You aren’t special (and that’s a good thing)

I recently began another yoga teacher training. My last post was about being ready for it, and as it turns out, I got my ass kicked.

I needed it; in retrospect I see it as a good thing. But the amount of self-inquiry and resulting muck that surfaced from the quagmires of my soul really shocked me. I felt massively alone in my stuff. I felt like I didn’t deserve to be there. I wasn’t strong enough. I was still too attached to my demons; I didn’t want to burn them yet. I cried. A lot. I felt like a gaping open wound, putrid and pussing and disgusting.

And so I took myself out. I went into survival mode. I shut down. I sat there with my shells around me for the rest of the weekend, smiling like a plastic doll. I didn’t know what else to do. From my perspective, I was doing the group a favor. No one needs to see this mess. Everyone else has stuff, too, but no one is as shameful and broken as me. I’m different. I’m special. And my instructor called me out. She said something that at the time angered me, hurt me, and twisted the knife that was already in my chest: “Carol, you aren’t special.”

What? I’m not special? At first my ego pricked up its ears and said, “Um, pardon me. Have you met me before? I’m pretty goddamn unique.” Then I went through a spiral of insult, shame, anger, resentment, fear, and then finally landed somewhere on the shaky ground between appreciation and disbelief. Once my ego calmed down a little, I was able to re-think what she said. My inner dialogue went something like this:

“So, you mean all those years that I spent locking myself in my proverbial laboratory working on my proverbial Frankensteins were for nothing?”

“Well, did you really want to create a monster, anyways? Were you going for infamy?”

“True enough. But I did want to do something worthwhile with my life. But since I’m not special, I might as well give up. Someone else can do the work I was planning on doing, and probably better than me, too. Do you think Einstein thought he was special?”

“I doubt he had time to think of that while he was discovering the laws of the universe.”

“Yea, I bet he didn’t even think about it. He just did the work. OK. So maybe I can still do the work but not have this “specialness” quality about it. And that’s cool, actually, because it means that I can ask for help, and I can collaborate, and I don’t have to be alone so much.”

“That sounds nice.”

“Wait, does that mean I’m not unlike the rest of the people in the room here, even though I feel like no one understands truly just how dark and scary the inside of my skull is?”

“Pretty sure, yep. I think most people would agree their head can be a pretty scary place.”

“So I don’t have to be ashamed of what I’ve been through or how I feel about it? I’m not alone? This is pretty big…”

And so then I decided to give up “specialness”, and embrace community, wholeness, and self acceptance. Warty proverbial Frankensteins and all.

I think Marianne Williamson nailed it in her book “A Return to Love”. In the context of the book, she talks about the destructive nature of the “special relationship” in terms of romantic union.

Although the word “special” normally implies something wonderful, from a Course in Miracles perspective, special means different, therefore separate, which is characteristic of ego rather than spirit. A special relationship is a relationship based on fear.

So if I continued to live from a space of “special” and “separate”, I doubt I would ever get any real work done. I would be afraid of what people would think, and worst of all, I feel like in order to maintain my “special” status, I would have to hang on to the most effective things that make me “special”: my fears and limitations. I’d probably get them framed and hang them on my wall for everyone to see. “Hey everyone, check out my masters degree in self-loathing, pretty cool, huh? Or how about this trophy I got for best supporting actress in my parent’s divorce? Groovy, right? OK now, please vacate my dungeon so I can continue to be alone and miserable and pretend to do some work when really I’m just going to wallow in self pity.”

Sad, but true.

So giving up “special” is actually a really freaking good idea. And that doesn’t mean that we don’t have unique gifts, talents, and personalities that we should share with the world. Quite the opposite, actually. If we are indeed one, then we actually have a responsibility to shine our brightest at what we are good at. If you think of yourself as a cell in a body, what happens if the cell breaks off and starts to do it’s own thing because it feels “special”? It becomes cancerous. And what happens if each cell works its very hardest at doing its unique job in the body? It creates a healthy, happy, whole.

