Saturday, February 16, 2013

New York City

Stick yourself in the middle of New York City by yourself for nine days, and you are bound to grow. I have learned a lot about myself the last two weeks of my life. I traveled to New York City to engage in a nine day, very intense teacher training with the world renown yogi and "guru" Ana Forrest. I expected to learn something about myself while I embarked on this adventure, but what I actually did take home with me, was a completely differen't lesson. As I arrived, tangled hair (as always) off of a red eye flight, I was exhausted. I sat in the taxi on this early New York morning, my driver was sweet enough to ask me questions to strike up a conversation. He must have sensed my nerves; what the fuck am I doing here, energy. I looked out the window and noticed young kids walking across the crosswalk to school, almost as if they were adults themselves, they owned their city. My taxi dropped me at The Marrakech hotel, 103rd and Broadway. It would be my NYC home, while I get to be here. I walked up the stairs and was immediatly greeted by a friendly bellman, whom by the end of each day, I would look forward to his welcome. I was given access to my room, suitcase in hand, I dragged myself up the four flights of stairs, no elevator. My room presented itself to me as tiny, dirty, and unwelcoming. It definitely wasn't "The Plaza hotel". I don't usually mind, I can ruff it. This time, it felt important to me. I didn't have the energy to deal, this would have to work. I took a deep sigh of exhaustion and without taking my coat off, tossed myself on top of the bed, I had a desperate need for sleep. I woke up a few hours later with a lingering headache, already not sure what I was doing here. I was experiencing my first lesson about myself, I am not comfortable transitioning out of my comfort zone. New York City is this BIG, powerful, energetic, diverse, artistic, captivating, busy, dirty, sad, happy, joyful, city, and it was waiting for me to go out and explore. It was time to experience more growth. I had no idea what kind of growth, but I felt it surfacing. It was time to go out there and begin my adventure. It was an opportunity of a lifetime and I had the desire to create a bigger, relationship with my heart, body, mind, bones, and everything else that made me, ME. I asked for a new room; it was perfectly clean and comfortable. I felt thankful. I felt reluctant to ask for what I wanted, but discovered once again; If I ask for what I want, that it is okay to recieve it. I took a walk down Broadway and Amsterdam avenue, I couldn't help but look up at the big sky scrapers. In between those tall buildings, the big blue sky poked it's head out to me, revealing to me, that this is a big sky and world. This is a BIG world, full of so much mystery and incredible opportunity, and I am just a speckle on this earth. I'd like to think that I am a BIG speckle, but yes, a speckle. The choice to move into this NYC life for the next days, I would be reminded just how small of a speckle I am. This is a very humbling experience. I walk into the first cafe that I see, I order pizza (comfort food), green salad, and pellegrino (comfort drink) and I feel calm. In this city, nobody knows your name. Everyone is moving about you, shoving you, rushing, because of their great desire to get to where they need to be. I had no choice but to blend in and act as though I knew what fuck I was doing; I too am a part of the movement within this fast paced city. New York City does not wait up for you, you must be ready to go along for the ride, or you will get left behind. The subway will close it's doors, even if you are one foot off and one foot on; jump on or your out of luck. My experience of the subway was very profound. I found the subway to mostly be a quiet, calm spot. It felt as though everyone, once they were on the train, finally took their first breaths of the day. Once your spot was secured, whether you were standing, sitting, or smashed up against an odor filled jacket or body (reaked of city life), there is a brief moment in time, where you can rest from the outside chaos. Sometimes the train felt sad; faces were worn, and full with exhaustion. I noticed that most people had their eyes closed, or ear phones stuck in their ears, drowning out their own thoughts. I saw the stories in people, I not only sensed it, I also experienced it. There is an ability we all have to experience it, if you listen and look carefully. I have a gift of being able to percieve others without effort. I feel as though this gift of empathy can at times be difficult; but I feel it is a gift of discernment that I consider rare and special for me. The subway became a good friend to me while I was there; it was full of life, stories, and in-depth conversations without words expressed. The short subway ride from uptown 103rd to downtown 77th, was one of my favorite places to hang out each day. Pure West Yoga, upper west side studio. This is where I would spend my days in New York City. Ana Forrest Advanced training was one of the hardest events that I have mentally, physically, and emotionally done in my life. The first morning that I arrived, my eyes immediatly where locked on Ana Forrest. I had previously learned so many things about her, as well read her book, I already had an impression created inside of me. Her long gray braid swooped down alongside her head, black gloves on, and leather belt around her waist. The description that I already knew of her, was completely accurate. She sat in the room, waiting as we all arrived. I noticed her eyes right off the bat; very soft, but a powerful intensity that revealed to you that she had experienced life. I immediately sensed that she had control of this space, and her demand for respect was easy to feel. I suddenly felt the demand for respect that I wanted Ana to have for me as a powerful human being. Most of my life I have been told how high to jump, how far to run, and whose opinion other than my own I should believe. At 28 years old, this did not work for me anymore and I suddenly had my own opinion. These last 3 years and mainly last year of my life, I have been focused on my own personal growth. I especially have an allowance to be who I am, without apology. I felt no apology from Ana Forrest about who she was, she owned herself entirely. I developed respect for Ana in this ownership. I, most importantly, saw