Notes on Practice: The Most Grueling Stretch of Winter

January 27, 2015 - Meghan LeBorious

January 27, 2015

You know the flying monkeys in the Wizard of Oz? They are the terrifying, taloned, swooping creatures allied with the Wicked Witch who plague Dorothy and her allies as they seek a way home to themselves. On Friday, I found myself plagued by fears. My little son—who is thriving, happy, healthy and spectacular—has been turning his feet out, rolling onto their outer edges to the point that he is knocking himself over. He has experienced (yet another) massive growth spurt, growing an inch or more since Christmas; and it is most likely a matter of his body adjusting to the fast growth. Even so, my mind panics—especially when it comes to him. In the beginning I was an unusually cavalier parent, but when he was ten months old, he spiked a high fever and had a seizure. I feared he was dying as I waited for the ambulance to arrive. Two years later, the same thing happened. I am told it is not uncommon; and that almost all children grow out of febrile seizures by grade school age, but it changed my perspective and, in some ways, my relaxed feelings. I watched my little son as he walked yesterday, intense, my eyebrows knitted together; and he asked me to stop watching his feet, as it was “making him embarrassed!”

I relaxed slightly as I drove to class on Friday night. I stepped into the already flowing room, bowed, and unexpectedly collapsed onto my knees with my forehead to the floor. I wondered what would happen, and wished for catharsis to cut through the fear and anxiety that were plaguing me. Truthfully, I had already been feeling anxious, even before I noted the change in my son’s feet. Late at night, while writing, I have been worrying away at my fingernails. I have also had stress dreams and have been waking up with bite marks on the sides of my tongue. Years ago, I was sure I had conquered anxiety, but I am reminded that relating to it is an ongoing process.

Lately, too (just to really heap it on), I’ve been grappling with the shamanic aspects of my own practice. I’ve been wondering whether or not opening myself up completely on every level might be dangerous in some way. I think this can happen when a strong fear comes up—it starts to ricochet all over and all kinds of scarcely related things start to come up and seem related. As to the shamanic aspects of practice, over the years, I have developed the belief that if I am energetically empty—porous, unattached, dynamic and connected to everyone and everything—I have nothing to fear. As I started to move, I asked myself, “What might happen if I totally let go?” But then I didn’t. Or couldn’t.

The music for the second half of the class was provided by two drummers. They were highly skilled and the room was alive with rhythm; but I just couldn’t get into it. With all the driving rhythm, I had a hard time finding Flowing—finding my feet, finding continuous motion, finding receptivity and finding graceful presence.

Today would have been my maternal grandmother—my Mamie’s, 87th birthday. Last night I re-configured objects on a little wooden box in my bedroom. One of the objects I chose to include was Mamie’s baby ring, which she gave to me when she realized she was moving toward her death. It is a tiny little gold band, with a tiny little garnet set into it. Too precious to describe with words. I put it on the tip of my little finger and thought about my own son who is leaving his babyhood—about to turn five, thought about my grandmother as a tiny baby as she was adored by her own mother; and I wept as I sat contemplating her life and contemplating, too, the passage of time.

I wish I had loved my grandmother better. I loved her deeply—to be sure, but my self-preoccupation kept me from fully showing up for her. My preoccupation with managing my relationship was a key cause, but I don’t think I ever really considered what it would mean to put her needs first, or to see things through her eyes. In her late years, with limited mobility, she yearned to get into a swimming pool. I vaguely thought I should try to organize it, but I never did—not realizing how finite time with her was. During her last summer, she wanted to take the entire family out to dinner one night while we were on vacation. I resisted, not wanting to leave the beach early. The unforgettable site of her frail, brave, bent back receding as she and my great aunt got into my mother’s car on an outing, instead, to get hot dogs, causes me tremendous pain now.

I have been hard on myself these last few days. Perhaps it is because we have entered the most grueling stretch of winter.

At dance, I tried to connect with the music, but found myself un-creative. At one point, I bumped into a friend’s elbow. Truthfully, he backed up without looking behind him, but the collision was chiefly my fault, as it was me who entered the space he had been established in and it was me who did not notice his backward motion in time to shift and give him the space he needed. He receded with his face pinched and holding his elbow; and I learned that he had been suffering from an injury in that very spot.

Shortly after, scanning the room, I couldn’t locate him. I feared that I’d horribly injured him and that he’d had to leave for the night. I repeatedly looked away from the friend I was partnered with, wondering what to do, abusing myself for my mis-step. Thankfully, he reappeared, and I turned back to my friend. We joined in a breath-powered, emphatic Stillness—smiling and embracing each other at the end.

When I was still with the partner I loved for many years, I spoke with a friend during a day of crushing anxiety. My partner had been out drinking all night following an acrimonious conflict; and I was embarrassed and self-abusive because I had stayed awake all night in a state of agony, waiting for him to come home. The friend said the most generous thing: “Meg, that’s just how it is. When you really love somebody, you are going to have some sleepless nights from time to time. That is just how it is. It’s part of the territory.” I was so grateful that she didn’t put pressure on me to be kinder, stronger or more evolved.

When I write a text like this one, the last thing I want to do is share it with the world. I have a deep fear that attending to my fears might make actually them manifest. Another part of me believes that accepting fear without attaching to it is the only way through, but this voice is hesitant—a poor debater who can’t hold her ground in a heated argument. I am also afraid because this is not how I want you to see me. I want to show you my tenderness, awareness, courage, vitality, my magnificence, my insight. I don’t want you to see me riddled with anxiety, small, frightened and closed down. I beg you to keep it to yourself, and please, to play it down if my name should happen to come up in casual conversation.

I noticed another friend near me, playing with the floor, arcing and suspending with movements surely inspired by yoga. I was delighted to join her for a few brief moments, my limbs growing confidently into the space behind and above me, reflecting her experiments, until we were instructed to change partners.

Sometimes I wish for a certain experience, such as catharsis. However, I have learned that hoping dance will fix me, hoping things will turn out a certain way, or hoping to escape the harsh judgments of my own mind are rarely productive. Sometimes things take time to move; and the only resources that serve are faith, patience and self-compassion.

Close it

Newsletter & Email List Sign-up

To receive our newsletter and be on our e-mail list, please fill out and submit this form:
* Required Fields

Form Heading