Transformation: turning the shit into rich soil

I am just back from a pretty powerful time away in Costa Rica.  I was co-leading my 7th annual yoga retreat at Blue Spirit with two friends and awesome yoga teachers and as always, was cracked open to a veritable treasure chest of wisdom and deep nourishment.

To give you an idea of the contrast, we went from sub-zero Toronto temperatures- frenetic, busy energy to landing in a tropical wonderland where the oxygen-rich air hits you like a drug and the most stressful part of your day is waiting in line to get through customs, or more typically, waiting in line for your next delicious meal lovingly prepared by the wonderful staff of Blue Spirit.  The air is so moist there, my cells felt bathed in nutrients and my eyes felt sparkly and awake- able to see and take in all the wonder around me.  Everything from my digestion to my perception of myself and the world felt better, because what I was taking in was reflecting back to me my own inherent beauty and wholeness.

To be clear, I realize traveling to Costa Rica is a massive privilege and luxury that most people do not experience, but instead of feeling guilty about that, I used that understanding to tune me into profound gratitude and stress the importance of taking in  every drop of sunshine and nourishment that I received in order to pay-it-forward by coming home with a full cup.

This trip was particularly heightened by the book I was reading there: Braving the Wilderness by Brené Brown.  In it, Brené talks about the willingness to step outside of what is comfortable and expected of you (in tight, limiting circles) to what is your brith right, which is owning your wild, free heart. Essentially, it is about belonging so completely to yourself that you’re able to show up fully in the world in your vulnerability without fear of being ostracized or rejected because you realize that you are the wilderness and that your belonging to this bigger human-animal family is non-negotiable; it is simply the truth of who you are.  In other worlds, while at a micro level, there are tensions and real threats of rejection at work or in social circles, at the macro level, no one can strip you of your membership from the human race- and knowing your part in the larger human struggle can be a healing balm when you feel utterly alone or disconnected.

Just before leading this retreat, I took a Vinyasa yoga intensive in which the teacher was talking about the difference between change and transformation.  A lot of us ruminated on the question and what surfaced was the idea that like compost that has changed from one material into another, once we are truly transformed, we cannot go back to the way we once were.  Once we realize, for example that are enough- fully and completely, just as we are, we can’t go back to jumping through hoops for love or approval.

This encapsulates how I feel right now in my life: clearer than I have ever been that I don’t need to shut myself down or play small to make other people feel comfortable ; That belonging to myself and showing up fully is not selfish or arrogant, but deeply inspiring because it reminds others of their own capacity to do the same.  At the same time, I am comforted in knowing that standing with myself does not mean rejecting others or not hearing feedback, it simply means not being so caught up in fitting in or being liked, that I abandon myself.

Another part of the book that deeply resonated with me was the idea that when you haven’t really worked with your own pain you do one of two things:  deny it’s there at all, which ultimately leads to your body breaking down (because the body always takes score) or you inflict your pain on others.  The only healthy alternative is to own your story- to be real about the pain that you have felt and decide how you want to move forward.  This is the essence of transformation – it’s integrative, with no parts left out.  Everything gets a place and in moving forward and you decide the shit you no longer want to carry, because it was never yours to begin with.

This is definitely a process and it doesn’t come easily, but as Brené quotes Maya Angelou:

“You only are free when you realize you belong no place — you belong every place — no place at all. The price is high.  The reward is great.”

On this wild, human journey full of twists and turns, I feel so grateful and deeply privileged to have had the opportunity to travel, to have had my eyes re-calibrated to the mystery and the wonder and to have had some of my feed-back loops disrupted in order to remember my wholeness.   Instead of believing in the false dichotomy that I can’t be myself and truly loved, I am choosing a love that is fiercer and more inclusive, that celebrates uniqueness and rejects the need to prove or perform in order to be enough.  I am learning that to “feed the wolf of love” in my heart is to trust in myself, embrace my struggles and transform them by owning a new narrative that acknowledges the light and the shadows- the paradoxes inherent in the human journey.  In opening to all the joys, the sorrows and the mystery I am realizing as Brené says, “no one belongs here more than you.”


About jtotheess

Yoga teacher Traveler foodie audiophile
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2 Responses to Transformation: turning the shit into rich soil

  1. Nancy Brooks says:

    Goose bumps and immense inspiration to embrace and love myself completely! Beautifully written. Thank you, Lemon!

    • jtotheess says:

      Thank you so much, Nance. I am deeply inspired by you and your journey. Grateful to walk beside you and to be able to share the contents of my heart with someone who has been so loving and trust-worthy. Thank you. I love you.

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