by Mary Baker, ERYT-500
I never used to consider myself an extrovert. I have always cherished my quiet time, often needed down time to recharge my batteries, and didn’t do well at large parties. What I have learned over the past 10 weeks since I’ve been away from my weekly hustle as a busy public yoga teacher leading 10-12 weekly group sessions to groups of 5-60 students is that I just as equally need, no not need…CRAVE… like salty chips and sunlight…is my interaction with other human beings. So perhaps I am more extrovert than in. Whatever that means, what I do know for sure is that this has been a very challenging time for me. So much of my identity is tied to my title of “yoga teacher” and so much of my joy derived from leading my devoted, smiling students through their weekly journey on their yoga mats. I feed off of their energy and my organic teaching is always that energetic exchange where I can sense what the group needs by reading their bodies, their faces, and the energy in the room. It’s a high, it’s a drug, it’s my sanity.
So I ride the waves…
Most days I stay happy and busy in my little bubble. I teach my zoom classes and find so much joy in each and every student who logs on to join me. I record my YouTube videos, which has been a long overdue project on my vision board. I practice lots of self-care including my morning meditation and journaling, a lot of long neighborhood walks, and my “garage fit” workouts.
Fortunately, I also have my other dharma work to focus on during this time and my work with my nonprofit, Be Well, has been abundant. It feeds my soul to know that Be Well is now providing 9 weekly Yoga for Cancer classes and a weekly women’s support group all via Zoom to our growing population of cancer thrivers. It brings me joy to see our classes growing beyond our Southern California borders now that anyone from anywhere can log on for one of our classes. It warms my heart each week when I get to lead my weekly Be Well class to the most beautiful group of survivors and warriors.
And, some days, a big wave rolls in and knocks me off my feet for a day or so….
It’s on these days that I turn inward to my Yoga and mindfulness practice and allow myself to “feel the feels” as I like to call it. For a girl who grew up in a house where “suck it up” and don’t show your emotions was the norm, this practice has been a long road and a true life-changer. No longer do I beat myself up for feeling sad, angry, unworthy, or any of the other normal emotions we all go towards when life hits us hard. No longer do I bottle up my emotions and stick them on a shelf while I put on a fake smile and say “I’m great!” (while inside I’m a hot mess). Instead, I’ve learned to simply sit with them. To “attend and befriend” as my guru, Tara Brach, likes to say. I’ve learned SO much from Tara and her Buddhist Mindfulness teachings (if you’ve taken a class with me, you’re probably saying “yes, Mary…I know…lol). But, seriously, she is truly amazing and I can’t recommend her enough. Her latest book, Radical Compassion, is all about this concept of attend & befriend and her practice called R.A.I.N. This acronym stands for Recognize, Allow, Investigate, Nurture and has become second nature to me on the stormy days. It keeps you from either A) wanting to shove away or bottle up those uncomfortable feelings, or B) letting them suck you right down to the bottom of the ocean. If this sounds like you, then order yourself a copy of that book and get reading! She also has fabulous podcasts and meditations that follow along the same lines and her writing. Recently, all of her podcasts have focused on dealing with and rising up through the pandemic. So, rather than filling your mind with either depressing news or mindless Netflix, pop in your ear buds and give her a listen! She’s on Spotify or just go to her website www.tarabrach.com and you can download everything for free.
A reminder I give myself often is “YOU are the ocean, your thoughts and emotions are the waves”. When I connect with my breath, I am reminded of the vastness and limitlessness of my potential and of my connectedness to all things. When I remind myself that I get to choose which waves to surf and which to allow to roll on by, I regain what little control I have over my life and this moment. When a tsunami wave of life knocks me off my feet and takes my breath away, I can stand back up, take a deep breath, look up at the sky and find a moment of gratitude. And that moment leads to the next, and the next. Each one is my choice.
So today, I choose gratitude. I remind myself of all the good that is in and around me. And the next time a wave rolls by or knocks me on my ass, I will say “this too” and allow myself to feel the feels. This is being human. This is living in the messy, imperfect, flawed existence we call life.
How are YOU doing through all of this, my friend? Are the waves knocking you down so hard it’s challenging to get up some days? Are you stuck in the trance of fear, or worry, or anger? Or have you found some practices like I have that are helping you get through the days and find the good? I’d love to hear your feedback and what you’ve been dealing with during all of this. Let’s share this ocean space together, let’s help each other back up when the waves crash down, let’s smile at the sunsets together and trust that there is still beauty, and love and compassion all around us and within us.
With love & gratitude,
Mary Baker - ERYT-500 yoga teacher, adventure lover, fitness junkie, doughnut snob, whiskey & wine sipper