her as a human, unlike what I sensed from others in the room. I separated from labeling her as a "Guru" I wanted to be my own guru. I didn't have a desire to be one of her disciples. Although, I did have a great desire to learn some important things from this woman, and what she had to offer. Obviously she has helped a lot of people, and she has an intention to heal others. I also respect that she sought out what she wanted, and created a yoga program that has brought people back to themselves. Given all the information, I was ready to jump into this with both feet and find out for myself what is the hype of "Forrest" yoga. Each day looked the same; morning meditation, breath, followed by 3 1/2 hours of intense asana practice. First cues from Ana, "Abbey, keep your chest open, FOREVER!" Well, okay then! This was a demand, not a question. The series of postures mainly included: core, inversions (too many fancy ones to name), core, inversions, core, inversions, deep stretches, and savasana. We had a two hour lunch break, that felt like two minutes; before we had to be back for the afternoon four hour session. The last part of the day included: discussion, practicum, and partner work. This usually would include at least another 90 minutes more of movement. As you can imagine, by the time 530pm rolled around, everyone was ready to get their shit and get out! The last part of my day would be about connecting with others at home, sending my "I love you's" and then off to find a place to eat, before bed. The next day was only a short few hours away, and it would start all over again. Day four I started to feel the effects the physical practice had on my body. It felt similar to the repetitive motions I used to put my body through as an endurance athelete. I had already made the decision for myself, that I wouldn't do that anymore. I felt by the end of day five, my body was giving me the big fat middle finger. We were practicing advanced postures, but to me the word "advanced" meant nothing to me. I didn't have the mindset of, the fancier the pose, the better (fancier) person I will be. I had aches in my back and my body was depleted of energy. Exhaustion had now settled in and made itself at home in my mind/body. Mentally, this training was beginning to lose me. Ana had asked me at the end of day five, how I was doing. I had a feeling that she was very aware of my presence in this training. I had been experiencing one on one time with her in the previous days. I know she was mindful of my frustrations and had clued in on my internal dialogue (fuck this already), and wanted to faciliate some type of deep healing process within myself. I think she liked me, and felt my resistance to these practices. I expressed my frustrations and I told her that I felt I wasn't giving my body what it really needed. Ana asked if I would work with one of her assistants. I agreed to this option, because I had already invested so much to this day of training. This woman who worked with me, asked me to go deep. I expressed to her I wasn't at this training to cry, or have tantrums, etc on my mat. I told her that I was happy and joyful in my life, and wanted to celebrate this side of my life. I have spent the last year of my life, really working on my personal growth (I've cried a lot). The Forrest training, wasn't the place for this kind of growth within myself. I clearly needed to learn the lesson in self care. I did mention to her that I didn't feel sexy in my body, because of the fact I wasn't able to move gracefully, and with fluidity on my mat. I had the desire to feel sexy in my body. She asked me to breathe into my sexy body. I had a hard time feeling that, even to say, "I am sexy" felt wrong, because it was the last thing that I felt. Something was felt in that experience with her that afternoon, only because I saw her respect for me and my desire to stay grounded in myself. There was a lot of energy in the room at this time, and it was very easy to pick up on it. She respected that maybe what I needed was to just acknowledge this feeling and help me breathe into my body again. I did feel sexy and more powerful as I left this practice. I decided to make a choice and not return for the following mornining practice, my body was giving me all signs to "No" and for the first time in my life, I wanted to stop this nonsence and listen to my body. I could not worry what Ana thought of me, if I didn't return until the next afternoon. So, I took myself on a sexy date that evening to the SOHO district, out for a drink (the best caffe mocha vodka ever!) and a taxi ride away from my homebase of NYC. The next morning, I slept in and took a walk through Central Park and had bacon and eggs at my favorite restaurant, Westside Restaurant. I returned to the afternoon session and I felt replenished and whole again in my body. The choice that I made to take care of myself first, was a turning point for me. We all had to teach in front of Ana and her assistants in this session. I asked Ana if I could teach first, because I felt sound in my body. Teaching this afternoon was one of the best experiences I had in this training. As I taught, I felt like I was in integrity in my body. I took command of the room and felt as though the students found their bodies. I left feeling good, and decided to return to and participate fully in day seven. My body was pushed again to my limits this day and I knew again, that I ignored my body and it's need to rest. The question presented itself over and over again, are you just being a wimp Abbey? I knew how strong I was, I wasn't there to prove my strength, or anything for that matter. I connected to the message my body was sending to me, that I was not in integrity, and something had to change. I finished day seven and I was more exhausted than I had been up to this point. I made the difficult decision to take the morning of day eight off, then return to the next afternoon on into finish the end of the training on day nine. This would be my final decision. Although this was my choice, I felt the guilt had already settled in nicely. (old stuff, starting to surface) I knew this decision wouldn't mesh well this time with the crew. I was absolutely right. The next morning, morning of day eight, I received an early wake up call from Ana's main assistant. She informed me that Ana asked where I was, told me to get back to the training, or else I would not