“YOU ARE DYING! YOU ABSOLUTELY MUST DRINK WATER, RIGHT NOW! NOW! NOW! NOW! PLEEEEASE DRINK WATER!”

I feel crazed. I’m anxious and unsettled. I don’t know what to do with myself.

I am only 10 hours into a 32-hour dry fast and everything I thought I knew is now being questioned. My fight/flight response has activated and I feel fidgety. The hair on the back of my neck is standing up and my skin feels like it’s crawling. One thing is clear: I do not like this.

Image: beautifullyrawbelle

Dancing with Death… Again

I’m not entirely new to these sensations, though I’ve only ever experienced this extreme bodily anxiety for the briefest moments before. The earliest examples my mind can find are memories of falling, but the most clarifying experiences with this horrifying and overwhelming body-takeover have happened more recently – in Kundalini.

Kundalini yoga involves a lot of prescriptive breath work, including holding both the inhalations as well as the exhalations at times. Most people have held a big breath in, especially if they’ve ever swam, but personally I had never even tried to hold my breath out until prompted in Kundalini. It isn’t something you soon forget.

Panic, anxiety and the desperation to survive all swell up inside you immediately and you realize that you are dying. The first few times I tried, I was helpless to withstand my body’s automatic responses, gasping dramatically after the briefest moments.

“Why?! WHY? Why are you doing this?! BREATHE! LIVE! YOU MUST SURVIVE!”

But, after breaking through fear for just a moment longer, pushing beyond that automatic response – the peace and bliss that fills your being is indescribable. Overcoming the fear of death, even for the shortest time, is remarkably invigorating and strengthening. I can only imagine how restorative a full day of consciously ignoring my fear-response will be…

Beginning with the Hardest Challenge

A dry fast is not something to be taken lightly. Abstaining from water can kill you in just days and it is commonly the opposite of what’s recommended by health professionals. So why am I dancing with death in this way?

This is all just the start of a 21 day fast. I will conclude my dry fast at 8am tomorrow, beginning a 3-day water fast until 8am Tuesday. Starting Tuesday morning, I will finish out the remaining 17 of the full 21 days with fresh juices.

I am prepared to supplement with nut milks and bone broth should the need arise, but I will be abstaining from solid foods for the entire three weeks. Though, arguably not entirely restful, fasting is restorative. Perhaps others would find feasting relaxing, and I have before myself – but right now, I want to relax on a deeper, metabolic and cellular level.

Image: Facebook

I’ve been pondering these seemingly foreign concepts for over a week now and I’m realizing that so much of the difficulties in my life are caused by not really, truly just resting and relaxing. I have had disordered evening binging tendencies my entire life, and I’m now seeing for the first time it was never about the food. These kinds of realizations came not as a result of fasting today, I haven’t had any major breakthroughs and am mostly hangry, but they are what lead me to this course of action.

I’m diving in, beyond my fear response, to find out who I am beneath all the comforts and conveniences I have been accustomed to my entire life. If it isn’t the food I am looking for while grazing in the evening or otherwise over-consuming, what is it I’m truly craving?

Enabling Prolonged Endurance

Regardless of the fact that I have been called to do a three week fast, I am also still trying to learn how to apply the Divine commission to “rest, relax, heal and meditate.” So, how does one do a difficult, uncomfortable thing in a relaxing way?

Enter the episodic fast! I begin by facing the fear response caused by my dry tongue today and by tomorrow, water will taste like nectar from the goddesses! I’ve actually already been fantasizing about drinking water in the morning…

By Tuesday? Fresh juices will not only taste Divine, they will be gratefully received by a body that has reprioritized the quality and necessity of each nutrient. I imagine the feeling of nourishment and vitality sure to rush through my veins with the first sip will be sublime.

I can already imagine the involuntary sensuality of reexperiencing the sensations and tastes of each bite in my mouth when I do finally chew food again. Mindful eating will be automatic, no longer just something else I “have to try to do.” I will have reclaimed food for myself entirely.

Image: Heart Centered Rebalancing

Committing to the Process

That’s why I’m doing this – because I LOVE food. I do not however, love, like or even enjoy feeling enslaved, crazed and controlled by it.

Eating everything I can in secret like a starved and abused animal is not what I want for myself and my relationship with food anymore. I don’t want to feel ashamed and confused about my love for food ever again. Food is a great comfort, but only if it’s being adequately appreciated – otherwise it’s just another distraction from the truth.

