February 28, 2011 § 3 Comments

This winter I have been confronted by my own fear on numerous occasions. My fear of rodents and rodent-like animals is evident on the mornings when I (actually get out of bed to do it) run early, before dawn. I am vigilant, running down the middle of the road, throwing caution to the wind in order to avoid a 30-pound creature. The thing is though, sometimes the raccoons are real. I saw one a few weeks ago walking over the snow with its horrible arched back, its nose on the ground. It was across the street from me and when I tried to continue running it stood up on its fearsome hind legs and hissed at me. I had to stand there for a long time in the cold and wait until it walked away.

Today before yoga, the instructor came over to me and asked if she could “spotlight” me when demonstrating jumping back into chataranga. “What?” I asked and looked behind me. Who was she talking to?

“I can’t do it yet,” she told me.” Do you want to demonstrate?”

I stared at her. I have been working on jumping back for a while now, and sometimes I can do it but most times I can’t. “Thank you,” I said. “Really. But I am afraid I won’t be able to do it in front of everyone.” Cara, the teacher, was lovely about it. “It’s OK,” she said, “Don’t worry.”What I was thinking was, I can do jumpbacks?  Seriously?? Me?

Immediately, I started freaking out. During our first downward dog, I was shaky and had butterflies. My back hurt. No way was I going to be able to do a jumpback now. My entire class was ruined. My heart was pounding. The raccoons were back. They were all around me, gnawing on my mat and walking all over my yoga towel with those paws of theirs.

I tried to watch the fear, to just stand in the cold until it was gone. i am not even sure where it came from. The thing about yoga though is that when the raccoons come – and they always come – there is nowhere else to go. You just hang out wherever you are and try desperately to breathe.

I am not sure why I was so freaked out by the attention. Sometimes I wonder if despite the fact that I always complain about feeling powerless, I actually prefer that feeling to the responsibility that comes with being powerful.  Maybe I just didn’t want to be the person who could do a jumpback because then I would have to go through the complicated process of explaining that I wasn’t. That really, I was the person who couldn’t do the jumpthrough. Yoga was my safe place. I just wanted to blend in. I didn’t want any extra work there. I didn’t want to be useful. As much as I want to live yoga and be yoga, maybe I really don’t. Or maybe I believe I am not allowed to.

Tonight, in meditation, the hits continued: we had to partner up. (Partner up? No way. Shit. Can I sneak out?) I hate partnering up. It reminds me of holding sweaty hands in Brownies. Square dancing in gym class. Speed dating. Great, just great. Even meditation was going to be a bust today.

The experience was pretty full-on. I sat across from  Jesse, a sommalier who is about my age. At first I was glad. I love Jesse. He’s always smiling and fun and I often place my mat next to his in yoga class because he can do jumpthroughs. I would be safe with Jesse. Then we began the awkward process of moving our mediation cushions closer together so that our knees were almost touching. Jesse and I smiled nervously at each other. We laughed. Ha ha.

I tried to take a deep breath. Oh god, this was awful. I was wearing a tee shirt I wore to a bonfire yesterday and it still smelled like smoke. I had gotten out of the shower 20 minutes prior and showed up to meditation with no makeup, my wet hair pulled back, my breath probably smelling of the balsamic vinaigrette I put on the salad we had for dinner. If I had known we were partnering up to enter the dharmakaya, I would have primped.

As Mimi led us in meditation, I felt myself holding my breath, even as she told us to inhale, to exhale deeply into the earth. I couldn’t breathe. I had no idea who I was supposed to be now, sitting in front of this yoga friend. In each area of my life I had a specific persona. At school I was the Good Mom. At the park I was the Playing Mom. With my extended family I was the Weird One Who Moved to California. With my friends I was who they needed me to be. At yoga I was the Invisible One (Who Can’t Do Jumpthroughs). These were important distinctions. They required preparation. Consistency.

But now, I was sitting in front of a yoga person and I couldn’t be invisible. We were extending to each other, sending each other our heart energy. Oh, jeez, I thought, feeling myself shake a bit. I just wanted my husband. He was my one safe person who I dropped all the personas for. Who was I supposed to be now?

Mimi started to read us a Buddhist text about Wish-Fulfilment. I tried to concentrate but I couldn’t listen to the words, send out my heart energy, and freak out at the same time. Fuck it, I thought. Wish-Fulfillment will have to wait. I gave up.

What happened is what always happen when we surrender. My heart opened up. I could breathe again. It was only Jesse after all. He didn’t have an arched back or  too many sharp teeth. All I had to do was send him love and receive it. And soon that is what happened. I felt us sitting together inside of a giant heart. I could feel it beating and it held us up.

Afterwards, when we talked about our experience, Jesse said he felt safe, that there was a warm, benevolent energy around us. He said he felt as though we were in a container. Wow, I thought. He felt that too. It made me wonder what would have happened if I surrendered in yoga class and actually did the jumpback in front of class. Would it have been any more terrifying than this?

After class, I stopped at Trader Joe’s to get some fruit. At the entrance were tiny little weeping pussy willow trees. I love pussy willows and the boys and I talked about getting an Easter Tree and decorating it with felt eggs. (How Waldorf of me! How Good!) The tree was perfect, so I took it home and removed the little tag it came with to see how much water it needed. Instead of care instructions, what I found was a little story. Apparently, this little tree was a “Tree of Enchantment. Among the most graceful of trees, it is connected with all that is feminine-dreaming, intuition, emotion, enchantment, healing and revitalization. The willow’s flexibility symbolizes resilience and inspires us to move with life rather than resist what we are feeling.”

Below that were the  real care instructions. It told me to make a wish, tell the tree my deepest desire and then tie a loose knot in one of the branches. After my wish was fulfilled, I was then to thank the tree. My heart opened a little bit more.  I guess I got my wish-fulfillment after all.



§ 3 Responses to Raccoons

  • Alana says:

    Oh Pamela – this is so beautiful. My heart opened reading it and my breath deepened. Such lessons we learn when we are brave enough to step into this growth journey consciously. Your words are full, gorgeous, resonant…
    I wonder if the TJ’s here has a pussy willow tree.

  • Lindsey says:

    Lovely … as Alana said, these words are pussy willows for me… I can feel my heart opening up. Thank you.xox

  • I’m with Alana & Lindsey—lovely indeed. I would also add, however, that the raccoon, that masked bandit, is a Shadow creature for you. She stood right in your road, blocking your path… and this is always the first figure we meet on the journey of individuation… while you do not yet lovingly recognize this archetype behind its carnival mask as an aspect of yourself, if you dare to encounter her (or is it him?) in active imagination, and ask them what they want, you may get some interesting clues as to the wishes of the deepest Self (typically reflected not in what we wish for, but in what just is—the open heart at yoga, the enchanting tree… but also the raccoon). Finally, the Shadow tends to get ornery with women, I have noticed, if they refuse the gift that the Shadow brings: Power. Note how the offer to do jump-backs, and your fear of envy of others implicit in your hesitancy (trust me, I have plenty of fear of “success” and so I relate and speak from my open heart and not from any book) may be just the sort of thing the raccoon hopes to liberate you from, a Banksy (http://bit.ly/gc8uaL) of the transitional time between darkness and light. Jung talks about the importance of “living our animal” and that seems to be on your plate… and my hope is that the softness of yoga will help you find the raccoon somewhere between the cat, the cow and the up/down dog. Namaste

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