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sunsalutes2.jpgIt was a stressful weekend. An article I handed in six months ago came back for edits. Again. It’s a story about love and yoga. It’s supposed to be helpful and happy and light. Not saccharine, but, you know, not grim reaper stuff. But I and the editor and her editor realized the problem: 3,500 words and not much joy. I finally confessed that I’ve been in love-sucks-and-is-hard mode for months. It was clear that despite my attempts, this was tinting things.

So then I did what every good writer does: Procrastinated. Worried. Stressed myself out by staring at the computer screen, canceling fun plans, and not going to yoga. And once that was all in place, I spent lots of time berating myself for being such a procrastinating, non-exercising fraud of a yogi and a terrible writer with the efficiency skills of a meth-head on crack.

Sometimes when I start setting myself up like this I can catch it. Some loving part of my brain goes, “Oop, honey, watch out, you’re spiraling into some dangerous territory.” And then I go for a walk or call a friend or write in my journal to exorcise the inner haters. But sometimes the self-punisher just takes over. “Nope!” he says, hovering over me, large and leather-clad, giant paddle in hand, “No light for you! You deserve to be this miserable, you procrastinating wretch!”

And then I’m in the Bad Place. And last night that Bad Place was my bedroom floor, me propped on a bag of undone laundry (more proof of my horrible, unfit-for-humanity-ness), sobbing and saying mean things to myself about my fundamental unloveablity, cataloging all of the good evidence to support the notion that anyone I would ever love could never possibly love me because look, this IS me, at core. A crying, needy, dirty-laundried, procrastinating wreck. “Ha!” I thought. “People think I’m so together (well, some), but this is the REAL me. If only they knew that I’m just a swirl of pathetic darkness.” Yadda, Ibid, etc. Ad infinitum. You get the idea.

And I wish I knew what the next little teeny flicker looked or sounded or smelled like–and I really wish I knew where it came from. (Click below for the rest of the post.)

It wasn’t a thought, I know that, because at that point those were utterly useless to me. It was more like a surge, a shift. The survival instinct or the sane part or something that just said, “Basta.” And before I knew it I was unrolling my yoga mat and pressing into a yogic push-up and jumping to my feet. Reaching for my toes, swan-diving up, then down, then pushing my feet back again, leaping into another push-up. Sun salutations, one after the other, fast and hard and smooth and completely without thought.

These led to some standing postures. At some point deep, steady breathing kicked in, and I was flowing again, physically, literally moving through it. Tears gone, images of the best ways to die gone, drowning self-pity gone, catalogs of weaknesses gone. After about 45 minutes I wound to a close, completing in my habitual way, “Om shanti,” I murmured, leaning forward in a surrendered pose. “Peace be in my heart, peace be in the hearts of all beings,” I chanted, like I always do after yoga. That’s when I had my first return of thought–surprise that I was wishing myself well. Shock that I even had it in me to bless myself along with everyone else–you know with me being such and extra-bad person and all.

And as I bundled up a little while later to go to a friend’s to watch the Oscars, I was once again blown away at how real that had all seemed. How that darkness is so dark you don’t know it’s dark, because duh, you can’t see. How a sinkhole can just grab you and swallow you and you can’t see anything but sinkhole because a part of you has already made a pact with the darkness, out of sheer habit: “I will deny my light along with you. I will loathe myself so no one can loathe me first. I will slide along with this because there is comfort at the bottom, there is relief in the muck.” And then that guy, the King of the Bad Place in leather chaps, knows he has won and you are his subservient subject.

Until you are not. Until you have just shifted. Somehow. Because there is enough in you, because there was enough of something in me, to reach for air, for the floaty thing, for light. Because I stopped blocking grace. This will likely happen again, because it has happened before. My life is no more resolved than it was when I joined my laundry in a heap.  I’m still procrastinating, though once I emerged I was able to get some stuff done. I’m still wondering what my path is, what God/Universe/Goddess/Divine Love has in mind, exactly; I’m still 35 and single and pretty heart-bruised, and wondering WTF?

But it all seems better, easier, more breath in there, like there’s more energy to make me buoyant and, in fact, remember that I’m actually pretty happy. On my way home later, in the cold, it occurred to me that to avoid getting completely swallowed up, it’s “just” a matter of having more energy than the downward swirl. To fill with enough light and raise my vibration enough so I can see the King with the Paddle and the leather vest growling at me and wave and keep on going. It involves pre-emptive energy-building. Making sure I keep my body moving even if it’s a few deep breaths. Having better thought hygiene. Recognizing that the bad thoughts are born from stress. That they are no more real than anything else.

And if I’m going to make up a story about myself, it might as well be one that lifts than one that pulls. Maybe lots of people love me. Maybe I am actually NOT that wreck, maybe I am the one who reaches, despite the pulls, the training, the practice in letting go into the swamp. Maybe someone would actually be impressed with all that trying, with the continual practice of getting out, of reaching up, even when my brain has tricked me into believing there is nothing to reach for but darkness. Hey, maybe I can even impress myself.

 

How do you keep trying? How do you shift out of your dark nights?

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