t a lie, but appeased the question. I had nothing. I stared at her. I felt like she understood I didn’t want to lie.
I cried in bed that night because everyone probably thinks I’m a dick.
I have been running every morning, before Japa, and that is becoming increasingly important for me. People think I am running for some sort of physiological benefit. Nope. It’s me being in charge of myself; an opportunity to make choices. But mostly, I really, really, actually enjoy running. I need some dopamine during all this dull.
Ok, starting to get more into it.
Things I need for happiness:
-loud, angry music”
I’m having trouble letting go of the “enlightenment” thing. I don’t believe in that. But does them believing in that harm them, or me, or society? Why am I so obsessed with letting everyone know about my beliefs. Why does staying quiet feel so horrible?
I wrote “There is no justice in the world and there never was” over and over and over in my notebook while we learned about Brahmavihara Limetta. (I have no idea what Brahmavihara Limetta is, for obvious reasons, it’s just written at the top of my notebook above my repetitions.)
The line is from “Soldier’s Poem” a Muse song. I listened to it once when I was biking to improv. I realized, in that moment on my bike, that human injustices are only human, and therefore really limited. And that I can never actually understand universal karma. It was reassuring, yet deeply pessimistic. It made me feel not alone. Somehow realizing how little I matter has always felt comforting to me.
I haven't really had any problems with not having caffeine after the headache during Yoga Nidra. I’m surprised.
We had some breathing exercises and were supposed to journal on them. I was distracted by my throat hurting. I was really mad at myself for not focusing. Like really, really mad. I went into a downward spiral of being sure I was self sabotaging.
“I can’t fight off my own arrogance”
We learned the difference in stretching vs. relaxing muscles. I thought it was interesting, but still felt resistant to new information.
Avoidance is just as addictive as grasping.
One of our talks on grasping resonated with me in a way that felt slightly safer than before. I felt some self compassion. I wanted to relax into it. But I didn’t know how.
I am just as underwhelmed as I knew I would be. I’m really bored. I wanna say I should be ok with being bored, but I don’t want to wish it different than it is. But I do wish it different than it is. Some of this is actually ok. I just want to be in control. I’m fully aware that this journal makes no sense, but putting the pen to the paper makes me feel like me. I get a choice here. I can write whatever I want. I am free here.
I’m not sure if I don’t like to admit I’m bored, or if I don’t like the fact that I’m bored, or that I’m not bored. I am. I’m having a lot of trouble forcing myself to like this. I’m blaming it on the headache and throat. I feel better when I’m distracted.
I thought of my kids at work. When they get nervous about how hard a workout is. They think something is wrong with them---they aren’t good enough to do it. Or they want something to be wrong with them so they don’t have to find out if they are good enough. I always tell them “This is hard. It’s supposed to be hard. It’s just hard. You are safe. Let things that are challenging, be challenging.
I’m appreciative of this experience. But I need some intensity.
I didn’t realize I liked my life so much as to miss it this much. I really wanna go home.
But that’s ok. It’s supposed to be hard. It’s just hard. It’s ok.
The Kirtan went long, like an hour, and I was so hungry. Waiting and waiting for it to be over, finally it was. And the dinner was a cup of green soup. I was bummed. I genuinely convinced myself it might be something else after 12 days of cups of soup for diner. I know I was more bummed because I spent an hour day dreaming about eating, and the food was just not anything exciting.
This really well intended random woman said something like “There is so much more to fill up on than food. The magnificent sunlight today!”
It really pissed me off. I know that I don’t have a perfect relationship with food, I don’t need shamed for that. Turns out, it was one of the other student’s birthday, and they had saved me a tiny, wonderful, vegan cupcake. I brought it back into the student center and the random woman goes “Where did you get that!?” The other girls said, lovingly teasing her “Are you jealous!?” and I said “No, she is filled up on sunshine!” She laughed and I felt so pleased. She said I was spicy and reminded her of her daughter. I said “Don’t fuck with me” in my head but I felt her genuine appreciation for me. I finally kinda feel like, I’m not perfect, but I’m ok.
