Healing Trip #3 - Big Sky, Montana
“Its like I had to come here for it to start to heal,” I tell him, his hands on my shoulders, eyes locked on mine. “Like my heart broke into millions of tiny pieces and I had to come here for it to figure out how to mend, because as it mends its going to be bigger. And there is only enough room for it to heal so big in a place like this, with so much room.”
I paused my run-on-sentence-verbal-vomit long enough to take a half-second breath before finally asking him, “Does that make sense?”
“Yes,” he nodded, smiling.
We were standing barefooted in the center of the floor of a yoga studio, the mountains of Big Sky visible through the windows, snow softly trickling down at the same soft rate that my tears would days later on the river’s edge.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
* * *
Montana has been beckoning me for some time. For years, honestly. I never knew why, but the pull was undeniable. So when a sweet soul sister invited me to join her as she went to teach some workshops in December, I knew it was time to go.
This trip was the complete opposite of Sedona. I traveled to Sedona knowing I would be guided by my intuitive to the people I needed to find. This time, aside from attending my sister’s workshops, I had nothing on the agenda. But I knew I was meant to be there.
This terrified me. I am still getting comfortable with quiet again, and I had a feeling I had a good chunk of quiet awaiting me. In fact, I knew that was part of what this journey was about. So with that in mind, I elected to stay alone at the bottom of the mountain, rather than stay with my sisters in town.
Checking into the lodge, I knew I had made the right decision. I knew I was meant to spend time there, just me and God. But as I unpacked my books and hats and journals I was more than a little uneasy about the situation.
That’s in large part how I knew I needed it.
* * *
A dear friend and I have a theory. There are three areas one can be strong in their anana practice – balance, flexibility, and strength. For her, strength is her strong suit. Not me. I am pretty sure my biceps have a max strength capacity that is 15 times less than the average human. Those two pound weights in spin class? They school me.
I’m decent in the flexibility department. I’m not super bendy or anything, but when I am consistent in my practice, I can get pretty limber.
But my sweet spot is balance. Warrior III. Half Moon. Tree. Dancer. They are my jam. No matter how long I’ve been away from the mat.
So you can imagine my annoyance when in class last week I found myself falling out of tree pose. Repeatedly.
And then I heard that little voice whispering to me.
“Keep your eyes on your own paper.”
* * *
I’m the oldest of my siblings so it should come as no surprise that I have a competitive streak. I also have intense people-pleasing instincts and grew up believing that love and acceptance were not things freely given, but things awarded if you did enough to earn them. And I was on a mission to earn them, dang it.
One day in the fall of my second year of law school, my then-husband came home to find me crying on the couch, a pile of open envelopes strewn around me. I had been rejected from another round of big, prestigious law firms after being given first-round interviews. I was growing increasingly frustrated and rapidly approaching a level of devastation as I watched my classmates receive second-round interviews and offers for these sought-after positions.
“I don’t understand why you’re so upset,” he said after I explained what was going on. “You don’t even want to work for a big firm.”
Truth bomb right there.
The fact of the matter was that I was pursuing a Master of Public Administration alongside my law degree with plans of working in the non-profit world. I had no intention of practicing law in the first place – never mind joining a big firm.
But everyone else wanted it – which made me think I needed to want it. Even though I didn’t want it at all.
That would not be the last time I fell into this trap.
* * *
Our last day in Big Sky, my sister and I took a long, meandering walk though the snow and along the river’s edge. Growing up alongside a riverbank with a fishing pole in my hand, places like this hold a special place in my heart. So it should have come as no surprise that it is where I finally heart from God.
“Don’t you see?”
And I did.
I was in Montana to learn lessons about what my life is meant to look like in this recovery year. And going forward.
I am meant to maintain space. I was beginning to fall back into my old habit of over-scheduling. This is not what I need. If I don’t leave space, there is no room left for God to work. I need to continue to say no to the things that are not a passionate YES and even for those things – I can’t allow them to take over my world.
In this same vein, I am meant to slow down. No more rushing out the door. No more cramming 5 hours’ worth of activities into 3 hours. No more skimming over the little things like snuggling Hope or taking a hot bath in favor of getting ahead.
I am meant to spend time in the quiet. I am a student by nature – a seeker. I drink knowledge in and that can often result in my being constantly surrounded by podcasts and TED talks and documentaries. I need to reign in the noise – even the “good” noise, and sit in the quiet and just be.
And I need to simplify. In the wake of my illness clutter began to take over and it was not sitting well with my heart. God was calling me to pare down, to clear out, to lose the complications and simplify.
I am meant to live the spirit of Montana.
* * *
Here’s the thing I’ve come to learn – its infinitely more difficult to remain in a pose if you are concerned about what is going on over on the next guy’s mat than if you are keeping the focus on yourself. Last week class was filled with lots of new faces (happy new year!) and I was more interested in comparing my practice to the newcomers’ than I was with just remaining focused on myself and my own body. And the result was a mess.
I was embarrassed when I realized what I had been doing. That my focus had shifted in that way yet again. But it was a necessary reminder. A reminder to keep the focus on myself. A reminder to keep my ear to my own heart rather than my eyes on the paths others are walking. It was a reminder that no matter how different or unusual my calling may seem, it is mine and it is valid and any time I have tried to deviate from it for the sake of conformity or competition things have never gone very well.
Living the spirit of Montana would be a lot like yoga. It would require me to keep my eyes on my own mat if I was going to be able to do it.
* * *
I got back to the lodge that last evening after the long walk and God’s message. I went to adjust the thermostat found myself dumbstruck.
Because the thermostat had changed.
[I’m going to spare you my attempts at a long explanation and recommend you go google the “Mandela Effect”. Go ahead. I’ll wait.]
Like people who experience the Mandela Effect, I was seeing a thermostat that was not like the one I had been using all the days before. The numbers had changed.
I came back to the thermostat multiple times throughout the course of the night to confirm I wasn’t just seeing things.
No, I’m not kidding. Nor did I start drinking again or find myself under the influence of any unusual substances.
So what happened?
Well, I don’t know for sure. But I have a theory.
My frequency shifted again, and when it did, I altered my path. And it was a significant enough change that it was reflected in the thermostat.
* * *
Coming back from Big Sky was hard. It was nothing I expected, but everything I needed, which pretty much sums up the last two years of my life.
I want to say thank you again to everyone who has donated to make these trips possible for me. I can promise you that they are a very real reason why my disease went into remission and why it continues to stay there. With my income going to pay medical bills, this journey would not be possible without your generosity. From the bottom of my heart – thank you.
In two weeks I take off for Costa Rica for the next stop on this path. As usual, I will do my best to check in from there.