So you want to be Enlightened? Get Real!
Ahhh, enlightenment. “A world of never ending happiness. U can always see the sun, day, or night.” (Um, sorry I live in Prince-town and grew up in the 80’s!).
Sounds amazing doesn’t it? Liberating? No pain, no suffering, just bliss. Peace. Freedom. Sign me up ‘cause I’m in!
Well, I’m on. The path that is. And I can honestly say that it hasn’t been all rainbows and butterflies for me! In fact, I’ve seen relatively few pretty flying creatures along the way, and even fewer rainbows. But I can report that I’ve unearthed things far more valuable: discarded, broken and lost pieces of myself. Like Humpty Dumpty, my true, authentic, undeniably real self is slowly piecing herself back together. Empty places inside my heart are filling in while age-old wounds are treated and renewed.
I didn’t recognize what was happening until, years ago, my husband looked at me with a teasing grin, “I thought this yoga-thing was gonna make you all peaceful and stuff”.
Hmmph. Dang, he had a point. Honestly, I thought so too. That’s why I started, right?
Instead I saw how I was engaging in crazy, dangerous and questionable behavior. Like fully feeling and expressing my emotions (out loud!). Living with intensity. Passionately speaking my mind. Standing up for myself and others. Stating a dissenting opinion!
Wow, what happened to my Minnesota-nice girl filter? My polite smile and nod? My ability to offer a careful opinion behind a questioning lilt? Where did my courteous, non-confrontational manners go for chrissakes!
I stormed up (see I used to walk quietly to not be a bother) to my yoga teacher and demanded (Really Keri, demanded?) to know why yoga wasn’t working for me. She threw her head back and laughed loudly (not politely behind her hand) and explained, “My dear, yoga is the process of becoming who you are!” “So, you are telling me that I am an emotional, opinionated, crazy, ‘speak my mind’, sometimes even disruptive kinda gal?” I challenged? “Yes,” she beamed, smiling even wider, “apparently so, and isn’t it wonderful?”
Hmmm, lemme think about that.
See, I didn’t think she understood. She didn’t understand that those masks, my trained behaviors, my ability to ignore what I really felt or needed had been cultivated, nay, venerated, since I was little. They were necessary for survival. Weren’t they??
(Insert Ah-ha moment)
OK, so maybe she did understand. Maybe she knew that the only way I could experience the kind of freedom, happiness and peace I desired was by knowing, honoring and living from my True Self. And the only way out was through. And in. Onward I traveled.
And on the way, I’ve discovered a few things I wish I’d known:
First, on this path there is nothing to “get” – like celestial visions or a choir of angels singing. Instead we lose and lose — layer after layer of caked on bullshit that clogs our throat, our will, our gut instinct, our intuition, our sensuality, our voice and our truth. Then we lose the ropes that stop our heart from feeling and prevent our hands from reaching. We lose our carefully constructed guardrails and automatic defenses (likely hand-me-downs anyway). We lose and lose until there’s nothing left. Just You. Me. Vulnerable. Exposed. It doesn’t get any more real than that.
Next, once we “see” ourselves more clearly, we discover that it’s impossible to go back to darkness and ignorance. We simply can’t un-know parts of ourselves that are revealed through this process. But what we can do is embrace them. Love ‘em. Get real with ‘em. Own ‘em. We can take it slow (I like to rest regularly with a glass of wine and a trashy novel). Releasing the crusted mummy-wrappings of a lifetime (lifetimes?) is painstaking, careful work and our bodies need time to process and adapt to the wider awareness.
Finally, incorporating these newly returned pieces of ourselves into daily life is rarely pretty, easy or graceful. It’s most often awkward, clumsy and terribly uncomfortable like (I imagine) learning to walk on stilts. We tend to over-compensate. Fall down. We definitely experience judgment. We often experience rejection. And it can hurt. Sometimes, a lot.
So why take the risk and expose ourselves to the judgment, rejection or even ridicule inherent on this path? Why be so vulnerable, so see-through, so…real?
Because the gift that we unwrap step after faltering step is a life lived authentically and from the heart. And the gift we give is certified, bona fide, signed, sealed and delivered authentically real. It’s Us. No smoke and mirrors. And for me, I stay on this path because I do find it leads to peace and freedom — peace with myself and unbounded freedom to reach out to others.
So jump in with a whoop and a holler and eyes wide-open, and get real – together.