Maybe the cupcake helped.
I tell you what, during my binge eating days, I could have never imagined one tiny little vegan cupcake could give me a little hope of self value.
Maybe there is hope for me to not hate myself one day.
I talked to my very close friend River that night, and he was just a beacon of light. He later text me that “This is hard, but that’s ok” A reminder. A reminder that love exists. And that I have support.
Complicated humans are meant to deal with complicated things.
I realize I should embrace being here. I’m here anyway. It’s going to be much more fun if I don’t force myself to hate it. But I don’t know how to trust them.
I have questions that I don’t want to ask. I don’t wanna be the girl that talks a lot, but I don’t wanna smile and nod. That’s not how I can enjoy being here. I don’t feel good enough here. I want to feel seen, but don’t like who I am in their eyes. I’m very worried.
Am I saying things looking for opportunities to convey who I want them to think I am? Or am I just trying to express myself? I’m having trouble with making conclusions. I don’t trust myself. Maybe in an effort to not judge them, I refuse to like or dislike them. I’m scared of things I don’t categorize. And if I can’t decide how safe I am with them, I can’t be me.
I don’t trust any of these people. I can’t let them change me. I don’t want to be like this. I won’t let myself actually enjoy moments. What makes me so untrusting? I believe in their good intentions, I do. Maybe enjoying the moment can be a choice? Why am I so stubborn?
Being excited is exciting. I’d been waking up really unsure about what I could be excited about recently. It feels a lot like depression. Almost half way.
Today was a silent day. I’ve liked the silence in the morning so far, so I wasn’t upset about that at all. I’ve got enough going on between my own two ears for plenty of conversation. We did Japa, morning mantra, and then we had our Asana practice, silent oatmeal, this is all the same as every morning.
We were told to meet in the meditation hall next. We started meditation with no instruction. It was just “Sit up tall. Close your eyes.”
“Are we getting instruction? How long are we going to be here? Whatever, Chelsea, just be here.” The voices in my head bargained.
I counted my breath. I lost track a few times. I looked around. Thoughts swirled in my head. I changed positions a few times. But all in all, it felt undramatic and eventually I got to 200 breaths. After 200 breaths is usually when we end Japa, which is about about 45 minutes.
I looked at my watch. “Ok, we must be doing an hour. That’s fine.” The next 15 minutes I allowed myself to just kinda think about things. I watched images dance of clouds, shadows, thoughts of home, concern about my body, boredom. I noticed and said hello and goodbye to thoughts. Hello to keep it friendly, goodbye because I don’t need to fall into the story of my thoughts right now. I knew we would end soon. The hour came, and I remembered that our Asana classes are usually 75 minutes, so that must be what’s happening. By that time, I was feeling bored and my body was doing that thing where the energy is circling in my skin, trying to find a way out from the bag it’s trapped in. For now, the energy was just curious, but I felt a fury coming, and I got worried. Images of fear flocked into my brain.
Once, in middle school, me and the rest of the volleyball team got in trouble for spray painting our mascot on the opposing team’s vending machine in their locker room. I had nothing to do with it, but our coach didn’t know that. “Run.” She said. “How long?” We asked. “Until I say stop.” We ran laps around the gym that seemed so large when I was 13. I remember lap 8 being so sure we’d be done at lap 10, and then at 10, 15. At 15, 20. Somewhere around 22 the fear was stronger than the pain in my lungs and legs. I felt nauseous. I looked around for excuses to quit, even though I knew I never would. I had a deep fear of inadequacy and would fight with everything I could to prove it wrong. I begged for evidence that we were almost done. I was so mad at my teammates for not faking more fatigue than they truly had. They seemed to be doing ok. I hated myself for not being as fit as them. I HATED MYSELF FOR NOT BEING AS FIT AS THEM. I don’t know if you have ever had an anxiety attack during extremely challenging physical strain, but it’s been a common theme throughout my life, and there is honestly nothing else like it.
