Outside to Inside
By Katie Plumb, August, 2019
When I first started my yoga practice with Yoga Shanti in October 2005, I was completely driven by the outside world. I gave you authority over my life. I adjusted what I did or said based on what I thought you wanted. If you needed me or wanted me for some role I acted according to your wishes. I had little sense of myself or my needs.
In fact, the first time I ever heard the words “I need” was when I was 29 up at the University of New Hampshire finishing an aborted college career. I never knew I could say those words. My sense of self and my sense of self-worth were dictated by how your needing me could fill the hole inside me. Being bulimic for 20 years, my mind and body were divorced from each other. My various addictions to people, places and things were also an attempt to fill up what was a cavernous space inside me.
As my yoga practice slowly grew, that mind-set gradually altered. I began to shrink from extending myself outwardly and started to recognize that my anchor lay inside. When I first started my practice, I used my neck and my lower back but had not an ounce of awareness in between. My core was likewise asleep and naturally, as a consequence of over working one or two parts and not utilizing my whole body, I hurt myself.
I cannot say which came first, the shifting of my mental attention and authority from being outwardly directed to being more inwardly driven, or my body becoming stronger and more whole; and maybe it does not matter. The body-mind connection is visceral for me. I certainly feel the consequences of a sustained yoga practice, where I can almost feel my bones and can operate from a sense of self that is new to me. I have taken back authority from outside myself to inside myself.
This is most keenly felt in my pranayama practice where through the breath, it is as though the outer world and my inner world merge. I feel my body disappear, and I am not doing the breathing but am “being breathed” as Richard Rosen would say.
Feeling that wonderful sense of peace that comes from really living in the ‘Now”, as Eckert Tolle would say, I no longer fear anything that might be coming towards me out of the future. There is an ability to be direct and speak my truth, without anxiety about a reaction from others. I am learning to be more compassionate towards myself and others and less judgmental. I might be direct, but I am trying not to be harsh. I have begun to solve the mystery of self and yet conclude that what “the self” actually is, is also a mystery.