I shared on facebook my mother was NOT going to like reading this, dad too. (Hi Mom! Hi Dad!) In a younger version of myself, I probably would have called one of my siblings, swore them to secrecy, then told them the story. In fact, I can recall several such instances of sitting in the ER making just that a phone call. (Hey again Mom! Still reading Dad?) However, if life—and a few trips to the emergency room, have taught me anything, it’s that there is no time for obfuscating truth, veiled authenticity, or suppressing vulnerability. I’ve worked hard to alchemize a former “culture of quiet” into all-out transparency.
Better to get real and get the low(down). Like, get real low. Thank you Flo Rida.
…more on that transparency business to come in a future post.
For now, HERE, in all its gritty, rubber-burning realness, my full truth.
In which I talk about:
- Being a pretender
- How I almost died
- Manipulating my yoga class
- Saying YES to life
Thoughts, places, and moments have impact. We know time and space are relative. 5 minutes is interminable waiting at the airport arrivals terminal for your beloved or kitchen-pacing as your brownies finish and cool. (Can I get a hand-raise for everyone who just puts a kibosh on the suggested “cooling” period and digs in? 15 min?!! Pffft. Nonsense. Gooey goodness – am I right??) Distance is just as fluid in its interpretation. 5 feet can feel like miles while faced-off with your partner in the heat of an acrimonious argument, yet those same 60 inches seem to squeeze into nothing whilst wedged in the economy traveler’s seat, with knees-in-nostrils.
Spatially and relationally our human architects endlessly and oh-so-elegantly construct meaning-filled ideas and concepts. Yet. Inches, hours. People, places. Nothing is really fixed. Standardized or solid. Hardly anything is consistently awarded the same interpretation. Except for maybe those brownies. Gooey still stands.
Yes, My internal idea-engineer has plenty to say about what certain things mean and how I feel in response to everything in my environment. I’m a meaning-maker, play-pretender, response-reinforcer. The thing that makes me “me” I’ve noticed thinks a lot and more significantly emotionally feels a lot about A LOT. A game of play-pretend that if not put into check, starts to inform and shade my relationships, career, diet, wellbeing…the list goes on.
When I believe so deeply that having XYZ job or $$$ amount of dollars or a few inches (metaphorically) has the power to change my life (and any hair stylist and barber will affirm the gravitas of those inches, not metaphorically) then I heed that signal to pause.
Pause and reflect.
What’s really important here? Is it true? Why? How am I showing up?
I’ve shifted my practice—call it yoga, call it mindfulness, call it meditation, or call it Steve, into practicing the pause.
Because only when I take that pause can those questions come through. The stillness begets illumination. The softening through inquiry allows ease and true purpose. Reaction becomes response.
THE BIG STORY
Earlier today, just before dawn, I found myself in the drivers seat of my car at a dead-stop, turned backwards on the freeway facing oncoming traffic.
Time and space. Those figurative seconds and inches had suddenly become roaringly real. Exacting and fleetingly precious.
Not two breaths earlier, milliseconds and the distance of one foot had been life-altering.
I spent the night dancing with my tribe in celebration of the upcoming wedding of two dear friends. As the night concluded, saying goodbye, giving goodnight squeezes, I got into my car and set off for home. It was late. I am a lifelong night owl and my circadian cycle has always leaned towards nighttime activity. But it was late. That point at which you wonder is it still considered late or is it now really early? Wherein enough of the night has gone by that your stomach is growling and demanding sustenance. Basically: Burrito’o’clock. Which in layman’s terms means approximately 4 am.
Stomach gurgles aside, I opted to go straight home. After all, breakfast brownies could always make for a perfectly satisfactory second choice. Somewhere around twenty minutes into my drive I dozed off. (post-edit: this was enormously unlike me. Had I known I was that fatigued I would not have attempted to drive anywhere.) Something—which I firmly believe was a Divine watchful guardian, shook me awake. I was precariously veering off the freeway. In a startled panic I twisted my steering wheel, swerved, over-corrected again and sent my car barreling across 4 lanes in a full-speed tailspin. As the first 360 circle rounded I came within a foot of the highway’s cement middle meridian. My car continued to spin another 180 degrees, squealing as the tires smoked burning rubber, until I finally halted. Facing the wrong way.
Time and space suspended. As cinematically-cliché and corny as it sounds, in those heightened, adrenaline-charged moments time really does slow down. I had become pure instinct, my vehicle a cartoon speed-racer and toy-bumper kart.
Now stopped. A pause. Infinitesimally short and eternally pungent.
Headlights approached. Reflex again, instinct, the Divine…reptilian response washed over me, hands took the wheel, flipped a U-turn worthy of a Bourne movie, and I found the next exit. My cognitive mind-body observed numbed through the surreal lens of shock and adrenaline.
After every exhale there is a void, the “death of breath”. The simplest, most subtle of pauses. Then again, life. Inspiration. The intake of air.
In my deep stretch yoga class today I shared with my students moments have impact. There are moments that will stand out: the moments wherein you fall knee-bucklingly in love, the flash of anger, the jolt of the academic’s aha!, that brush with death. Equally there are seemingly inconsequential moments—teeth-brushing and line-standing, breeze-feeling and batter-mixing. On the mat, there are moments that will feel acutely intense, maybe even uncomfortable. There are transitions that might feel fluid or klunky. There are postures that will be savory and shapes that will evade.
The pause is your leverage and lifeline. Practice the pause. Practice the pause so you are calm in moments of rage. Practice the pause so you stay heart-open in moments of conflict. Practice the pause so you remember to breathe, so there is choice in action and the ability to stay present no matter what your outside “pretend” world looks like. On the mat, there are moments when your physical outline and body-container is irrelevant and inconsequential. As a teacher I’ll keep my eyes out for your physical safety, alignment, et al. Trust your body intelligence to tune-into your internal mental gymnastics for real insight. Deep Stretch is a work-in… and if you’d like can also be a work-out.
Alright, ok. So I didn’t exactly “manipulate” my yoga class. However I did manage to slyly turn them around on their mats and face everyone in a different direction. In doing so, the suggestion of re-patterning was planted. This morning we re-conditioned fascia and created a conversation in circulation. Today I emphasized a re-conditioning of muscular mechanics and challenged my student’s rituals. The back-of-roomers? Discovered themselves square in front. The mirror-eyeballers? Got to explore themselves through anatomical binoculars, turned away from their reflection, invited to a space of introspection. Their anticipated, expected moments were shifted by incremental degrees, north to south, music to quiet.
On the road this morning I was propelled by reflexes. Instinct. This afternoon and this evening I have been in deep reflection. A weightier and gratitude-imbued pause. Evaluating the experience, replaying the event, running every could’ve-happened possibility and calculating probable risk-scenarios—to which there is no doubt in my mind, had my vehicle collided with the meridian or gone off the road, I would not have survived.
But my reality now is one of enormous peace and appreciation. A commitment to safe choices in the future. Gratitude hardly any other cars were on the road. The tremendous gift of my life. Love for each of you. The power of faith.
My still moments have looked like this: does this action/conversation/food/choice feel like a YES to life? When it’s a yes, the signal is all good, green means go. If it’s a hesitation, I sit in stillness longer until there is an irrefutable, undeniably awesome, “Heavens, Y-E-S!, I’m all in!”
Sorry brownies. Arugula salad it is. YES to life.
Claim, corral, and call in your YES right now. Don’t wait until it’s too late and you are looking backwards down the road of your life (cheesiest metaphor ever but I feel like today it applies.) Breathe in the beauty of life, I promise there is wisdom waiting in the stillness between your exhale and my inhale.