After 75 minutes of meditation passed, I gave up. I decided not be angry with myself for how hard this was, and how not good at it I was. I decided I was a victim, and that felt more safe. I lost my posture. I opened my eyes, I tapped on the floor with index finger, I counted the ceiling tiles, I quizzed myself on the figures on the mantle, and I made shit up when I didn’t know who they were. I looked around at everyone else. It seemed like some were asleep, some were miserable, and some had also given up. I waited, surly we would be done in an hour and a half. It’s irresponsible to leave us in here longer than that.
1:28 in... so close. 1:29:30 I stared at the second hand on my watch. As an hour and a half came I was relieved, finally it’s here. 1:32...1:34. Heat. Anger. Fear. Heavy sigh. Heat. 1:37. Fuck! This is dumb! This is irresponsible!
This is war.
This was our first real silent meditation. We’d done chanting and Japa, and yoga Nidra, body scans, and breath check ins and shit, but not just sitting in silence. I’ve been practicing ZaZen (zen meditation) for 6 years, and I’ve never sat for 2 hours. And I’ve never sat without clear communication of how long I would be expected to do it. Two hours, for the first time, in my opinion, even know, in retrospect, my rational, not as scared opinion, was too much. But that’s just my opinion. And everyone always has opinions.
But in this moment, I was the personification of anger. Not fair. Not beneficial. Torture. Off putting. The opposite of empowering. Fear. Heat. Heat. HEAT. Anger.
I always know anger. It always sits somewhere between my spine and my stomach and feels like a fire.
I growled at everyone and everything under my breath. Thoughts rushed in my head about my own self righteousness. Cycles of not being in control of my experience, me thinking I know more than everyone else, me wanting to be ok with being wrong, and being uncomfortable, but me knowing that I absolutely was not ok with it right now. Layers of self-hatred being my compulsion when I notice something I don’t like about myself. Although I’d given up, the anger in my brain hurt. The waves of heat and energy condensed and now sat heavily on my brain and throat. My throat hurt so much. I hated these walls of my body that imprisoned me. This air, everyone around me, the smell, the statues were mocking me. Self shame.
I had to leave.
But I knew I wouldn’t. My need to be perfect was the only thing stronger than my anger.
I wanted to run. I wanted to get this energy out. It was in my jaw and ears, my ears wanted loud, angry aggressive music, my legs wanted to run, my jaw wanted to scream, my fist clenched in anger. I blamed everyone. And I hated myself for not being able to do this.
I held my breath. I wanted to punished my brain for it’s attack on me. I kinda liked the pain, and that terrified me. I remembered when I used to punish my stomach for controlling me. I feared being that girl again. I wasn’t better, my whole life has been a waste of time. I’m not recovered. Here I am again wanting to hurt myself. I wanted to hurt myself because I was mad that I can’t pretend. I wanted to hurt other people because they broke me. Here I am, doing something I strongly disagree with, with no real explanation why, and letting it ruin me.
It ended, and we had lunch, and I was still really, really angry.
I went on a run and I was still really, really angry.
Then, we had to do it again for another 2 hours and I was even more angry.
I have anger. I am an angry person. I think “it’s ok” helps.
It’s ok to realize something and not be able to fix it right away.
God. It feels so good to write. These words need out. They hurt when they stay in my brain. It frees me from me. And yet, I am afraid to see the real me. Because it’s not good enough? Fuck that. I’ve never actually thought that. I’ve always really liked me. Do I like me more than I like anyone else? What’s going on here? What am I afraid of? What is this perfectness I am striving for?
I realized. This is the same thing I try to show my kids at work everyday. How perfect they already are. I’m not there yet either, guys. Who told us how untrue our perfectness is? Why did we believe them?
I stopped writing because I couldn’t stop crying. That’s never happened before. The tears usually fuel the pen. I couldn’t see. I’m crying now, retelling this story.