I don’t know what I am going to find on this journey. I have already wanted to quit a half dozen times today and almost “messed up” by force of bad habits a few times too. I have felt desperate, sad, angry, frustrated, tired, lonely and irritable off and on all day and yet, I’m grateful.

Even having the opportunity to choose to fast means I have an abundance of food I can abstain from. When I almost “messed up,” I really caught myself making excuses to break my commitment and was forced to accept the complexities of my conditioning. Feeling angry, sad and tired has given me some perspective about other times I have felt similarly and reminded me of the intensity of emotions a lack of basic necessities can lead to…

I’m already learning so much, just 18 hours in. This is why I’ve stopped myself from chewing gum or going to bed early too – the lessons are in the discomfort.

Image: Facebook

Settling in for Restorative Healing

Now, just because I’m doing the hard things doesn’t mean I am punishing myself. Quite the opposite. In ways, eating excessively without pleasure or necessity because of a fear of discomfort was much more punishing.

Image: Facebook

I heard a definition of Sacrifice this week that resonates: “to make sacred.” That’s precisely what I’m doing with water and food right now. I am sacrificing these things so that I can make these things sacred to myself.

That’s why I can salivate at the thought of a drop of water today and yet last night, no amount of snacking was satisfying at all. I am learning to truly appreciate my blessings – as they say, “absence makes the heart grow fonder.”

Still, despite not wallowing in the potential misery of my situation, I am making allowances for some appropriate considerations. I am not exerting myself; I’m abstaining from caffeine, supplements and other stimulants; I am moving slower, being gentler with myself and others – noticing, listening and observing more. It’s all quite relaxing actually.

Tears stream down my face as I sit cross legged and cross eyed in a room full of others doing the same. We’re all dressed in white and we’ve been doing Kundalini Yoga Teacher Training all day for the past three days. This is our last exercise for the weekend before a monthlong break.

It’s a short, “sweet” exercise my trainer smiles, radiating with an intoxicating yet unassuming grace. She guides us gently through the whole process, watching over us as she speaks: “begin in your most beautiful and regal meditation posture.”

Precise and Prescriptive

We sit patiently as she explains an exacting series of mental, third eye focuses and the silent mantra that we will be repeating throughout the meditation. “Now, draw your eyes down to 1/10th open, your gaze is on the tip of your nose.”

Most meditations and even exercises in Kundalini are done with the eyes completely closed, but as I’ve progressed to training I’ve come to enjoy this one. It has a remarkable disarming and balancing effect, allowing for a lot of clearing – and that’s just what I’ve come to know through my own, very brief experiences so far.

“The eyes focused at the tip of the nose causes the optic nerves to cross at the third eye. Thus it is easier to bring your mental focus to the Third Eye while the eyes are directed at the tip of the nose. Both the pineal and the pituitary glands and the area between them are stimulated by this eye posture, which has the effect of breaking old habits and creating new ones.”

Raviana.com

Taking Aim at Deep Pain

I get excited as I feel my mental defenses begin to shut down.

She then leads us through some corresponding Third Eye excercises, how they will be interspersed with breathwork and finally begins the meditation prompts. “Deep breath in, suspend the breath and bring to mind an encounter or incident that happened to you.”

My mind immediately rushes to one of my earliest traumas, something that has impacted my life greatly and haunts me daily. A memory I don’t care to think about that has also somehow still weaved itself into the very fabric of my heart and mind.

“Really?!” I hear a desperate whisper from somewhere inside of me but there is no stopping to listen, I’m locked into the meditation. The rhythms of the practice’s mantra and Third Eye patterns, the enchanting drishti (eye gaze) and my trainer’s reassuring voice all working together to help me unlock these very deep pains that just minutes before I had no awareness of.

Trusting the Process

We repeat the sequence. That’s when the tears start, flowing uninhibited from my eyes – yet somehow my gaze remains fixed and strong. I’m sweating, profusely, but I’m trembling like I am cold. I can’t even think much about these things though – my entire mental plane is consumed by the prompting of my trainer.

“Visualize and re-live the actual feeling of the encounter.” More tears, more sweat, more trembling. Repeat.

We are lead on a powerful journey, step by step. Switching roles with the Other in our encounter and remembering the experience from their perspective.

