April 2, 2011 § 11 Comments

When the sun came out, so did this tree.

I started my yoga teacher training this evening with Rolf Gates. I should be asleep now, resting up for a long day tomorrow. But I can’t. I am too wired but what happened and by what might happen. I am too excited by what is happening right now. “There are moments,” Rolf said, after we set our intentions for the training, “When you will watch your whole life change.” He rang the bell. “This is one of those moments.”

Going into the training I was nervous and excited. I expected to be the oldest person there. I expected 20-somethings in ponytails. I expected that everyone would be more prepared, more flexible, kinder, already living the yamas and niyamas at every single second. What I got was a room full of people. Some older than me and some younger. Some fatter and some thinner. All of us, trying to be more ourselves. All of us, trying so hard to come home.

Rolf had us answer two questions. The first was Who do you want to be? The second was, What do you want the experience to be like? I thought I knew the answers. I thought I wanted to be helpful and kind and more plugged-in to the divine spirit that is so tangible in my yoga class. I thought I was going to the training so that my life would be more like my yoga practice. So that my life could be my yoga practice.

“You have to write for five minutes,” Rolf told us. “No stopping. What happens when you stop is that you miss the most important thing. Yoga is about being honest with ourselves. Satya.

I didn’t need to write for five minutes. I already knew what I wanted to be. But still, because I never want to Do It Wrong, I followed the directions. I wrote for five minutes. But what I wrote wasn’t what I thought it was going to be. I thought I was going to write about grace and divinity and peace, but what my hand scribbled down was:  I want to be powerful.

“What?” I thought. “I do not want that.”

Yes you do, a small voice said.

“Well I don’t want to want that. It’s too big. It’s too loaded. And no one will like me if I’m powerful. I like being small. I’m five foot two. I’ve been small all my life. Crap. Crap, crap, crap.”

It’s so easy to be small. It requires no effort at all to disappear into the crowd. And yet, the people I am drawn to are the ones who radiate, who inspire, and who take up space. The blogs I love are those that are most honest, that own experience, and that take a step forward, that say this is who I am. This is my experience in the world. This is what I want.

Power to me is about being the first one to raise a hand, the first one to say hello. Power is about smiling when everyone else is complaining that it’s too cold or too dark. Power is about eating vegetables and getting enough sleep and saying No with a heart full of love because it’s not right and saying Yes because it is right. Power is about being oneself and only oneself and figuring out what that means. And power is about helping, because when you are powerful, you aren’t afraid of losing your power when you teach others how to find theirs.

After we wrote for five minutes, we had to turn to the person next to us – a total stranger! – and talk for five minutes about our intentions while our partner sat in total silence and listened. It was the longest five minutes in my life. It’s amazing how real you can get without small talk. It’s amazing what you can learn from someone when you can sit in silence.

Finally, at the end of the night, all 65 of us did a metta – or loving kindness – meditation and then each of us said our intention out loud to the group. “My name is Pamela,” I said when the microphone came to me. “I live in Alexandria. My intention is to learn to live powerfully so that others can be powerful.”

As soon as the words were out, my heart leapt out of my chest, like in the cartoons. I could almost see it, outside my ribs, pounding. “I said that too loudly,” I thought. “People will think I am some aggressive crazy person. They will think I am on some ego trip. They will think that I am too full of myself. No one here knows I am a really just a Good Catholic Girl at heart.” Apparently, People Will Think is another personal mantra up there with Doing It Wrong.

But the words were already out. The bell already rang. I said what I said, and now, I am just going to wait to find out what happens.


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§ 11 Responses to Power

  • Alana says:

    Oh wow wow wow. Wow. I am covered, head to toe, in goosebumps and there are tears in my eyes. I send you an Amen, Namaste, Sat Nam and a resounding, heart pounding, love-filled YES!

  • Alana says:

    P.S. I can’t wait to find out what happens 🙂

  • Your honesty is POWERFUL! Amazing that all that could happen in one evening — and it’s only the beginning. I’m excited for you, a little jealous (you get ROLF!!), and so very eager to hear more. Just remember my friend: It’s all about love. xxk

  • Lindsey says:

    Oh, what Katrina said … I am jealous, and excited, and inspired, and desperate to live this vicariously through you. Yes, yes, yes … please don’t be afraid. You could never be aggressive or obnoxious. Your very humanity, and your willingness to be vulnerable, is power incarnate. As least that’s what I believe. xoxo

  • Christa says:

    You are powerful. It’s just that now you are feeling it, figuring it out, stepping into your own shoes… Yay!

    Breathe, just breathe through it all, and we’ll be here, cheering you on.


  • That raccoon is a good teacher. Power to the kind—and to the kind use of power. Namaste

  • Andrea says:

    This is my favorite thing you have ever written (that I’ve been lucky enough to read). I love every single part of it – both what you’ve said and how you said it. You are such an inspiration to me Pam, a powerful woman and incredible writer. Hope it’s ok, I’m going to repost your article on my FB page. I love this!

  • Gershen Kaufman is a shame researcher who writes about “shame affect binds”, meaning any emotion that was chronically shamed in childhood becomes fused with shame. Then anytime we experience that feeling, like POWER, it is immediately followed by shame. I am working on uncoupling this as well. Love this post. Thank-you.

  • Kerri Warner says:

    Pamela, there is an unassuming, quiet eloquence that permeates your description of power. Your words remind me of how attached we can become to our thoughts about power from sources outside of ourselves – and the path we can go down if we allow ourselves to do that. By (re) defining power for yourself, in ways that resonate for you, you’ve stepped into your own power already. I loved reading this post of yours – beautifully stated. All the best.

  • Mariam Gates says:

    This is just so touching and lovely and beautifully expressed–thank you for sharing this.

  • Sony Trieu says:

    Hi Pamela:

    Thank you for taking the time and having the courage to share of your experience. I really felt your apprehensions and it was like reliving my own yoga teacher training.

    Your writing is very heartfelt. May I suggest that you consider being a contributing author for http://www.dharmalounge.net

    It’s my friend’s internet magazine and we’re creating a space on line to share with others the path of enlightenment, in whatever form it may be. We are all different, yet the same.

    My recent article is on line if you’d like to see the type of work I do.

    Best wishes on your yogic journey. It’s a truly transformative experience in all the senses possible.

    Jai Mai,
    Sony Trieu
    Staff Writer
    Dharma Lounge

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