Fall. Falling. Fell.
Have we all been here/there? Falling is part of the human condition. We all experience different types of falling and for all kinds of reasons and outcomes both tragic and devastating and exhilarating and joyful.
There are phases in my life when I feel like I’m in a constant state of falling. Even when relaxed on my back in savasana I feel like I’m falling deeper into ease or into my imagination.
What is curious to me is how falling is associated with a certain amount of insecurity and vulnerability and many times shame. Maybe it’s because falling is not something that we usually plan on or the fear that we will be judged by others and deemed disdainful or stupid. There are many falls we experience in our lives. Falling to sleep. Falling down. Falling out of shape. Falling into shape. Falling out of favor. Falling in love. Falling out of love. Falling in to the unknown. Falling into bed. Falling off the wagon. Falling into place. Falling into a hole. Falling into alignment. Falling into debt. Falling into savasana. Falling from a tree(pose). Falling apart. Falling on to my lap. Falling out of bed. Falling into a pile of laundry. Falling into a pile of shit. Falling into the abyss. Falling from grace.
I have witnessed many bodies in their earnest efforts to maintain stability shake and hop in balancing poses and then fall out. I see the look on their faces of self criticism and doubt. I hear stories from folks about marriages that fell apart or relationships with loved ones that have fallen into negative patterns and cycles. It happens. What’s disconcerting is the amount of struggle and harm it can bring and then the incessant replaying the stories of the fall that create mental grooves and patterns of disease and trauma.
Just recently I decided to experiment with this notion that “falling is part of the human condition’ from a different perspective…I guess I’d call it a mindful, embodied perspective as well as a way to experience falling with refined awareness instead of defaulting into reaction, aversion, attachment and “why me?” mode. Basically my mantra was…”when falling don’t take it personally. Breathe. Notice.”
Here is a recent example of me learning to fall with awareness and grace. As I’ve shared with you all before I have taken on a new job teaching part time at a charter high school in Seattle. I had faith in my experience teaching, the enthusiasm to bring yoga and mindfulness into the school setting and the encouragement of so many in the community. This was to be a walk in the park and everyone was going to LOVE it and love me. After the first few days with a room full of high school students I felt the ground rumble from beneath my feet. I felt my heart jump into my throat when confronted with challenging situations. As I emphasized the week’s “power pose” of tadasana – mountain pose – I felt the opposite… trampled and humbled. At the end of the week I felt like I had fallen off a cliff and into a dark unknown that left me feeling powerless and confused.
I looked around for places to shed blame and ranted to those who I could rally for support. What I missed was the opportunity to truly experience — in an embodied and compassionate way – the falling. And this my friends is why we practice. How could I miss the falling that actually is packed with potential and glimpses to see more facets of my humanness? My pride, my stubbornness and attachment to a false sense of control or a clamoring to protect my ego shielded me from actually experiencing the reality of it all – unpleasant and pleasant.
The good news is that I was aware of it. So, I got up and tried again. I now knew that the abyss existed and falling was inevitable. I experimented with the only real dependable resources I had — breathing and noticing the sensations in my body.
“Oh hello there tight throat and churning in belly. Yes I feel you. Oh good afternoon insecurity and uncertainty. I can feel you too right there tied tightly around my heart.”
The internal noticing and allowing myself to actually feel it all gave me a lovelier and more trusting fall feeling then a panic/anxiety attack fall feeling.
I am also remembering the sensations in my body that went from falling in love (mostly because I was in some control through noticing) and in tension and then love again and then in chaos and then love again…back and forth until eventually I landed somewhere on the ground on my own two feet. My breath easy, my body awake and invigorated, my heart pumping with courage, my mind imagining all the possibilities ahead. This doesn’t mean that I liked it by the way. It simply showed me that the mind is a powerful force and when I am not in a “whole mind” state of mind or occupying and trusting whole heartedness there is chance for a scarier and bumpier ride and fall. When I choose to be in the reality–the falling, with breath, gentle awareness that keeps calmly noticing change the landing and the aftermath of it all feels intentional,natural and soft. Mostly, I felt less alone and more connected to a greater consciousness — a unity consciousness — that is good and supportive.
As I witness the splendor and awe of fall bursting with color and change whether it be in nature or on my yoga mat or in relationships or conversations in community over politics, education or spirituality I too am sensing the uncertainty or rather certainty of falling. I’m learning to let go of the need to control the chaos that can come from it (because we know it will) or the relentless tweeting and flapping about to change people’s minds. Instead I place my attention in what I notice about myself as things fall apart. I’m learning that skillful, wise and friendly awareness in my own insecurities via my body’s intelligent and accessible clues will shed new light and energy for the seasons ahead.
Keep practicing. Keep falling. Keep calmly noticing change.
In the abyss. Therein lies your treasure. (Joseph Campbell)