Rediscovering the Past

It was a shock. I wasn’t experiencing my expectations or assumptions about my Other’s perspective at all, I was experiencing their stress, their distractions and their fear. They had no awareness of how their pain was affecting me in the memory at all.

We complete the meditation by repeating the internal codes of sacred geometry and vibrations in silence again before we continue on to forgiving the Other and our Self. The cycling finally ending with our focus on “letting go of the incident and releasing it to the universe.”

We then go through the steps of closing out our practice for the day, but I’m still crying. I get a picture of the meditation from my trainer and thank her for the impactful weekend, she asks if I’m okay and I smile, still crying as I nod and say “yeah, just -” while motioning erratically around my head. She nods back silently and I am comforted to know she too has experienced the rewriting of her own history.

Healing with Patience and Joy

I sit on my mat, and cry some more. Another student comes up to ask me something and then realizes I’m processing and respectfully tells me we can talk another time. I smile genuinely at her too, as tears still fall from my eyes.

I returned to my regal posture as the room buzzed around me with everyone preparing to leave. Breathing long and deep I set my intention to clear the rest of my process so I can actually get home and another meditation we learned this weekend comes to mind.

This meditation incorporates celestial movements, mudras and arm movements in specific patterns, with a mantra that you recite outloud. It takes me an instant to decide to do it mentally so I don’t call attention to myself.

It’s a fun meditation for children to do in stressful times. Within maybe a just a few brief minutes I was beaming again, the tears completely gone.

“The mind become a monster when it becomes your master. The mind is an angel when it is your servant.”

Yogi Bhajan

Two years ago, December 2017, I began on a journey I had been starting my whole life. I’ve always been too conscious. I’d always asked to many questions. But there I was, finally doing something about it.

Sure, I’d meditated before. Sure, I’d fasted and journaled and exercised and read personal development books and articles – sure – I’d been obsessed. Sure, I’d been following High Existence online for years, but there I was: doing something about it.

I had seen HE’s 30 Challenges to Enlightenment bopping around on the interwebs for a while already, but I had only just bought the program and December 2017 was my first official 30 Day Challenge: High on Existence. No drugs, alcohol, nicotine or caffeine for a whole month – and because I’m me, I included sugar (I’m more addicted to it that any of those other substances). I anticipated a difficult time, but was pleasantly surprised: I actually enjoyed myself.

Development and Growth

Subsequent challenges would prove more difficult and with time my personal development would again evolve, but I can’t help thinking back to the ease of that December, and how empowering it felt to feel so in control of myself. Flash forward to today though: I’m a mess.

I keep waking up late, I’m gloriously failing at implementing my own Sadhana practice for my Kundalini yoga teacher training, my self-care has been minimal, I can’t seem to keep up with my responsibilities and I’m randomly overwhelmed with such intense emotions and thoughts that they consume my whole being. Ah yes, the putrid smell of growth.

Since December 2017 so much has happened in my life, I feel like almost an entirely different person. I’ve taken trips to the underworld and back with Momma Aya, I’ve begun to develop a more comprehensive understanding of my Being through yoga and meditation, I’ve started developing peer and mentor relationships with people I admire and respect, I’ve learned Reiki and began practicing Divination for others, I’ve started to heal trauma and confront fears, I’ve begun bloging and am blooming more purposefully in my life… All to find myself here: feeling more out of control than I did back then, before any of this began. But is that really what’s going on?

No Longer Playing Games

You see, along with my personal development, I’ve been doing deep spiritual work too. It’s not as simple as getting “better,” it’s about dismantling my egoic understanding of “better” and the manipulative devices I am conditioned to deploy in this world as a result of those delusions.

You see, 2 years ago my ego was still calling the shots. Being able to detach from my vices so easily felt good because it confirmed my biases about my abilities to manipulate myself – er, I mean exert self-control. But those subsequent challenges? The meditations and self-care? Those required so much more than self-manipulation.

In the last 2 years I’ve learned to give my ego a backseat, and it’s shaken everything up. At times, I am literally completely out of control – in fact, I aspire to be totally out of control. Yet, my ego is still there, still screaming and throwing fits. It’s not so nice when it’s not getting it’s way: confirming biases and coming out “on top.”

Choosing a Master

Alas, there we were, still listening. See, I may have put Ego in the backseat, but Spirit was still back there too. Observer was up front with Wisdom navigating, but kept getting distracted by all the commotion:

Are we there yet?!” Ego likes to scream.

