Sunday morning I sat quietly in church. While the sanctuary was still, my head was active. Banging around inside it were the voices of Panic and Anxiety distracting me about how I am ever going to learn and recite by memory all the yoga poses I need for certification.
I call what's happening low-grade panic. I study, but I also find a million other things to do that help to calm me down from the panicky voices. For instance, since beginning this post, I have watered my flowers, tested myself on the order of poses that make up this month's study, and sorted through the clutter on my desk.
I kept sitting quietly asking myself, and Calliope my gut, what it is I can do to calm myself, study more effectively, and walk into the next test with more confidence. I thought of a few things and landed on visiting the labyrinth.
The labyrinth has been physical space that signals to my brain that I am safe to feel all my feelings and to explore what needs exploring.
This time was no different. Armed with an umbrella, I walked toward the labyrinth. I thought about the past two times I've approached the labyrinth. Once on Christmas day late in the afternoon before attending Christmas dinner with two other single friends. That day was cold and snow blocked much of the path. I persevered as I used my boots to clear the path making it easier to figure out where my next step should land. I made it to the center and was lulled into a peaceful place by the way the snow muffled all the sounds around me. It felt good to feel the cold and to know that I would only feel it for a short time before I was welcomed into the warmth and mirth of a friend's home.
The next time I visited the labyrinth was on World Labyrinth Day in May. My cousins were in town and they were willing to join me on my visit. My cousin started the walk and then decided to take their young boys out into the open field beyond the labyrinth. He gave his wife and I space for a few moments' contemplation and it was lovely. A much different experience than six months before.
Each time I visit the labyrinth, I go with the best kind of expectation. The kind that says, enter with an open heart and be ready to receive something you need to remember or hear, perhaps for the first time.
This latest visit did not disappoint. I wore a pink hoodie to keep me warm from the unseasonably cool and damp early evening. I always carry my phone for photos when I reach the center and held on to the umbrella.
My evening was completely open, so there was no need to rush through the walk to the center. Barefoot, I made each footstep slowly and with intention. I walked gingerly over the few acorns I encountered and made sure I didn't miss a puddle. This is a playful way to help my serious-minded head loosen up. I began praying: I know this yoga thing is supposed to be hard and I don't mind it being hard, but could I please not struggle so much?
I asked for peace, confidence, and the trust in my own ability. I prayed that I wouldn't self-sabotage and that I would be kind about making mistakes knowing that in the mistakes are where the real learning will take place.
When I made it to the middle, I took some photos from different vantage points and then I sat on my umbrella and settled into listening. For awhile nothing came to mind, but I continued sitting. I thought about the prayer I'd voiced moments before and analyzed my words, looking for insight, something profound I could take with me.
Then I heard it: let this time of agitation and struggle be what it is. You don't get to pick and choose when and where you struggle. What you get to do is decide how you're going to react to the struggles that come your way. I smiled knowing this was what I needed to hear. I sat for a few moments longer, and then soul at ease, I began the walk back out.
It's too early to know exactly how this struggle I am having in learning the poses will shape me, my practice, and my future ability to teach. But what I do know is that if I embrace the struggle, and stop resisting, that in December I will have become a stronger, more resilient person. I also know that if I keep breaking down this big, scary goal into smaller pieces, I'll be able to ward off the panic and paralysis with more success.
Here's to letting go.
Here's to letting go.