While staying in Ahwahnee in a cabin in the woods for the holiday weekend with my family, we hiked a trail near the cabin and went in to see Yosemite. My idea was to do a digital detox and getting back in touch with nature. No social media and all the toxicity that goes along with it, phone only being used for the All Trails app to find hiking trails (which were plenty). I needed a reset and what a reset that was!
The weekend served as an important reminder to me. The past couple of months have seemed really heavy and seemingly for no apparent reason. There was a lot going on in Scorpio, a sign of death, mystery, regeneration, and letting go, but I felt stuck. I felt stuck in my old patterns of grudge holding and hanging on to past grievances. I felt heavy and dull. I could recognize it for what it was, but I couldn’t shake it off. Somehow my soul knew that nature was the way I needed to push that reset button.
When I got back, it was back to reality. I love listening to the Super Soul Sunday podcasts when I hit the grocery store, an attempt to make the time pass with something “constructive” and positive. I happened to come across an episode with a scientist (neuroanatomist, to be more specific) named Jill Bolte Taylor about her book called, “My Stroke of Insight.” Since I have never experienced a stroke myself, I wasn’t sure the episode would have any relevance to me and about 10 minutes into it I almost flipped it off.
I could not have been more wrong about that.
She talked about her stroke which she had at the age of 37. I’m 35, and I pretty much still think I’m invincible. At the very least, I take my life completely for granted. These are the stories that remind me that anything can happen, even to the young and seemingly healthy.
Instead of talking about her stroke as something traumatic, she referred to it as a gift. What had happened was a hemorrhage on the left side of her brain- the logical, reasoning side. The side that houses our ego and personality. What she went on to describe sounded similar to Bill Hicks describing an acid trip. Having the right side of her brain completely take over she realized that we are all one, all brothers and sisters on this planet and there is no division except the division that we create. Yet as she was experiencing all that, her logical left kept chiming in, and that is probably what saved her life.
Being a neuroscientists, she knew she was in trouble but as she put it, she was at one point “prepared to transition.” She says she had no idea how, after seeing how expansive and big she really was, she could ever fit back into her tiny little body and she did not want to go back. But back in she did, and good thing too, as she lived to tell us about her story. When she started her recovery, which took about 7 years, all that old baggage she had before was right where she left it, and she simply chose not to pick it back up.
That was the aha moment for me. I paused; what baggage am I carrying around and more importantly whose?
I’m carrying too much baggage in the form of guilt, shame, irritation, anger, grievances, and I even carry around baggage that isn’t mine for people who probably don’t give me a second thought. Who hasn’t done this before, and who isn’t doing this same thing right now? How long have we held onto grudges with other people, and all the anger, reliving it over and over in our brains? Who are we really punishing when we do this?
Sometimes when I’m teaching a class, I feel myself starting to want to spout off clichés. “You are not your thoughts. Let go of the stories, be present in the moment.” This is all great and well, but if I don’t feel it when I say it, it lacks authenticity and lately I just haven’t felt it. They become just words. How can I teach what I don’t practice? And it was so simple after hearing Jill Bolte Taylor say the word that just clicked: baggage.
And when we sit and think about all this shit that makes us mad or irritated or makes us feel like we aren’t enough, what is that voice in the back of our head making us hold onto it? Who is talking?
That question never occurred to me before. Who is that voice? Why is it there? When did it develop? I take care of infants and toddlers all day long and I can tell you just from seeing their experiences that they don’t have that same voice. Infants just want to be held close and loved and they don’t worry about what others think of them. They’re really very simple. When did we get so complicated and self-conscious? Self-consciousness is exactly as it sounds—self conscious. Conscious of self. But who is the self?
Today in meditation I simply asked, “Who am I?” Over and over. When my left brain would pull me into thoughts that didn’t matter in that moment I brought myself back to the question of who am I? Who am I?
The ego likes to speak up first. Here’s a little of what mine sounds like, maybe yours is similar: “You are Erica. You’re 35 years old, mother of 2, step mother (and a lousy one at that) to 1. You own a childcare business that’s clearly not making you any money and you’re a boring yoga teacher on the side. You have no direction in life. Maybe you should have tried harder in school or not gotten married at 20 and had a baby (who now hates you) at 21. Don’t you need to start getting ready for your day? Why are you just sitting here? Aren’t there dishes in the sink that need to be handled? Anyway, you live in a crappy townhouse, you will never be as good as so-and-so and you suck as a wife too. Blah blah blah” and on and on it goes.
Who is doing that talking? It can’t be me, and it certainly isn’t a friend. Can you imagine keeping a friend around who talked to you like that?
I chose to ignore those and concentrate on my question; who am I? Who am I? Who am I? Over and over and over. It wasn’t a fancy mantra. I didn’t have to say it in Sanskrit. But it was important.
What came up was so simple:
I am love.
I am all that is. I am you, I am my breathing. I am this earth.
But more importantly, I am love.
It was more of a feeling than a word. Love is, after all, a word that we assign to a feeling, an emotion, a concept. Something that isn’t tangible and can’t be held on to. That’s what makes it so hard to attain for ourselves, about ourselves.
Simply sit in quiet and ask yourself, “Who am I?” See what comes up. Expect ego attachments to flood in first, because the ego always has to be right, and first, and the loudest. Ask it, “Who are you?” Then get back to the important part: Who am I?
See what comes up. What have you got to lose?