Trust Yourself: Yoga and Death on a Caribbean Island
It was a very mixed, all levels yoga class. Older people, younger people. Flexible people. People with injuries. All different body types. Everyone with some previous yoga experience – whatever that means.
As we started I began looking for that sweet spot- that point where everyone is flowing together. Everyone finding something that fits them.
We slowly made our way off the floor, moving from breath work and joint warm-ups into a more active, flowing practice… and it started to happen. That feeling so many who practice yoga have felt, the behavior most of us have elicited, and the actions so many teachers have witnessed…that ‘Am I doing this right?’ look as students started to glance around the room. The shifting in focus from what one feels, to what one thinks they are or aren’t doing ‘right’.
I watched the looks. It was as if ‘Am I making the same shape as everyone else? Oh, she is so flexible, I must be doing this wrong,’ was written in bold black Sharpie on everyone’s forehead.
I watched as so many began to lose their focus. Shifting from a place of knowing and feeling to a place of thinking. Gauging their experience and their intrinsic knowledge of their own bodies against a group of random strangers.
In that moment, out of my mouth came, ‘Trust that you know what you are doing…on and off the mat.’
As the words landed boldly, and not exactly gracefully, my own surprise was noticeable in my quick to follow laugh. A laugh of knowing, of seeing and feeling connections.
The day before I had been caught in a situation of a drowning victim.* Before I knew it, it was me leading the CPR process, knowing we were possibly too late. Me directing roles, reassuring everyone that what they were doing was exactly what they needed to be doing. Me hearing that medics weren’t coming. Me knowing that meant it was up to me, and whoever I called upon, to make a final call on life and death.
It was also me who would later research CPR best practices – and have to reassess and re-analyze the differences between my training for most common emergencies versus the situation I was presented with. It was me who would fight out the crazy town in my head having to come to terms with what I did and didn’t ‘know’.**
After the incident, I found myself in a position of supporting many of those who had witnessed it. People coming to me, asking if I was OK, then breaking down in front of me. I found myself describing my own world view. Repeatedly saying something along the lines of ‘Everything is right. All of us were supposed to be there to experience and participate in this. Our job was to show up. To be present. Maybe our job wasn’t to ‘save’ this person today. Sometimes the souls have a different plan. Let’s use this as a reminder of how short this life is and ask if we are living it consciously, doing what we are supposed to be doing with our energy.’
That evening my mind and soul were processing the details. I was feeling the inadequacy, the space between what we are often prepared for versus what we have to do. I was seeing everyone else’s perspective. The bazillion ‘what if’s.’ I couldn’t feel my own world view.
That following morning as those words so thoughtlessly flowed out of me, I knew they were meant for me just as much as the mixed group on the mats.
Right, wrong, training, best practices, over-thinking, wondering if what you know is actually adequate, is a real experience many of us have frequently. How many of us don’t do something, try something, or help someone or something, for fear of it not being ‘right’ or because we know we will be judged by someone else?
What would it feel like to trust that each of us really are in the right places, at the right time, all the time? Can we practice being OK acting with confidence, humility, and intention? Knowing that maybe our only job is to authentically show up and trust that we know what we are doing.
*Red Frog Beach has been referenced by many as a death trap. All tourists. Beautiful water. Terrible currents. No lifeguards. I will also add, mostly foreign (US) property and hotel owners who appear to be more interested in money and development than training themselves or their staff or paying for lifeguards. Learning to swim, respecting the power of mother nature, investing in more community/citizen education on basic emergency response is huge.
**Most CPR training [to my knowledge] now emphasizes compression only. For drowning victims its the opposite. Breath first. Fast. While they are still being pulled from the water if possible. No one, no one, on the beach that day who was helping knew that. Including me. If anyone did know that, they didn’t say anything…So again, so important that you trust what you know and act on it…