Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Breaking down barriers

Earlier this week my husband sent me a link to the commencement speech that Jim Carrey gave at Maharishi University a couple of weeks ago (yes, Jim Carrey of Dumb and Dumber and Ace Ventura fame).  I have not listened to the whole thing, but the clip that I was sent was so inspiring that I wanted to share it. (See it here)

He said: “Fear is going to be a player in life, but you get to decide how much.  You can spend your whole life imagining ghosts, worrying about the pathway to the future, but all it will ever be is what’s happening here, the decisions in that we make in this moment, which are based in either love or fear.  So many of us choose our path based on fear disguised as practicality.  What we really want seems impossibly out of reach and ridiculous to expect so we never ask the universe for it.  I'm saying I'm the proof that you can ask the Universe for it.  And if it doesn't happen for you right away it's because the Universe is too busy filling my order.”

Fear disguised as practicality – that hits home for me.  When I heard him say those words I literally burst into tears. Honestly, there have been so many things in my life that I have chosen not to do and blamed on being sensible, when really I was just afraid to fail and at age 38 I am just starting to realize it.  Better late than never I suppose! 

The great poet Rumi said: 
“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.” 

Read “love” as happiness, success, fulfillment and this is just another way of saying what Mr. Carrey did.   My barrier is that I don’t think I am good enough or worthy enough to attain the deepest desires of my heart.  I am really good at making excuses, some of them are even valid. I have chosen to have a family and I have chosen to raise my family a certain way and that does present certain happily self-inflicted limitations. Yet when it really comes down to it, the real barrier to achieving my goals is my disbelief in my abilities, the sacrifices I am personally willing to make, and the amount of effort I have put into getting where I want to be…and all of that is based in fear and negative what-ifs. When we are afraid, we can build up our barriers pretty high, so high we can’t see over them to what the possibilities might be.  The thing is, many times we see those barriers as walls, when really they are doors.  And it might take some time and effort to figure out how to open them, but we need to recognize that that is a possibility.

Love is the nature of the universe.  Love is simply another name for God, Source, the Universe, and happiness....or vice versa.  We don’t have to look for it, it is there.  Just like all the possibilities and desires of our hearts.  But we do have to open up to it, to choose to open a door rather than to be afraid of what we might find behind it.  If we believe we are truly worthy of love, of success, of happiness the barriers disintegrate.  You are worthy.
Maybe you’ve heard this parable before – it’s one of my favorites. There is a poor man who prays to God every day to win the lottery – he goes to church and prays, then to a synagogue, then to a mosque, begging God to bless him.   After years of praying he passes away having never won once.  When he meets God in heaven he asks why God never answered his prayers.  God replied, “You should have bought a ticket!”  Life is a co-participation.  We have to have the courage to dream big and take wise chances and believe in ourselves.  When Darwin wrote the descent of man He mentioned survival of the fittest twice, but he mentioned the word love 95 times.  Love is what evolves us, but we have to be brave enough to open to it. This is where our yoga practice can serve us.  When we come to the mat and face fears in challenging poses, in letting go of self-limiting thought patterns and behaviors, in befriending our bodies, we are actively seeking out a barrier and bit by bit knocking it down.  Through our practice we cultivate courage, which gives us the strength to recognize our limitless potential and realize our deepest and most secret dreams, the ones we keep locked in the vault of security and practicality.  

Jim Carrey shared that “My father could have been a great comedian but he didn't believe that was possible for him so he made a conservative choice.  He took a safe job as an accountant and when I was 12 years old he was let go from that safe job. I learned many great lessons from my father, not the least of which is that you can fail at doing what you don't love, so might as well take a chance doing what you love.” What do you love?


Off the mat:
This is an exercise I have done at key pivotal times in my life that has helped me gain clarity, and move from fear to love.
Every morning (or evening if that is a better time for you) for at least a week, take out a journal and write at the top of a page:
What do I really, really want?
And then just write.  Don’t worry about grammar, handwriting, content, form or flow – just let your heart speak and put it on paper. From a new sweater to an ice cream cone to a career change or a baby – just look into your heart and get clear on what you love.  After you’ve done this for a while a pattern will emerge.  Begin to reflect on what the barriers are, either real or perceived, that are holding you back from having what you want?  Are those barriers walls or doors?  What are the self-limiting beliefs you have about yourself that keep you from opening up to love? 

On the Mat:
We warmed up with a heart chakra namaskar and worked towards Urdhva Dhanurasana (full backbend), Handstand, and Sarvangasana (shoulder stand) in our asana practice.  We took time to visualize ourselves in these challenging poses, holding the vision with love and not fear, before coming into the variation appropriate for each person.  We ended with Viloma pranayama, which is a 3-part, interrupted breath with retention.  The word Viloma means to “go against the grain”, like petting a dog the wrong way.  Doing the work of breaking barriers often feels like going against the grain because we have to step out of our comfort zone.  This pranayama practice is calming and centering so we can more easily let go of our fears, and break through barriers into love!

Open to Grace: Jim Carrey said “Your job is not to figure out how it’s going to happen for you, but to open the door in your head, and when the door opens in real life, just walk through it.”
Breathe in love, breathe out fear.
Spread your fingers and courageously spread out beyond the barriers you have built for yourself.
Breathe into your limitless potential for love and success and happiness and feel it break a wall open inside you.

Muscular Energy: Embrace limitless potential.
Tone your muscles to affirm your bravery.
Draw from (floor to Focal Point) to make your muscles strong enough to smash through the protective fortifications you have built around your heart and your dreams.
Engage your muscles to engage fully with the pose, like buying the lottery ticket.

“Side body long”: Make space between your hips and ribs, and ribs and shoulders for love to grow.
Let the sides of the torso lengthen upwards, making space between every rib and vertebrae for courage.
Expand the side body beyond any barriers you have erected against it.

Shoulder Loop: Draw the palate and the head of the arm bones back and move the bottom tips of your shoulder blades forward to push through any barricades that present themselves.
Press the palate and the tops of the shoulders back and the back of the heart forward into love for yourself.

Inner Spiral: Widen your inner thighs back and apart to open up to limitless potential.
Move your sit bones back and apart to open to love.

Outer Spiral: (In standing poses) Scoop (the front leg) sit bone under and push it forward to break through any obstacles in your path.
Sweep your tailbone down and tone your low belly with courage to live the life you desire.

Organic Extension: Let the pose be as big as the dreams you have for yourself.
Expand your pose beyond the barriers you have erected for yourself.