standing in the fire of transformation

 image location:  Amatierra Retreat & Wellness Center , Costa Rica

image location: Amatierra Retreat & Wellness Center, Costa Rica

Let's just say it wasn't exactly an easy week.

Timing felt off, for everything.

Work slowed. Hormones raged. Creative inspiration evaporated into thin air. My relationship reached its boiling point.

Everything felt bigger than I could possibly handle. Between moments of forcing conflictive conversations that weren't yet ripe for the picking, pushing decisions that weren't yet ready to be made, and projecting all my own psycho-drama onto everything everyone else was doing wrong, I wanted to run away and hide from it all, forever.

On Saturday, I slept alone for the first time in months, deciding space and me-time would make things flow right again. I wrote bad poems, surfed mediocre waves, ate ice cream from the carton and told my boyfriend all the things he needed to change if we were going to stay together.

My strategy against the discomfort of powerlessness over the cosmos was to fight my way back into the flow of things, and run fast and hard when things didn't go exactly as I thought they should.  

It was an upstream battle I wasn't getting any closer to winning. In fact, my fight-then-flight mechanism threatened irreparable damage in the areas of my life that mattered most - work, partnership, spiritual wellbeing.

And at the breaking point of my stressfully tragic survival strategy, a funny thing happened.

I stopped.

Despite everything in my blood telling me to fight a little harder, to run just a little faster, I sat down. I felt the fire of my own internal resistance churning in my solar plexus. I think I cried a little bit. I ate an impeccably ripe mango with my hands and face, dripping thick, sticky juice down my chin and palms, onto the dirt between my bare feet, unpolished toes. I let myself feel everything that was mine to feel. Disappointment. Regret. Anger. Shame. Love. Compassion. Desire. The frustration of broken dreams I couldn't fix by will alone.

It felt pretty shitty.

Then it felt a little lighter.

On Sunday at noon, I moved my earthly belongings from one borrowed room to another. As I opened the gate to leave, a blue morpho butterfly flew towards me. I watched her wings flutter gracefully, carrying her body effortlessly through the heavy midday heat.

She was astounding in the beauty of transformation I prayed she would bestow upon a mere mortal being like me. I hoped she was a sign of good things to come.

On Sunday night, I went home to my boyfriend's for what I thought might have been the last time. I was as tired of his melodrama as he was of mine. I was all out of fight. So I didn't. And I didn't blame, or push. I spoke my mind from deep inside my heart, sharing my truth from a place of love for him, for me, and for all that we had been brave enough to create together. I owned the parts of our issues that were mine, and stood my ground on others I wasn't willing to live with. I definitely cried more than a little bit.

He didn't want to hear most of it, but he listened anyway. Then he said he was going to bed.

I figured that meant it was over.

And then, a funny thing happened.

Instead of doing what I always do, packing an overnight bag in a frenzy and running across town to protect myself from the vulnerability of our uncertain future, I did the impossible. I stayed. I laid down on my side of the bed and listened to him snore gently, like a baby lion, still angry beside me.

I fell asleep facing the wall.

On Monday, eyelids heavy with last night's emotion, I awoke with the roosters, revolutionary in their declaration of a new day. I rested a hand on my boyfriend's chest. He opened his eyes to look at me, seeing me completely in the way only he does. There was nowhere to hide. We fought the urge to speak, to fight, to apologize. Neither of us was ready for any of that.

We kissed, and stayed, like a promise.

Then we got up and went for a surf. It was small and windy and left something to be desired. We laughed and went for a smoothie.

Things weren't all-the-way okay. But they weren't all-the-way not okay, either. We weren't pretending. We were just being, together. We stopped forcing the immovable in one another. I decided not to run away. Something shifted, even if ever so slightly.

At ten o' clock, I went to Nancy's yoga class at Pranamar. When you've been practicing yoga for sixteen years - more than half of your life - it's hard to find an instructor you can trust with the intimacy of everything that moves in you through asana, mantra, pranayama.

And then there's Nancy. Where everything just feels like 'ahhhhh'; and sometimes, 'oooooh'.

Class that day focused on the element of fire. Nancy's message was about surrender to stillness, about fighting the urge to run away, about facing discomfort in all its forms, and choosing to stay, sitting in the fire of our own personal transformation.

It was like she had a window into my experience, and was speaking directly to my soul. Maybe that's yoga narcissism. Or maybe, it's something else.

We did a million sun salutations. And held plank for forever. On repeat. Nancy had us in the fire, that's for sure.

The fight in me said keep pushing. Hold downward facing dog just a little longer, don't succumb to the weakness of child's pose. You're better than that. You've been saluting the sun since puberty, for Christ's sake. The flight in me screamed savasana. Like now. Or leave. Just get up and walk out. I resisted even my own resistance. I was burning up, from the inside out.

I focused on my breath. I dripped sweat deep into my mat. I pictured myself as the blue morpho butterfly - buoyant despite the blazing heat in all directions. I stayed. I surrendered. I cringed. I flowed. I hated every second of it. I needed it more than Nancy could have ever known. Or maybe, somehow, she did.

I sat with my fire. I let it work through me. Up my spine and into my sinuses. In stale breath, lingering on the tip of my tongue before freeing itself to the breeze. I stopped fighting it. I didn't run away. I watched it. I felt it fully, and listened. I got over my ego for a minute and let myself rest in child's pose, finding a stillness so profound, it moved me to pieces. I cried a few silent tears, some in gratitude, the rest in the blissful pain of letting go.

In the deep surrender beyond fight or flight, there is a fire.

It's where the magic happens, if we're brave enough to let it. Wild enough to sit. To breathe. To be.

And then, to transform.

As if, like the butterfly, that was everything we were ever meant to do.