Welcome, yoga nidra, to my life at 25 (!)
I'm starting this entry at 10:15 PM. It may or may not be past midnight by the time I'm done; I'm actually leaning more towards the 'may not' possibility because I got the bulk out with my Instagram post. In any case, this will be the last blog entry of my 24th year. That's something. So put a checkmark beside that point and we'll move right along.
I don't know where my head was today. Well, it was in Monday. I've had worse Mondays before, and while I found myself struggling to make the few loose commitments I did have, I just felt unmotivated. I stayed in all day after missing my training appointment this morning at 9 because I thought it was at 10. (I then proceeded to complain on snapchat with a 9:37 AM time stamp and then mess up my complaint, saying I thought training was at 9.) I didn't do a whole lot - painted my nails, hand-tossed a salad, listened to some DNTO, not in that order. My mom is taking me out to lunch tomorrow so I went through my closet looking for an appropriate birthday lunch dress. It's supposed to be 27 degrees out tomorrow and so skinny jeans and a blouse won't suffice, even for lunch with my mom. The ordeal ended up taking well over an hour and I was so fixated on this outfit that I late-cancelled my barre class. I felt angsty and restless all day while also feeling incredibly lethargic. I told my roommate that I wanted to go to barre to burn off all my energy, as I paced around the kitchen before leaving for Junction 9. It was nice out today so I decided to walk. 6:40 pm could not come sooner.
I signed up for a yoga nidra + meditation session tonight at 7:15. If I had made it to barre I would have gone there first, and then headed in. I assumably would have burnt off my energy there and it would have been easy for me to calm down once I lay down into savasana. Didn't happen that way. I plugged in my headphones for the 27 minute walk and strolled lazily up 9th Avenue in an open-back tank top and flowy pants. I had a backpack with me, sunglasses, and a long scarf that was blowing from one side of my body to the other in the wind as I walked. Traffic was quiet by this time even though the position of the sun in the sky could have passed for 4:30 in early March. It's strange to think that was already a month and a half ago. Where did the time run off to? I've been feeling like I've been drifting, aimless, motivated but misguided since January. It was like I started off so strong and here I've been in this slump. Emotionally, mentally drained, yet my life lacks any predictable structure nor any consistent source of mental stimuli. Physical activity is the only thing that's making me feel alive and purposeful. I love barre, and I signed up for this challenge to get me out of my house and into the sunshine every day. It works too, and I've found myself wandering back into some of my favourite corners of the city because of it. Central Memorial Park. Mission. Cliff. Lindsay Park. Lunch by the river. This challenge has brought so much to me already and I still have more than 10 days left of it. It's brought wellness and stamina to my body and my mood, and it's physically brought me to places, situations, and interactions that are beautiful and inspiring. Sometimes rainbows and butterflies aren't enough, though. With the best of intentions. With the most gentle heart. I hit a low on Saturday night. A terrifying one. I try to break down the elements of what led to it, how it spiralled out of control, what the darkness brought up for me. It was so intense that my memories simply fade. All day yesterday, my only focus was to tread lightly so as not to aggravate myself further. All I knew was that I needed to be gentle with myself. Slow my breath. Slow time. Protect the fragility of my heart and mind and slowly, patiently, allow myself to heal.
