Last October I was in a weeklong intensive with my teacher Manouso. Each morning started with Savasana preparation for pranayama practice. The only way I can get comfortable in Savasana for the past year or so is if I use a wooden support for my back. With Earth at my back, I can access my bones and feel connected. With a soft support of a blanet or bolster the only way to describe my feeling is that is creeps me out to even consider laying down on the support. In a recent conversation with my teacher Victoria Austin, she said this is common during this phase of peri-menopause which validated my bodies instinctual wisdom.
But, during the intensive, I asked Manouso if he would address this difference between using soft supports or hard supports for Savasana and he shouted something back like “Cynthia what would you do or think if you had a student who asked you this same question? Who seems to prefer to get whacked with a piece of wood?” Some people were even shocked at this exchange as they thought he was being strong or mean but I am accustomed to this relationship with my teacher. He is not always right, but his words are always worthy of deep consideration.
Am I a masochist? Do I prefer live in pain rather than comfort? Well, yes and no. The truth is that I have realized that much of my physical pain I have in my body (especially the migraines I have) are a physical manifestation of the underlying emotional pains and traumas that I have tried to avoid most of my life. I was born with an emotionally sensitive constitution. Effortlessly able to sense and feel other's emotions sometimes better than they are. It was so natural that it wasn't until I was an adult that I realized that this wasn't everyone's experience. And, I knew this was the point that Manouso was trying to make.
So, I lay down on the soft support in Savasana. And this thought came to me, “what if I didn't have this pain?” and then I waited. Like clouds parting to expose the sun, I saw a glimpse of what some might call our true nature or natural state of being. Wow! For so long I have assumed that what I was avoiding was emotional trauma but it turns out that my ego (or ahamkara, “I-maker”) is also in on the game and fighting the good fight to stay alive.
Who am I? This is one of the primary questions that all spiritual seekers ask. But, when one really looks, all of those identities that we come up with (daughter, sister, teacher, woman, human) are transient. They will all fall away when we die and this physical body we are currently inhabiting dissolves back into nature. So once again you ask “Who am I?” and the answer is “I am nothing”.
I watched an excellent documentary on the end of Dharma teacher Ruth Denison's life recently. There was a small sign in the meditation room which said this, “We are in training to be nobody special”. I laughed with glee when I saw this in the background of a shot. The ego doesn't like this but deep in the core of my heart freedom rings.
But, in order to do so, we must be willing to jump into the abyss or stand on the razor's edge of unknowing. Letting go of everything we think we need to be or are to others and to ourselves. Stripping off our identities like layers of clothing and jumping! My friend and teacher Eda Zavala who is a curandera from Peru said this to me last time I saw her, “Remember my dear little sister, when you jump off the cliff that you can fly like an eagle.”
Identitiless, we are alone yet not lonely.