Where exactly do you want to be?” Wisdom replies, “You haven’t exactly helped us formulate a plan E.”

“Be here,” Spirit wispers.

“I don’t know, I don’t care!” E screams, “Anywhere but here! Somewhere exciting! Let’s do something good, let’s do something seen. I don’t want to waste my time, and I’m not letting any of you waste yours either.”

“We’re all in this together E, and I love your passion,” Spirit cooes, grabbing E’s hand on the seat between them and giving it a little squeeze while gazing deeply into E’s potential.

Ego recoils sharply, with a look of disgust for Spirit’s vulnerability and affection. Spirit remains, unfazed by the discomfort and reaction.

“Well?! Go O!” E yells again, at which point Observer is startled to find itself in the driver’s seat, speechless.

“Seriously?! What’s your problem? Just GO!” Ego exclaims, growing in ferocity.

Observer turns to Wisdom for guidance and W shrugs as if to say, “I know.”

And this sort of thing was going on for a while… ‘Round and ’round; it’s completely immobilizing. It couldn’t continue, I had to choose a different driver.

It would seem, despite my naive assumptions of meditation training, that Observer isn’t the best driver – but I can’t put Ego back in that seat again either. Wisdom is squarely in the navigation position, of its own personal assertion, so that leaves Spirit.

The most obvious and unassuming of all. Of course, surrendering to Divine grace is the answer! But have you tried to actually do that? It’s not exactly easy.

Seeing Clearly

It’s not as simple as deciding to do something and doing it anymore. Everything is scrutinized and examined, mostly because Ego is in the backseat DEMANDING it to be so. That’s been one of the major lessons in my life this past year: much of my “personal development” has actually been more “Ego development.”

Even putting Observer in the driver’s seat was Ego’s move. E knew that O could be manipulated, overwhelmed and controlled. Spirit is always the one to, not fight back but, remain tranquil and resilient despite anything Ego tries to do. As far as Ego’s concerned, “SPIRIT CANNOT BE THE DRIVER!”

I’ve only just made this choice as consequence of my calling to Kundalini and everything I’m dealing with now are just the consequences. It’s seriously maddening at times though. I am actually at war within myself.

Ego knows it’s different this time, and it’s not giving up control without a fight. It’s using everything it can to its advantage: old patterns, pain, manipulation, self-sabotage and symptoms of mental illnesses all resurfacing within me to try and force E’s desperate agenda. And yet, with Spirit now in full power, I am unphased.

Accepting the Promises of Grace

Maybe I’m not waking up and doing the perfect Sadhana every day, but I’m reconstructing the patterns within my heart and mind that have made me content in my excessive comfort. Maybe I’m not practicing self-care or approaching my goals and projects as mindfully as I want to, but I am rooting out the lies of unworthiness, insecurity and fear that have plagued my life. Maybe I’ve not yet mastered the simplicity of my own Sovereignty, but with Spirit at the healm it’s only a matter of time before I get better and better at developing those skills and understandings too.

Personal development can look like a flawless execution of a challenge, but it can also feel like falling apart. Dense pockets of conditioning require a bit of finesse and tenderness, but they have to be worked through. Whatever isn’t flowing, is growing stagnant and contributing to dis-ease.

As much as we want to undergo growth to feel better, we have to be willing to work through even those patterns and pains that make us feel worse. True healing doesn’t happen at the surface, and this is just one of those times I get to explore a messier side to the art of growing. Even amidst the struggles I can rejoice knowing I will make it through.

“Ah! Fine! Can we at least get going now!?” E says in a defiant huff.

“Only once you’ve calmed down dear one, where we are going an attitude won’t serve you…” Spirit encourages with a smile, “but we’ve got all the time in the world to sit, here, with you.”

Ego’s eyes grow big with disbelief and wonder. Caught within the illusions of its own fear, subject to everything but distractions, for once E seems itself speechless – emitting only: “… okay.”

I’m laying on the floor of the quiet yoga studio, accompanied by mats, books and a couple sleeping yogis. We just completed our first official Aquarian Sadhana and we’re taking a break before teacher training officially starts up for the second day.

Do I look tired? ‘Cause I feel tired!