At 7:04, I pushed open the glass door of Junction 9 and went up the stairs to the front desk to check in for my class. I started heading toward the back of the building where the stairs up to the studio are. Before I made it down the hallway, I turned around and decided to pick up a pillow from the adjacent bench-couch type of sitting area. I didn't know what I needed the pillow for, but the girl at the front said I was welcome to borrow one. When I went to go fill up my water bottle, a tall, red-haired yogi came out of the women's change room carrying a mat and two very fluffy pillows in clean white-and-gray pillowcases. They looked like they came right off of her bed. I realized at this point that the practice wasn't going to be a regular yoga practice, and I wouldn't be moving. I knew that was the point of meditation. The 'yoga' part of yoga nidra was throwing me off and I was still a little confused. I headed upstairs to the studio, where I pulled my yoga mat off the wall and unrolled it at the back-middle of the room, behind a tall gentleman who was already in seated and channeling. Once my mat was properly positioned, I got up to retrieve a blanket and bolster from the prop wall, attempting to copy the other yogis that were lying down near me, some of whom appeared to be sleeping. Then, once I got settled, I went into my backpack and pulled out my crystals. I'd wrapped them in black tissue paper from Bamboo Ballroom, where I'd purchased my newest white lace bralette the day before. The paper had gotten wet slightly from my leaky water bottle that I've dropped fifty-too-many times. Gently, I reached into the tissue paper and pulled out the five crystals I had cleansed the night before, with a bundle of sage by candlelight. A heavy, paperweight-sized cleavelandite that looks halfway between an iceberg and a mountain, which I've brought to Junction 9 with me before to accompany me during practice; a slightly smaller piece of picromerite, graced with an impressive bright-orange strip of brilliance along its top ridge; one angel wing calcite; one chalcedony rose; and one piece of sparkling green fuschite to facilitate more potent energy transfer. I placed them in an oval formation at the front of my mat, where they caught just the tiniest bit of light from the windows to my left. I might have been new to nidra tonight but I'm sure the crystals - and having that many - made me look equally weird. That obviously wasn't a concern to me though. What I was concerned with was not knocking any of them over when I moved onto my back for savasana. Thankfully they went untouched.
There were a lot of beginners in the class; by proportion, maybe about a third. Our instructor, Tanis, told us that if we fell asleep it wasn't a big deal. However, if we did stay awake, doing so would allow us a great opportunity to access deeper layers of consciousness. When we got started I realized I'd done this before, but in parts. Meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, mindful breathing. I was no stranger to the individual parts but I'd never sat down and had them all incorporated for me in one concise, 90 minute session. I will resist the urge to write word-for-word what I remember about the guided meditation experience. One, that's what I paid for tonight and I'm not giving that away for free, but moreover, two, that it felt personal and sacred. Powerful. And in a word, unfinished. I felt like my experience tonight opened the door to something big but I just barely scratched the surface, or I watched a preview of my own mind - either analogy works. I did nod off for a good portion of it and I think, like yawning, it was easier to fall asleep when I could hear and feel other people around me sleeping. It was like permission by association. When I did wake up again, Tanis' voice sounded like a call to action for my soul. With my eyes closed and body calm, I was awake and responsive. Completely present. Yet I didn't feel anxious or on high-alert. As a trauma survivor, I have a lot of trouble turning that off. For me, being awake and aware is still very much associated with being on high-alert for danger. Instead, I was lying on my mat between a bolster and a blanket, quite truly, suspended in a deeper layer of my consciousness. I listened and responded and looked. I got in touch with and communicated with receptors within my own mind. My intentions were messy because I thought my mantra was one thing, but it turned out to be another. This became evident to me when I couldn't place the original mantra on the second go. Three other words were surfacing for me instead. When you go that deep, you see the truth. You feel the truth. There is no room for disillusionment, distraction, or any piece of the lies, or the mask as Tanis mentioned, that we put up for other people. I was there. Exactly as I was, taking up space. Feeling things. Connected. Safe. And protected.
We finished off in seated doing different breathing exercises, and they were… enlightening. I don't know if that's the correct usage of that word especially in this context. I really need to work on adding more synonyms of 'amazing' to my vocabulary. One major attributor to me finding success in breath-work has been my therapy for sure. I've been doing mind-body psychotherapy since November where the focus of breath, and the embodiment of sensations and energy in targeted organs in my body are integral to the sessions. My therapist will turn my attention to physical sensations that are happening in my body when I'm stimulated emotionally. I'll describe that feeling, and then she'll tell me to breathe into it. That process reduces the intensity of whatever we're discussing and overall it makes me more calm and present. Grounded breathing, which I tried tonight for the first time as part of my meditation, was some extension of the kind of mind-body work I've already done in that the focus of my breath had a direct impact on how my body was positioned and any sensations or movements I was doing as a result. When we moved to breathing into the heart chakra shortly after, I was already completely in tune with any and all of the energy I was going to channel in the session. It was everything I didn't know I was looking for. The gratitude piece at the end tied everything together so nicely. Wholeness, connection, existence, being. Purpose. It wasn't that I found it all tonight, I felt it. Meditation doesn't hand you answers. It allows you the chance to discover the ones you already have inside you.
