On one of the last days of my recent Portland yoga immersion trainings, we had a special water ceremony where we all wrote and spoke aloud our personal vows to the group.
The day started by discussing shadow work. We did this a lot – and I had heard of shadow work before, but I had never really dove into it head first. Although I’m sure we still skimmed the surface, we were given a brief introduction, given some prompts, and then told to go off and write for about an hour.
The theory is this: everyone has core wounds. Everyone has trauma or hurt that they’ve carried with them, from childhood or young adulthood or otherwise. No one gets to be an adult without being unscathed. Some of us have very serious trauma, and others might have something that seems less important – but we all have at least one thing in our past that has created fear, cultivated judgment, and dimmed the light of our spirit.
In this shadow work exercise, we were asked to write our story – to write our core wounds. Thankfully, although I’d not participated in shadow work before, I was very familiar with my core wounds due to Hala Khouri’s trauma training last year. So writing my story was the easiest part. I spent the better part of a year processing and internalizing and going over all of the aspects of my story and realized where I was being dramatic and where I was validated in my thoughts.
We were also asked to write how we came to yoga, how yoga has helped you in healing, and how we choose to serve.
The point of all of this is that – however we choose to serve is usually a direct result of the core wounds we’ve experienced. Understanding all of this is key to understanding our triggers, current and future, and to overcome them on a deeper level so that we can serve completely, in parts of our lives that might otherwise trigger us.
The biggest way I choose to serve is by re-introducing people to their emotions. I was shut off from them for so long, and learning how to feel again has been the greatest gift of my life. Instead of shoving down hurt and anger, I release it through movement, in a safe space. I stick up for myself and confront whatever or whoever is causing this hurt and anger. And as a result, it moves through me rather than grips me. As a result, I feel hurt and anger – but I also feel joy. And happiness. And I see beauty. Welcome to being human.
I’d also like to bring community to this. Feeling feelings is important, but even more important is allowing others to witness those feelings in a non-judgmental, safe space. When we can be angry and sad and devastated and enraged and joyous and have that witnessed without any reaction – this is the greatest gift. It’s the gift of pure acceptance. It’s the gift that says, “Hey, I see that you’re human. I am human, too. Thank you for sharing all of you with me.”
After all of this work, we were supposed to write a vow to then share with the group. Having others witness this was powerful. We performed this beautiful water ceremony, and while Masood played the hang drum, we sang during the rituals and stopped to listen to each sister and brother as they made their vows in front of the group.
My vow is as follows:
I vow to act as a living, embodied example of my yoga, to hold space and withdraw judgment for the healing processes of others, to bring community and service even when I don’t feel like it, and to carry the earth, the wind, and the divine with me always in my heart.
This was a very beautiful way to end our last full day together, and I now have one sentence that defines in it the totality of my goals.
I will be using this vow to guide my 2017, to guide each event I plan, each class I teach, each decision I make.
Perhaps this year, instead of a resolution, you write a vow for how you intend to live out each moment of 2017. If you write one – please share in the comments so we can all learn from your genius. I’d love to hear what you come up with.