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Purging The Toxic From Your Life (or What 108 Sun Salutations Taught Me About Goal Setting)

11 February 2013 10 Comments

Not saluting but plowing in Chiang Mai, Thailand

It’s a pain carrying around bullshit day to day.

Remember the story of that guy Atlas? He had to carry the weight of the world (universe) on his shoulders?

Legit.

I mean, he’s a mythological figure and all…but you get the idea.

For the first time in years, I’ve struggled settling into goals and plans for 2013. I spoke with a number of peers and friends who were all diligently reviewing their 2012 year-to-date progress, dreaming big for the upcoming year, and calculating their projections for 2013 goals.

I couldn’t even come up with a word to base my year around (Love was 2010, Intention was 2011, Fun was 2012.) Well, that’s untrue. For a bit I toyed with the idea of making Commitment my word for 2013, but in the end I couldn’t bring myself to commit to it. Oh Universe, you’re just a tricky little minx, aren’t you? Getting Atlas to tow your ass all over and still screwing with us in these little ways every chance you get.

When I got invited to a special New Year’s Eve yoga class, I shrugged my shoulders without reading the entire description and thought “Sure, why not?” I should note here – Never, ever, for the love of all things holy, skim a yoga class description and shrug your shoulders to say “Sure, why not?” (I should also note this story is only KIND OF about yoga, so no worries, I will not be recruiting for the Hare Krishna at the end.)

I walked into class and after some mat rearranging and introductions our teacher stood to the side and explained what he intended for us to do in the next three hours. Basically, we would bookend our yoga practice with two deep meditations, the first to reflect on 2012 and the second to set our intentions for 2013.

I sat cross-legged on my mat, my arms rested on my knees and fingers making little circles to harness energy or something like that. I closed my eyes and listened to our teacher’s prompts for the meditation. Instead of reviewing the progress we had made in our resolutions and the goals we could cross of our lists for 2012, he urged us to stop and think about the things we were still carrying with us from the past year that we needed to let go of.

I adjusted my posture uncomfortably.

I like action, I like implementables, I like results.

I do not like sitting in a room with twenty-five strangers and opening up the recesses of my mind and emotions. I rarely do that in the private comforts of my own home.

Yet here I was, trapped in the middle of a room of meditating yogis.

The first thing, as I sat uncomfortably cross-legged, was the toxic thoughts and emotions still lingering from my motorbike accident and surgery in February. The sadness at my scars, my throat-choking fear at getting on the back of another motorbike, the sounds of metal and plastic smashing together and the feeling of getting thrown off the back of a bike that I sometimes hear and feel when I’m surrounded by silence.

I bit my lip to try to stop the rush of emotions that was threatening to surface. Got. To. Keep. Going.

I opened up that rarely touched raw place of vulnerability and anger. That place where I go through all of the 300+ choices and decisions I made that led me to be in that exact moment on Jalan Nakula in Bali. The place where I mentally lash myself for not treating my wounds properly and letting my knee get infected. The place where at times I actually feel a deep sort-of hatred for myself and my stupid stubbornness that did not seek medical attention before the infection ruptured. The place where I hallucinated on a bed in the emergency room admitting that I was not independent enough to take care of myself and the situation any longer. The place where I laid alone in a hospital room in Indonesia scared and broken, after a team of nurses sedated me with an on-demand morphine drip that I told friends was necessary from the pain of the most recent surgery.

Oh yeah, the emotions were out now. Others around me sniffled as well.

I tumbled helplessly down the rabbithole of release that the teacher’s prompts were exploring. I reflected on projects I wanted to launch but never finalized. I winced at the memory of an unrequited feelings that had led me to start breaking down the walls I had built around relationships. The horribly bad decisions I had made under the influence of a few too many San Miguel Lights and vodka sodas. I thought of the student loan and vehicle payments that still pulled at my checking account on a monthly basis. The friendships I had lost when I moved across the planet.

I considered the more frivolous things I was still grasping at. The blogs that stood silent and neglected. The fact that I still couldn’t hold a good chair pose and that my core muscles were shit so I have really bad form in plow position. The ten pounds I gained when I was home in the US for three-months. The stupid 30L carry-on backpack I still travel with that takes me an hour to pack and contains no cute shoes.

We finished the meditation with a few aums and some breathing stuff. “Now we’ll move on to the vinyasas. As you progress through these sun salutations, I want you to think about everything you just meditated on. And focus on releasing every single one of those thoughts. To come full circle back to this place, we’ll do 108. Ready?”

Now, those of you who don’t practice yoga often may not realize the limb-numbing terror I experienced as he said this. So, I included a little YouTube video so you can see what 1 Sun Salutation series looks like:

We did 108 of these.

In fairness, I only did about 100 or so. I rested a couple times. Oh come on. You know you would, too.

My muscle memory is STILL fighting against my impulses when I want to pick up any of those things I released, a month later. Not only for the spiritual/karmic/yogic reasons, but for the mere fact that my brain went through this whole process and isn’t eager to do it again anytime soon.

We can’t carry these things around on our backs like Atlas. He was a Titan and we’re merely human.

Instead we must find ways to let them go.

This isn’t easy. It involves a lot of work and time and effort. There will probably be some tears or investigating emotions we’re uncomfortable with. You will have to stop along the way because your body is ready to give out – and then you will have to keep going.

Yet once you come around full circle to the place where you began when you were first holding onto these things, it is much easier to get started.

Oh, and in case you were wondering (we all know you were), my word for 2013 is: Surrender.

Photo Credit: Weena Yoga

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  • http://creativewebbiz.com/ Yamile Yemoonyah

    yay, you found your word for 2013 :)

    • http://www.opheliaswebb.com/ Elisa Doucette

      And it only took me two months of thinking! :P

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Elisa-Eshelman-Rodriguez/1127226667 Elisa Eshelman Rodriguez

    Awesome post, I love how you described your experience and I enjoyed learning more about your goal setting process following such a challenging year.

    • http://www.opheliaswebb.com/ Elisa Doucette

      Coincidentally it still took me another month after this practice to get my goals set up and my word determined. I guess I had a lot to surrender to from the previous year?!

  • http://twitter.com/elisestephens Elise Stephens

    Sheesh! 108 sun salutations is a lot of time to release all those things, but that doesn’t mean it gets any easier. I love your word for 2013. It reminds me I still haven’t found mine, but I think it’ll come soon.

    • http://www.opheliaswebb.com/ Elisa Doucette

      I have a number of peers who are also still working to come up with their word. Mine didn’t come til I had written out the whole post. And yes, 108 sun salutations is a long time, though we did them all in about 90 minutes of time. They were speedier than the video!

  • stacey herbert

    I need me 108 sun salutations. Probably need to do this up some mountain somewhere so when I cry me a river, there is no one around the see me do it. I love reading your work, Elisa.

    • http://www.opheliaswebb.com/ Elisa Doucette

      Rivers flow down from the mountains, so sounds like a perfect plan to me. ;) And thanks!

  • http://www.smallhandsbigideas.com Grace Boyle

    Ah amazing! Having done 108 sun salutations before for a non-profit fundraiser I’m always part of, I know how HARD it is. It’s mental toughness too. I love the word surrender. Beautiful beautiful!

  • http://tropicalnomad.com/ Adam Finan

    Did my first Yoga in Koh Tao.. Not as easy as I thought!!