“Had the world always been like this, this alive? I vowed to always look at life this way, to never forget this moment.” ~Vickie Girard, Stage IV Cancer Survivor
I got lucky. My cancer was caught early, and I had the good fortune of great doctors who did what it took to get that shit out, fast. I was able to get on with my life with a few scars and some new (slightly mangled) breasts.
My friend Amy, and many others like her were not so lucky. They fought the battle that truly gives one the title of “survivor”. The news we have all been watching with Kavanaugh vs. Dr. Ford gives a new (albeit very old) meaning to the word survivor. Sidenote…watch this interview with Lady Gaga for a powerful take on the situation.
My work in the Utah State Prison has given me a new look at what it means to be a survivor. The women in our Yoga Teacher Training Program are survivors of backgrounds most of us can only imagine. And they are surviving inside what seems like the darkest place on earth. (Yoga Journal did a story on this program, check it out here)
Of the 10 women who received scholarships into the program, just 4 remain. Six of them were released and are trying to survive in the world. As I watch them, I wonder if that is not the real surviving. In my mind, I picture them standing in front of a steel gate, feeling like they are being reborn. I wonder if every one of their senses is on high alert. If the weather feels different on the outside. The food, the smells, the shopping, the freedom…
But the reality is this. These women are set out with nothing but the clothes they came in wearing. If they have family to pick them up and help them get on their feet, they are lucky. If not, it’s just “good luck”. Find a job. Oh, that felony…yea, that’s a problem. Get a car. Register it. Find a safe place to live. Renegotiate all those old relationships. It’s truly an uphill battle, and has made me better understand how someone who is released from prison often ends up back inside within 6 months.
I am beginning to think that we are all survivors. We all came into this world in a traumatic way. We all survived junior high. We have each gone through our version of prison, some of us have found our way out, and some of us are still imprisoned, literally or figuratively. Today, we are given the keys to step out, and begin again.
A Practice of Freedom
Take a moment to think about how or where you might be imprisoned. Is it inside 4 walls? Is it in a relationship that is not working? Is it inside a body that is not optimally healthy? Is it in a mind that feels like a prison? An. unfulfilling job? Where are the bars for you?
Now…take a moment to close your eyes. Breathe deeply. Think of a word that you would like to feel. Peaceful? Strong? Abundant? Relaxed? Courageous?
Choose a word and pull it in with every breath. Exhale the word NOW.
Inhale ___, Exhale Now. (Peaceful…Now. Strong…Now. Abundant…Now)
Allow this word to become your mantra, your Intention for this moment. How do things change in your body? In this moment, can you feel the freedom that a powerful intention can have?
Let’s go one step further…Inhale _____, Exhale Today. (Peaceful…Today. Strong…Today. Abundant…Today)
Can you hold this word and breath pattern for the rest of today? How might that shape the outcome of your day, if your intention was that word, in all dealings and all of your experiences today? From this vantage point, it doesn’t really matter what is going on outside of you does it? There is peace in your inner world. Or strength, or abundance…
So now, consider journaling about this. Thoughts (Intentions) are so powerful. They set in motion a powerful energy in which the world conspires to help you create that intention. Words, written or spoken are even more powerful. Write a few lines now about this intention. How does it look when held up to the bigger picture of your life?
I distinctly remember a yoga teacher saying something similar to this years ago. My intention for that class was courage, and it led me to try a few new poses that I had been afraid of. At the end of class, she asked us to take that word into our lives, how did that look. In that moment, I said “I want to be a yoga teacher”. I wrote it down in my journal, and started talking about it. And here I am, almost 20 years later, teaching teachers.
I remember the moment the thought came to me that I should be teaching yoga in the prison. It scared the crap out of me, but I knew it was going to be. I wrote it down, and started talking about it. It’s happening. And it’s wonderful.
What is your intention. How does it look when played out into today? What does it inspire you to create in your life?
Most importantly…Is there an action you will take NOW to put your intention into motion? Get brave and say it. Commit to it, out loud, to someone who will hold you accountable. I’d love to hear it too…
Never forget this moment…it is the freedom of a new beginning.
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