be invited back to finish this training. DO or DIE, right? That is the pressure I felt. Anxiety overload, my entire body trembeled. Many thoughts surfaced, (more old stories, and habitual thought patterns) especially on how this could be a let down for my community, family, friends, students, Ana Forrest herself, if I did not return. I had a choice to make, and this choice was going to cleary direct the rest of my time in NYC. The anxiety I felt at this point wanted to be soothed. As I sat in the bathroom, debating on what I would do, with the constant story flowing through my mind, what would others think of me? I feel lucky for this moment, because I had complete support from my home, and love. But, I decided to immediately sooth my anxiety and put my yoga pants on, I was going to go back and finish. The guilt would be too intense, I will just finish the training, despite how much my body needed me to listen to it. I am used to pushing through the pain, I have crossed many finish lines....then something happened (In all of this, I had been reminded that I don't need to learn a lesson in completion). I stopped mid sentence in my brain story, a voice so subtle, so real, called out to me, and I FINALLY listened. With my yoga pants half way up my legs, I then proceeded to take them back off again. I was making the choice to withdrawl myself from the program. Yes, I was done. Day eight of nine, I was choosing to call it quits. It would have been easier to go back, it was the last two days. My body, mind and soul celebrated in this choice. Instead of choosing the anxiety, ANA, or anyone else, I chose myself. As I walked out of the hotel room, decision was made, I laughed....outloud. I felt good. In the meantime, there was a huge storm coming into NYC. It would arrive Friday evening, the same time my flight home would take off. The weather indicated that this was supposed to be one of the biggest storms NYC had seen in 10 years. I had the feeling to try and re-schedule my flight for Thursday night. I called a dear friend in Utah who works for the airline, and asked if I could get on this flight. I didn't want to get stuck in NYC, exhausted with no more money. NO LUCK, she indicated it was impossible, even to re-route me elsewhere. We tried everything. I had come to the conclusion within myself, that I would go home Friday, and take my chances that I would get out of there safe and sound. As I was perparing to head off to the museum, THE MOMA (never been to a museum) I received a random call back from my friend, her voice cheery, "you want to go home tonight?" I shocked said, "What, how?" She told me that she had come home from a meeting and felt the need to log on to her computer one more time and check the Thursday flight. As she logged on to this flight, ONE seat lit up on this sold out flight. Miracle! She booked it! I ran to the museum, one of the best experiences I have had, so glad I did not miss this art. 4 hours later I rushed to JFK to catch my flight home. I got home Thursday night safe and sound. The next morning, I decided to check my initial flight from JFK, big red letters, CANCLELLED! I would have been stuck afterall. Devine intervention! I was in disbelief. The storm brought a half a million people without power and three feet of snow to New York City. If I chose to stay, I would have had to sleep in the airport, for who knows how long. I learned a lot from this experience, so much that it changed my life. The way that I navigate through anxiety, and the way I want to live my life from now on. I don't live my life for others, based off what they think of me. I live my life in integrity for me, and when you can find the courage to do that, FREEDOM. It is the greatest feeling of liberation when you choose you. It was a victory for me, and I felt as though I learned a great lesson. I learned to take care of me and that is what will create a better human and teacher. Nobody can tell you what is best for you, you are the only person that can decide for yourself what is best. It doesn't matter how many degrees or letters this person has behind their name, or if they have the "guru" label. You are the only one that can know what is true. I am grateful for Ana Forrest, she gave me a gift, after all. Ana presented me with a choice, I had to choose what was best for me. I was able to take from this training what I felt was true and beneficial for my growth, and discard the rest. You don't have to buy into the entire product, just because someone else believes it as the only way. There is confidence that resides in your body when you can make your own decisions and have your own brain. It reveals that you are a distinct individual with integrity. I feel like I can trust myself. Always follow your heart and gut, trust in those two things as your life compass. My growth in New York looked like this--- It was about the bellman that welcomed me each day to my hotel. It was about the friendly man that sold me pizza at Broadway 2609. It was about the stories on those faces in the subway each day. It was about the smells of the city, and energy of being pushed about and around. It was about my requests for dinner for one each day and night. It was about the struggling musicians on the subway. It was about the singing waiter in my favorite restaurant. It was about the experience of witnessing a large rat run across the subway deck. It was about staring at the art work, monet, etc, at the Moma (a profound, yogic experience of presence) It was about the longing for those I loved at home. It was about the subtle moments in training, where I went "Aha!" It was about experiencing LIFE all alone in this city, where I found myself. It is always about experiencing life in every moment, no matter how uncomfortable I felt. It is not about a yoga a pose, or a guru, etc. It's not about being the pleaser or the yes man. It's about being whole, within you. It is ultimately about integrity within, and always moving in that direction, no matter how much anxiety you feel. I received a wake up call and navigated myself to my center. I was supported in my decision, and that is how I made it home safely with the biggest gift I could have from this trip. It was worth every penny. Thank you New York. I'll be back again someday! Thank you Ana Forrest, thank you for offering me a gift, so I could make my own choice. AHO!
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