My Inner Worlds
My body has held a frozen pose for too long. Its beauty neglected, its form stiff and fragile. This morning’s yin practice opened another blossom that has grown through the crack of my mindless being, an unnatural posture that I’ve maintained for what feels like centuries. My analytical accountant identity breaks under the pressure of All I Am. My so-called control has been shattered as I take breaths of new vibrancy, blasting open a vista my eyes don’t yet see. Or if they do see, I can’t comprehend the new landscape they transmit, images blurred into feelings of loss and sorrow.
Who am I? Why am I scared of the unknown hidden inside? Why have I held back for countless heartbeats? When do I fully become who I am?
This process is unrelenting, yet gentle. It takes me one loving step and waits while I catch up to a new space, a new place where I can be all of me. I chose my path, and this freeing won’t stop until one day my true dance reverberates through every part of my beautiful body and soul.
Each month my friends and I meet for a full day of Dungeons and Dragons, a roleplaying adventure game that I’m sure you’ve heard of. They arrive at my house around noon and sometimes don’t leave until 9 pm. It makes for a tiring day, but one filled with tons of fun. Our current group started gaming together in 2012 with Rise of the Runelords, a Pathfinder adventure that took us four years to complete. Last fall we started Skull & Shackles, a pirate escapade on the high seas that has taken us out of our comfort zone.
I first began roleplaying in 2003 or 2004 with a homegrown adventure written by SJ, my current GM (gamemaster). Roleplaying stretched me. In the beginning I was terrified of making a mistake, of letting others see me, of drawing attention to any aspect of myself—you get the picture. Being with loving people who have become dear friends gave me a space to explore possibilities. Why couldn’t I be more outgoing like my selkie character Lyra? The charismatic druid I created and played mirrored aspects of myself that I didn’t feel safe expressing in real life. Over time I learned to relax more, to have fun, and to slowly incorporate the traits I liked in Lyra into my own experiences.
Matt and I moved to the mountains in 2008 and couldn’t realistically participate in tabletop RPG (role-playing games) from a distance. When we returned from our three-year journey into the wilderness, our friends suggested reforming our group to play Rise of the Runelords. Life had felt a little rough for me outside my beloved urban Raleigh-Durham area, and the sorceress I crafted for this adventure helped me learn to embrace my inner power. Elliana was a strong-willed, not-very-wise, magic user who shot lightning bolts from her fingertips. Playing her over the course of four years was illuminating, and with the help of Matt, I learned how to think outside the box. Several times Elliana used magic in an intensely creative and non-destructive way that impressed the heck out of me. Since those ideas came from me, I learned that I can express my creative side in real life and not fear it.
I grieved last summer as we completed the Runelords adventure, knowing Elliana had to retire to her hero afterlife. To help compensate for that loss, SJ allowed me to create my current character Lia as the daughter of Elliana and two other characters from the Runelords game. She is a combination of four different races, but the sorcery used in her birth went haywire, giving me a great roleplaying opportunity for times when Lia feels stress.
It was difficult to shift to this strong physical fighter, who is now also a pirate captain. We’re still learning to play our new roles in Skull & Shackles, but I can see a parallel in Lia’s physical abilities and my new interest in practicing yoga. Playing a pirate captain is stretching me, but our group has decided to be “good” pirates. We don’t prey on the innocent and will only take the life of an enemy when necessary. I look forward to seeing how the next three years will transform Lia and me in our tandem worlds.
A look at Lia's portfolio via the Hero Lab app (shown on an iPad Mini):
Yesterday I took a workshop taught by Billy Batten of Bikram Yoga Wilmington, hosted by Raleigh Yoga Company. I have now been practicing yin yoga for four weeks and continue to love it. Bikram is the next step for me, and I wasn’t sure what to expect from the afternoon’s training. I was the only one there who had never taken a Bikram class. Thinking the workshop was for people like me, a total newbie, I was a bit surprised to see folks there who have decades of experience in this method. I chose to feel special for being the only true beginner out of a room of eighteen yogis.