As Marianne Williamson says, “What’s our miracle here? It’s a shift from thoughts of specialness to thoughts of holiness.”

And my take on holiness is that it means “whole-i-ness” – to recognize that we are at one with something greater, something powerfully good, that we are never alone, and that no thing is big enough to separate us from that.

So cheers to not being special, but to being one, and kicking ass together.




Are we ever ready?

It’s approximately 17 hours before I embark on another yoga teacher training. This time, I’m taking the plunge into Baptiste Power Yoga, a style I fell in love with years ago for its ability to transform my body and my life.

And although I’ve done the required reading, bought my blank notebook, planned my meals, and practiced as regularly as I could to prepare, I still feel a tinge of not-readiness. I could have laid off the wine and pasta in cheese sauce. I could have done a few more classes. I could have made notes while I was reading. I definitely didn’t eat enough greens or drink enough kombucha. No, no. I should just call this whole thing off. Who am I kidding?

But then my mentor, friend, and teacher Pam posts something to the closed Facebook group:

I sure hope so.

I am ready now. Deep breaths.

I believe that we don’t do a lot of things we could because we are afraid of not being ready. Afraid of screwing it up. Afraid of looking bad. We don’t quit the job that doesn’t fulfill us, we don’t start that new relationship, we don’t get on the plane because we feel like we forgot something or that we haven’t made the necessary preparations to accompany us on the journey. We are afraid of leaving the familiar because although it might not be our dream life, it’s working for us. It isn’t new and scary. We haven’t died (yet). We are living day to day with our basic needs met and sometimes that’s attractive enough for us to stay. And…is that really working for us?

Yoga teaches us that where we stand now, in this present moment, is our path. There is no other place to be, and nothing else to do. If we are here, we are here because we are meant to be. Because we are ready. We are strong enough, smart enough, financially capable enough, and emotionally developed enough for the task at hand.

The very first Sutra of Patanjali states:

1.1 Atha yoga anushasanam

Now, after having done prior preparation through life and other practices, the study and practice of yoga begins.

So, to break it down a little more, where we stand “now” (atha, pronounced “attah”, implying a blessing at this moment of transition) we join with the teachings of yoga, which are meant to be an unraveling of layers and imperfections concealing truth of who we are. And if that’s the case, then how could we prepare any more for what’s already contained within us, waiting to be revealed? It’s like trying to pack for a trip to our own house. We already have everything. It’s simply a return home.

And this theory applies not only to our yoga practice, but also holds true to our lives off the mat as well. Having recently come out of a long-term relationship, I felt like it would only be appropriate to spend some time by myself, writing sad poetry, watching sad movies about lost love, and quarantining my broken, toxic heart until some defect in it had been repaired. I felt I needed some kind of punishment for causing pain in myself and in my ex-partner. I needed to sit in the corner and have a time-out. I told myself I wasn’t ready to move on. I needed to be sad for an undetermined amount of time (probably for the remainder of this lifetime and maybe even into the next), to atone for the mistakes I made, to wallow in my aloneness and grief, to carry some kind of torch for this failed romance, and to metaphorically wear black and avoid bathing like the Romans did when they were grieving. In other words, I need to be a boring, smelly, anti-social, crying mess. How dare I think I could have fun, or meet new people, or FLIRT!? Heaven forbid!

And in reality, Heaven would want me to see the truth of who I am: perfect in my wounds and struggles, in my pain and grief, and 100% ready to be happy. Ready to return back to the effortless flow, the joy, the love and passion that I’d craved for so long, even when I was with my partner. I don’t need to punish myself. There is no wrong-doing to amend. And although there is a sweetness in allowing old wounds to close completely so that new relationships don’t poke at them, that doesn’t mean that I can’t allow my heart to come out and play. It doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy the things that are right in front of me, right here, right now. On the contrary, perhaps they have appeared because I am, in fact, ready for them.

“Atha Yoga anushasanam”. I am ready. For this training, for this healing, for this journey home, for this return to love.
Carol 🙂