we were taught to forget
“The practice of yoga helps us connect with the part of ourselves
that is always virgin and untouched:
the place within us that can never be damaged.”
When I was a child, I was sure I could fly. I flew in my dreams all of the time and thought I could when I was awake too, but I somehow knew not to tell people, thinking that they might not believe me. Not surprisingly, at some point along the way of traumas coming my direction I stopped flying and even forgot that I could until, in my mid 20s, I joined a women’s spirituality group.
In this group, the high priestess would lead us on these guided visualizations where we were asked to go to a safe place as she talked us through the ritual. Most of the time I fell fast asleep during these visualizations, waking only when the leader started beckoning us back into the room. I remember worrying that people would make fun of me for missing out on the whole experience, not yet able to say that closing my eyes and letting my mind wander or settle was entirely too threatening to me, entirely unsafe. Tellingly, the times that I did stay awake, when the leader asked us to visualize a safe space, most of the women in the group went to quiet spaces in nature–the dunes in Provincetown, the Grand Canyon, a forest in Vermont. Meanwhile, I imagined myself in downtown crossing in Boston, one of the busiest urban spaces in Boston, teeming with street venders selling sausage and popcorn, business people grabbing lunch between meetings, pigeons claiming their pecking space on the cobblestones, teenagers running around enjoying a day of skipping school.
In the visualization, I sat right on a bench, absorbing the smells, rhythms, street music, that space a safe one for me since there were so many people there who could be my witness, who reminded me I was alive. I remember feeling defensive about my visualized space of choice, thinking that it revealed my jumbled, skittery consciousness. I was not defensive, however, when, about a year into our meetings, I was able to announce that I had begun flying again in my dreams. I was beginning to find powers of perception lost somewhere between daddy one and daddy two, between incest and parents’drinking, between clenching and dread. I was beginning to know where I was coming from, where I had been.
Trauma can not only make people afraid to look backward (afraid of what we might remember, feel again). It can also make looking forward seem scary too (worried that we might not have the skills, the companionship, the growth we will need in the future). This dual reality ironically keeps us perched in a limbo state disconnected from our past or future. Part of the beauty of yoga and meditation is their ability to help us bypass the tricks that our minds play on us, to get to the expanded consciousness that lived within us before damage was done. The joy of that journey is its ability to be more integrated in the present, to bring to the present the beauty we always knew about ourselves but were taught to forget.