Billy said Bikram yoga is for the broken, physically or emotionally. I’m doing yoga to help with my spinal pain (see post here), and I can always become more emotionally healthy (see post here). Bikram uses the body to change the body, an empowering tool. He asked us why we come to yoga. If the reason is to look good in our poses, we can lose our motivation. My intent is to relieve the constant pain in my upper neck that gives me headaches and blurs my vision, as well as deepening the connection with my body’s knowledge and understanding. I’ve ignored the body’s quiet song long enough.
After the workshop I moved into the regular yin yoga class, which had more people in attendance than usual. The studio has been open for just over two months, and I’ve been spoiled by classes with only a handful of students. I can sometimes get overwhelmed by a crowded room and will avoid situations where I know there will be a lot of people. But this is yin yoga. I breathed and allowed the energy of everyone there to softly flow within my imagined space. Yin embraces discomfort, and I had an opportunity to be vulnerable inside a packed room. The class felt short, which tells you how good it was—the hour flew by. During an intense hip pose, I finally let go and cried through the pain that’s been in my left hip for some time, hindering my gait during walks. I had a chance two weeks ago to cry it out during Saturday yin, but I didn’t want to sob with a medical doctor on the mat next to me. Yes, I have my unfair prejudices.
In final savasana (“corpse pose”), I allowed the tears to fall and relaxed into the posture. Towards the end of it, I saw in my mind’s eye a circle of concrete blocks beginning to crack, transforming into living flowers. It was a beautiful image, and I feel the flowers are within my strengthening body. They aren’t there yet, but I have a picture to use each time I go to yoga—I’m transforming concrete into beautiful blossoms.
Thank you to Billy for sharing his wisdom, and to Laura and Susan for inviting him into their studio. I’m grateful to be a part of Raleigh Yoga Company’s growing practice.
Twenty-one summers ago I began a meditation practice. It started from an internal schism between my workaholic nature in public accounting and a desire to be healthy. I felt stressed every day and consumed way too much caffeine so I could keep going nonstop. After the busy tax season that year, I found a flyer advertising an Introduction to Meditation course. I signed up and proceeded to learn different variations of meditation over the six-week class, which allowed participants to choose which one they liked best and incorporate that into a daily routine.
Over the next year I meditated regularly. I even bought a special chair for sitting still in comfort. (That first one wound up being not so comfortable, so I invested in an Ekornes chair that I use to this day.) The following spring I took the advanced meditation course, which I don’t recall very well. I just remember that after the final class my instructor, a mental health therapist, talked to me about starting therapy and offered to work with me. I liked her mind-body awareness, and we had already built trust between us in a non-therapy setting. We began the work of diving into Sarah, and I saw her at least once per week for the next two years. If you’re considering therapy, it’s well worth the investment, when/if you find a person you trust with your inner self.
My meditation practice lasted for a few years, and then it waned as other aspects of life took my attention. While I used stillness and silence in my new interests, it wasn’t focused meditation time.
A month ago Matt asked if I’d join him in a seven-week webinar meditation course. Because these are the types of things that we do on our dates, I said sure. Due to a miscommunication between us, I thought Matt personally knew this guy and that he lived locally in Chapel Hill. I expected a white-collar man who looked like a doctor and probably had a soft torso. When I saw the monk on-screen, I dismissed the class based on his appearance and his accent. He is from India, dresses in full orange regalia, and obviously cares for his body. It’s what one would expect of a yogic meditation teacher, so why did I feel skeptical?
The concepts shared by the monk resonated with me. While I had doubt on one side because he didn’t look like I thought he should, I felt the truth of the meditation flow through me. I had a bad headache that evening, which lessened to almost nothing during the mantra-based stillness. I felt peaceful and centered after the hour. In case you’re interested, here’s the link to the recording.
Our homework was to meditate for at least five minutes morning and evening each day—ten minutes total. I’ve done two five-minute sessions instead of the fourteen we were assigned. Week Two begins this evening, so I feel like I have a fresh start on homework. Will I get my gold stars each day? Check back for an update in a few weeks. I might even have a renewed meditation practice by then.