Sunday, November 15, 2009

A Bruised Ego

Settle in, boys and girls, for a story.

Once upon a time, I was physically fit and strong and thin. I never thought I was thin, but that's another story for another day. I also practiced yoga for years and years -starting before some of you were even a twinkle in your Mama's eye. I learned some silly things and some unimaginably important things while spending time on my mat. I learned how to put my foot behind my head (that goes in the "silly thing" category, in case you were wondering) and how to be a more loving person. I learned how to twist myself up into a pretzel and how to confront some of the pretzel-y knots in my own psyche.

And I thought I learned about ego. Bearing in mind that none of these important life lessons is learned and then is over and done-with, I thought I had confronted this one. (Who's that snorting in derision? I hear you!) Seriously, I kind of thought that my ego issues went the other way -that I had been with a man I thought to be strong, but really just needed constant ego massage. His strategy for getting that reinforcement was to make other people feel small. Even more clever, he was good at getting the people around him to admit they were small before he even asked. So I thought my task was to find ego-strength where I had assumed there was none.

Alas, it is more complicated than that. Yesterday I went to a 3-hour yoga workshop. I have started to re-claim my yoga practice, but it is nowhere nearly as consistent or disciplined as it has been in years gone by. So I knew I was walking into this workshop under-prepared. In my home practice, I am learning to be gentle with myself when I can't (yet) do poses that, a long time ago, were easy. In class yesterday, I realized that there was still quite a bit of ego attached to being good at yoga.

Sigh. Just when you think you're making progress, the universe points out a spectacular area of blindness. And now that you're no longer blind to it, you're obliged to work on it. Damn it. (Oh sorry, young ones.... I mean.... gosh, universe, thanks for this opportunity to become a better person.)

I looked around at all the strong, lean yoga bodies and was unhappy with the size, shape, and fitness of my own body. I couldn't really see other people's postures to compare, but I felt worried and unhappy that I had to so intensely modify my own postures. I could compare my today-postures with my years-ago postures, and I didn't like the trajectory. My self-talk was screaming "I used to be good at this. I want you all to know that I used to be good at this. I know the Sanskrit names for postures. I know alignment principles. I have mat-cred (the yoga equivalent of street-cred, I suppose)".

Wow, who is that arrogant/desperate pain in the ass and would she please shut up?

So, today is all about ibuprofen for the muscles and the spirit. On some level, I'm hobbling around a little bruised. On the other hand, being worked just a smidge beyond your comfort level is how you make progress. As long as I extend compassion to myself as well as other people, this will probably work. I can only start where I am, right? So, I'm reframing all of this to put it into the "hurts so good" category. I'm almost convinced.

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