God. To all my perfectionist kids. They are so hard on themselves.
You are ok. It’s ok, it’s ok. IT'S OK.
IT’S OK TO WANT TO CHANGE. IT DOESN’T MEAN YOU ARE NOT ENOUGH NOW.
YOU. ARE. PERFECT. NOW.
I tried to write a poem. It went like this:
“I was jealous. I dropped it. No one wins. No one wins following rules they don’t understand. No one wins if the goal isn’t fun. Maybe. Maybe, the point in life is to have fun. That sure seems more in the moment. I feel self righteous. That wasn’t the theme. I guess this won’t be a poem, Chelsea. Way to fuck up another one.
You aren’t the only one who hears words that mean nothing, Chelsea.
Mind your business.
Write about it
Be your own friend
How do I learn things I don’t like about myself with compassion?”
Are you constantly running to catch up to an arbitrary ideal?”
So, yoga perceives humans as windows to see itself? Am I a vessel?
A step up from asking what’s the meaning of life ---What’s the meaning of existence? Why is there something rather than nothing?
These aren’t my ideas.
The unit on surrender, today was a huge turning point for me.
One of my favorite poets was once interviewed and asked to explain his poem. He said something that always stuck with me. Something like “I’ve already told the story, as beautifully as I know how.”
A slightly more successful poem:
Write a peaceful poem
Convince yourself it’s ok
I’m looking back at this in my future dreams
The light in the window
I begged it for help
I begged it for entertainment
Convinced I had to stand firm against what is
It is only what it is
I can’t relax
My throat hurts
I’m only surviving
How long is it going to be you against the world?
These people are trying to love me
And I won’t let them
I won’t let people love me
I won’t let people love me
I won’t let people love me
How do I fix that?
Am I supposed to fix that, or am I supposed to surrender to it?
I’m not opposed to fear
I am here with it
How do I believe?
Maybe stop trying?
You are fine
Nothing is broken
There is nothing you need to fix
Close your eyes
I closed my eyes and tried to feel the embrace of the group. Everyone was singing and chanting. I felt joy. It felt present, but not a part of me. It was energetic. I tried to let go of stories.
What if you believed it? But I don’t. But what if you did? But I don’t.
On Not Wanting
All the white
But I want color
When there is mantra, I want a punk song,
Just like it
We repeat it too, you know
Maybe “we” isn’t exclusive
I’m in knots
But I miss it
But I’m in knots
Maybe little knots
Maybe I want color
This is about not wanting
The inner, huh?
I don’t like being told what to do
But thanks for loving me anyway
Letting that go, I reflect
To you: I do see you. I do
To me: I do see you. I do
Maybe “we” isn’t exclusive
We, are keeping this
I read that poem out loud to the class, because I wanted to, although I didn’t feel super safe doing it. I knew that was my problem, not theirs. I felt obligated to apologize about it, because I wasn’t sure if people understood how truly positive it was to me.
Why do I have to be correct? Does that matter? He has his opinions, and I have my opinions. It is not my responsibility to teach people my beliefs. Or save them. Or further, it’s not my right to be right and them wrong. It’s just what it is. And whatever ultimate universal truth may or may not exist, isn’t my place to define for someone else. You can’t expect people, or even want people to be different than who they are. Just listen. And focus on what you believe. And love.
The economic benefit is there, if you do the right thing.
I believe this. I do. And that scares me, because it implies faith. Who is keeping track? Is this faith? Faith in what? Is this God? I have faith in goodness and I surrender to not knowing exactly what that means. That’s my faith today. That’s good.
I have let go of the thoughts of “They are forcing me to do this.”
“Enjoy or die” -Johnny Rotten
The opposite of doubt is someone believing in you.
The training lasted 28 days.
The last 5 days weren’t perfect. I still cried a lot. But I started to understand how to surrender on day 23, and that just seems like a good place to end.