It was my first time practicing yoga nidra, but not my first time meditating among a group of strangers. The last time I did it was in 2011, at the Ambulatory Care Centre of Rockyview Hospital. I was in treatment. I attended their day treatment program between late October and November for four weeks, after the darkness made me ready to take my own life, but I ended up in the ER before I got the chance to do it. It was truly the scariest time in my young adult life. It was very dark time and I was incredibly alone. As a requirement of this program, I had to show up here five days a week for six hours a day, and see a therapist for about an hour for each of those days. Anyone that doesn't believe you can ever have too much therapy does not understand this. The therapy nearly killed me. You can overdo it, you can absolutely run your mental into overdrive and it's especially dangerous when you're already so unstable emotionally, self-harming, and lacking a network of support. I attempted suicide while attending this program, because I was being re-triggered every day. I remember at one point we were doing yoga. I felt really awkward so I went to the front of the class, self-conscious about wearing a t-shirt with my cut-up forearm. I felt better after it was over compared to how I did before, but what I remember consistently is how dizzy I felt before and after from the intense mental taxation that the program was putting on me. I could not go deep in these exercises because my trauma was so severe. Any depth of consciousness I was able to access was out of desperation, survival, or if it ever offered solace from my worries and fears, that solace was fleeting. I could not be calm. If I was not in despair I was furious. If I was not furious I was in despair. And when I couldn't be either of these things, I was tired. Tired of fighting. Tired of living. Tired of breathing. It's no wonder I just wanted things to be over. It's no wonder I look back on that time in my life and the memory is so intense, that my thoughts simply fade.
It's been a whirlwind/rollercoaster of the last 5 years. And as of right now, in 30 minutes, I begin the next 5. The first quarter-century of my life is coming to an end. In 2011, I didn't believe I could make it another day. Another month. And quite honestly, that disbelief of being able to simply exist carried through with me for the majority of the five years that followed. The intensity decreased. I stopped obsessing about suicide and self-harm and my focus shifted from trying to die to trying to live. Very slowly. I learned how to take things day by day and look at life on a smaller scale. Appreciate the little things. Celebrate the tiniest victories. Two nights ago, I contemplated the value of the rest of my time on earth. There was no hospitalization, no desperate call to the Distress Centre (there was a time I had them on speed-dial), and no broken skin where I went digging for blood for some reminder that I was still alive. But I did sleep with knives in my bed to try to assert control over my erratic thoughts turning into maladaptive behaviour. That was something I learned how to do while recovering, but at this stage, it's scary. And moreover, there's a piece of failure and shame attached to these feelings that makes the weight even heavier. It's what I subconsciously put on myself. It is unsettling. But it is the truth. My truth. An imperfection of my reality. And when something is real, it is not subjective. It simply is.
My reality may be imperfect but it is also incredibly blessed and beautiful. I can't tell you where I thought I would be at 25 and whether or not I'm there now, because I couldn't think that far. There was a time in my life, this life, not very long ago where I didn't think I would see 25. Not because I was living fast - it was because time was moving too slow. Time as an entity is so relative. It's already tomorrow in Australia, Japan, the Philippines, even in Europe. By the time I wake up in the morning, the day will almost be over there. I'm happy I held on. Every time things could have come close, physically or in my mind or both. And whether or not I ever struggled mentally, the fact of the matter is, none of us know when the end will come. We can all die tomorrow, not by our own hands. Life is unbelievably precious and gratifying and _____. I don't have the word I want and I'm not going to pretend I do. The biggest thing I learned this year, and it sums up the majority of the challenges I've faced in my life so far, is that there is a place for each and every one of us in this world. It may not be close to home and we may not have ever been there yet, but it exists. Your place may not be where you've lived your whole life or where the other people close to you will need to be. But it's there. I promise you it exists. But you need to be here to discover it. The rest of my life has so much to offer and I can't wait to discover all the places in the world where my soul belongs. I'm so glad I stayed.
25 and still alive. And not just surviving. Thriving. I'm so grateful. I am so incredibly grateful.