Test of Strength

I have my own little handbook of morals and beliefs that I live by happily. Most of these are deeply rooted in my yoga practice. I firmly believe that yoga is a beautiful way to process emotional and physical pain. It integrates the mind and body, something we often don’t do. We spend a majority of our day focusing on external stimuli and tend to overlook internal conflict. Yoga forces us to breathe into sensation and notice what comes up. It forces you to bring energy into your system instead of putting it out into the world like we do the rest of our day. This practice has widened my understanding of energy and fluidity in our body systems. Everything is connected and functioning as an entire unit. This phenomenon is demonstrated every time you feel a sensation – sensory receptors are responding to that stimulus and relaying it to your brain for integration and processing. This is how your body decides how it will respond to a situation.

So why is this important?

To me, our bodies are more intricately wound than we tend to give them credit for. The way I see it, all our body systems are deeply rooted in our nervous system. This is a system that senses every stimulus and integrates it to create an appropriate response. In trauma situations, your nervous system activates the release of adrenaline, a hormone that gives you the ability to overcome immediate threat. Physiologically, our bodies do everything in their power to protect you and remove you from danger. This is an incredible mechanism. However, in most cases, witnessing or experiencing trauma can put your system into shock. Although it appears as a defense mechanism (when people break their legs but are able to crawl to the hospital before feeling pain) shock can lead to death if untreated. Most patients recover from shock. However, residual shock trauma tends to stay trapped in one or more organs or body systems if not addressed. This tension builds over time and may even be unnoticeable because of how our bodies brilliantly adjust to prolonged change. They do this in the best way that they know how, but it often leads to symptoms like tiredness, soreness, headaches, indigestion, dizziness, or chronic pain. This is just a list of a few. Isn’t it humbling to consider the idea that trapped energy can be responsible for so many physical ailments?

One thing should be made clear by all this: our bodies are brilliant. They respond to stimuli in ways we can’t even cognitively come up with on our own. Perhaps this is how I spent many months chronically in pain and off balance – because I simply didn’t notice what my body was doing to protect me from harm. It absorbed trauma and has been holding onto it all alone because I mentally wasn’t prepared to deal with it.

Can we all just take a moment to recognize how incredible this is? The mere idea that our bodies know when we are and are not ready to deal with traumatic events is beyond my cognition. It leaves me nearly speechless in awe.

So I have a personal message to my body as I continue through this process of healing:

Thank you for being strong. I know that you did everything you could to protect me and defend your right to live, and you know what’s amazing about that? It worked. I have more respect and bewilderment about your wisdom than I ever had before. In a moment of danger you didn’t freeze. You didn’t see giving up as even an option. Not for a single moment did I believe you’d succumb to the will of someone else’s hands. For this reason my trust in your ability to survive has been strengthened in ways I can’t verbally explain. I’m fucking proud to be the vessel that you thrive in.

That being said, it’s time to let go. You don’t have to be strong anymore. You don’t have to hold onto this energy. You’re safe now. You survived and you proved to me that you’re tough. Now it’s finally time to relax and let me handle the rest. I’m not afraid of what you’re holding onto anymore. I recognize the inconvenience it’s been to hold onto all of this energy and I’m telling you that I’ve got this now. I am here to love and support you always, and I’m here today ready to stand tall for you.

I live by a quote I once heard in yoga: “When a vase cracks it does not lose it’s identity. It merely exposes what is inside. This is true for the heart also. When the heart breaks it does not shatter the soul. It allows it to be seen. This is why we can never be broken. Instead, we are radiating beauty.”

This year has truly been a test of my strength. Each challenge that life has thrown me, I’ve conquered. And if I haven’t conquered it yet, it’s only because I’m in the process of doing so. It’s as if one hardship isn’t enough, though… no, life doesn’t just hand you one task at a time. That would be too easy. The tasks continue to pile on. But every day I rise up with my head held high despite the adversity tugging at my ankles trying to drag me down. I finally see my true beauty and strength and I’m awestruck. I haven’t for one second thought that I’d lose this battle. For once in my life I don’t see my battle as the thing that could potentially destroy me – I see it as the thing that I will conquer. I don’t feel broken. In the past it’s been so easy to cling onto how hard something was, how much I was hurting, or how impossible it seemed to get out of. But today, I can honestly say this hasn’t been the preferred path my mind wants to travel anymore. Yes, there are moments where I feel weak and sad, but I’ve learned how to love these parts of myself and how to nurture them instead of denying that they should exist or giving them the power to dominate my mind. For the first time in my life I can truly say that I consider no other option than coming out of this year stronger and wiser than ever. Maybe this is because that fighter who stood up for me when my life was in danger refuses to accept defeat. She knows her strength now, and I cannot deny her. I love her.

That girl is part of my soul. Through all the cracks in my heart, I see her. And she’s beautiful in every way.

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