This is agony, but it’s still a thrill for me. ~ Agony, Paloma Faith
“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”
These are the words of the great poet and storyteller, Maya Angelou. I’m guessing she knew a thing or two about agony, because she spent her lifetime writing her stories.
By comparison, I’ve only spent about a moment of mine. And that’s because, before yoga, I didn’t even know I had any stories inside of me, much less any kind of agony.
But once I started writing I got to know myself a whole lot more. Writing down my stories helped me see inside in a way I wasn’t able to before. I’ve even solved the mystery of the writer who lives in me. I wasn’t even aware that she was there, but she came to light one night when I checked in at yoga.
“Oh, you’re the writer!” exclaimed the young lady from behind the front desk when I told her my name.
At the time, I never saw myself as such, and I almost laughed. But I found her looking at me proudly and expectantly, and the importance of taking myself more seriously suddenly dawned on me.
And so I caught myself and answered, “Well, yes, I guess I am!” not just for her but also for me.
In order to write honestly, I’ve had to admit to some agony. If nothing else, it’s made me recognize a lot of who I am inside, all that’s good and all that’s not. And as I’ve never been one to share much personally, writing it down for others to see has been somewhat of a big deal for me.
The agony first appeared in my practice. I think it had something to do with the poses. Early on, an instructor explained how the poses heal us by releasing our emotions. At the time, I didn’t understand how something like this could possibly be true, but it wasn’t long before I was experiencing it for myself.
Like the breath, the poses drew something in and let something out, and somehow that made it easier to breathe. Once I noticed this, my practice gained momentum, and I flowed as if I were desperate for air. I felt an urgency to it, as if something in me knew that I needed to do it.
All that moving moved me! I felt as though I had spent forever in some kind of traffic jam and suddenly all of the cars were moving. I think that’s why in the beginning so many emotions arose all at once. I felt amazing and awful; awake and tired; happy and sad. And, like a driver wildly alternating lanes, I did my best to navigate these new highs and lows.
The practice invigorated me, and I loved it, but the chaos it revealed was surprising. I think what was coming up for me was what Maya Angelou might have called my agony. Apparently, she was right about the stories that get stuck inside. When we ignore them, they can hurt!
And so this was the shape I was in when I said yes to an opportunity to write about yoga. I was surprised to have agreed, and even more surprised to discover how much I had to say! With so many emotions driving me, my writing quickly gained the same momentum as my practice. It shared the same urgency, and I wrote in the same way, as if I were desperate for air.
Like the breath, the words also drew something in and let something out, and that made it easier to breathe, too. The words were as healing as the practice. In them I sensed the same flow of energy, and very quickly they worked the same magic. Each story released a little bit of agony, and that was a good thing. It’s why I had to write them down, as soon as they came up.
So, really, it’s the poses that help reveal our stories. Like positions of recognition, each one shows us who we are. We twist and we turn and we stand on our hands, and somehow the shapes undo our traffic jams.
The poses release our karma, or what some might call our agony, and that clears the way for a smooth flow of energy. Like the words of a story, the poses synchronize our bodies, minds and spirits, and that’s how we really heal. Because when we are aligned like this, there is a clarity in how we see ourselves, all that’s good and all that’s not. And this is how things start to make sense. It’s what makes it possible for us to connect the dots, so that we can tell our own stories, if not to others, then at the very least to ourselves.
Before yoga, it had been quite some time since I was properly aligned. But the practice has worked. It’s connected me with myself and with others who also do their best to see, one of whom happens to be a master of astrology.
I’ve met him a few times. He is an author, too, and his writings connect the dots of all mankind, all the way back to ancient times. With stories based on the galaxy, he’s told me the story of me, which of course includes a little bit of agony.
At the end of our most recent session, he pulled a deck of Tarot cards from a blue velvet pouch and spread them face down across the table.
“Close your eyes and see yourself,” he said. “And now pick a card.”
I closed my eyes and looked inside to all that I have synchronized. And then I selected a card and handed it to him.
“This is you!” he exclaimed, and he showed it to me. “It’s the card of the High Priestess!”
I looked hard at the card. On it was an image of a woman, seated in Lotus pose with a scroll across her lap. She was a yogi and a writer. He said that she was royalty. He said that she was me!
And then he sat back in his chair and looked at me, proudly and expectantly.
“It’s time you saw inside,” he said, “to what it is that I can see.”
And then he simply shrugged his shoulders, because it’s up to me to be the story of my own discovery.