I got up before 4am to make it here by 5 – not something I’ve never done in my life, but certainly not my usual. Per my self, I was up until almost midnight last night, partially because I had to write yesterday’s blog but mostly because it was nighttime and I always come alive at night. Needless to say, 4am came mighty early and there were at least a couple moments during our Sadhana shavasana and meditations that I felt myself waking, so I imagine I was drifting off to sleep despite myself.

Of course, now that I have an hour to rest, my coffee has fully kicked it! Alas, I am settling for a reclined position and getting ahead with this post (mostly so that when I get home later I can pass out without worrying about it lol). Seems like a good plan, albeit sleeping right now would be better.

What is a Sadhana?

“What is Sadhana? It’s a committed prayer. It is self-enrichment. It is not something which is done to please somebody or to gain something. Sadhana is a personal process in which you bring out your best.”

-Yogi Bhajan

In Kundalini yoga, we are encouraged to have a personal practice or Sadhana. Most often Sadhana’s happen in the morning before the start of the day. This is so that the entire day experiences the benefits of your practice, but it is possible to practice it at other times. The important thing is to have a disciplined daily practice in which you show up to meet with the divine and align with your highest (least dense/frustrated) self.

A Sadhana can be simple. I’ve heard from our trainer that we will be assigned a 3-minute daily practice for the weeks in between this training and the next 3-day weekend intensive in order to simply start making the habit for ourselves. However, traditional Sadhanas are 2 1/2 hours long and some, like the Aquarian Sadhana, follow a strict kriya and meditation schedule.

My First Taste of Tradition

I have been attempting to create my own Sadhana practice for months, if not over a year already. Throughout this period of time I have experience stints where my intentions have been very successful, yet there have been other breaking points that have proven more distracting and difficult for whatever reason (grandma’s health scares this summer and prepping for my showcase last month both come to mind). I am certainly excited to start trying again though, especially gradually and with the support of my trainer and the other students.

That being said, I think my longest personal Sadhana to date was probably just over an hour. This morning’s experienced easily doubled that and had me squirming (when I wasn’t falling asleep).

There were moments this morning (and yesterday, and during White Tantra last weekend…) when my ego was SCREAMING at me: “what do you think you’re doing? Whyyyyy? You hate this! STOP! Your back hurts, your hips hurt, your knees hurt… You can’t even stop fidgeting, you’ve already failed, just GIVE UP!” Yet, it can’t seem to understand that all its desperate pleadings and bullying only serve to convince me of my need for this practice even more.

Progress, not Perfection

The thing is, Kundalini is a personal practice. Most of the kriyas and meditations are done with your eyes closed, specifically to encourage deep internal personal reflection and growth. That means, no one is watching me and my ego squirm, they’re all dealing with there own devils – no, on this mat it’s just me, Spirit and my ego.

I see me squirm. I hear the voice of my mean and cruel ego trying to bully me. I experience the subtle and gentle encouragements of Spirit: “keep going, you’ve got this, YOU ARE SO STRONG! Rest if you must, this is for you.”

Sadhana, even the traditional Aquarian Sadhana, isn’t about obtaining perfection. There’s no right or wrong way to show up on your mat, the key is showing up. The daily discipline then contributes to progress.

There are few joys as rich and fulfilling as witnessing your own progress, personally, with only Spirit and your ego as witnesses. Small things, like bending a little deeper, filling your lungs a little more and holding a posture for even just a second longer than last time become milestones and PROOF that you truly can overcome all those nasty little things your ego wants to get on you about.

It is in the difficulties that we are given the opportunity to build true strength.

mayryanna

Alright, back to class. Love and blessings my dears!

“Is 6:45 early enough?” I wonder, quickly calculating that my Sadhana just took about an hour and 15 minutes.

“I could push it up, maybe to 6:15?” I think, glancing at my phone to see that it’s now 10:55pm. “Closer to eight hours if I leave it…” I briefly consider if I’ll go to yoga class in the morning before remembering that I’m waiting to see if we get as much spring snow as they say…

“I could still make it regardless,” I finally admit to myself and decide to leave the alarm set for a quarter to seven.

“Since when is getting up before seven not early enough for me?” I laugh, suddenly realising how absurd this sutuation would have been to me at every other stage of my life. I had never been an early riser, especially not voluntarily.

Smiling, I think about how easy it was getting up at 5:15 earlier this week to work out with my best friend. I feel satisfied in a deep and thorough way… “I’ve worked hard for this.”