For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others
~~ Nelson Mandela
Stepping through the storm
A few days before the event, a fellow yogi sent me a text that read, “hey do you want to go to this?”. I followed the shared link to a FB post for Get Free Fest to check out the times, cost and location then I gave her a call to accept the invite.
Unbeknownst to her, I was falling down the hole of depression. The weather had just recently changed. Negative thoughts were inescapable. Though I desperately felt the need to get out of the house and shake off what I was feeling, the heaviness made me feel trapped. Trapped inside myself.
I decided to buy the tickets so I would be accountable and resist the urge to crawl back into bed and cover my head with my blanket.
Friday arrives and I decide to meet my friend at the location. It was uncharacteristically cold. The kind of weather to make you reconsider why you live in Philly. But I was determined. Slowly regaining my strength and confidence to persevere despite how my mind wanted to mislead me.
Trying New Things
So I hopped the BSL to an area of the City that I never ventured to before. I was a bit nervous yet I smiled on the inside. Transferred to the El only to learn that I was on the wrong train. Over the com, “B stops only”. I hoped my stop was B but of course it wasn’t. I jumped off the next stop and flew over the pedestrian overpass to catch the appropriate train with precision timing to right stop.
It was dark and there were the casual shouts and strange noises in the distance. I remained focused, power walking behind the only other two people on the street as if they would save me.
Finally I arrived. Walking up the few steps to lock eyes with one of the friendly organizers, Jazmyn Burton. Guided up the stairs, I met another welcoming face, Jean-Jacques Gabriel. We shared a laugh and I got settled in the appropriately warm room. The space had an open floor with staged-like seating. The lights were low and the music was comforting and the smell, calming.
You want to fly
As I waited for my friend to arrive, the organizers mustered people up and even showcased thai massage and acro yoga. After a moment, Jean-Jacques sat with me and asked “are you ready for that?” and I flatly said no. I shared with him my apprehension to do thai massage and acro yoga due to a back injury. I was genuinely terrified of acro yoga. I am not typically fearful of most things but I was not fond of relinquishing control. Jean-Jacques was kind and let me be.
Once my friend arrived we arranged our mats. After a brief chat, Jean-Jacques returned with his undeniable insistence. “You ready?” My frien
d and I just looked at each other. I decided to take him on and if I was going to fly, it would be with the best!
I felt so clueless about what to do. Jean-Jacques asked permission to use my mat and then he laid on his back with legs and arms outstretched to the air. He said, “lean onto my feet, lining up with your hips”. So sad, I didn’t even know how to do that. Before I knew it, I was holding his hands and my legs and chest were lifted to air. Pretty rocky from the start. I did not trust him fully. I only trusted myself.
We tried a few things and I was so rigid and unwilling to loosen up. He was patient with me and continued to challenge me to let go. Next thing I knew, I was in badda konasana and then going upside down and spun around. At that point, I completely surrendered. I let go. I put my trust in someone else and their talents. When I relaxed, I fully experienced what it meant to “get free”. I freed myself of what I thought the experience would be. I freed myself of thoughts of cynicism of my size and how could I possibly be supported by anyone both literally and figuratively. This experience led me to think about how I approached relationships and how I am so used to just depending on myself and never letting go for others to support me. I am guarded and it shows. Finally, I was in a back bend while his feet supported my low back. As he lowered me down to plant my feet, I was completely in awe of what I just experienced. It is a feeling that is rare to explain. In an attempt to describe this profound feeling, imagine that you built up thoughts in your mind that something was impossible and that not only did you realize you were wrong but also that you had been missing out something special and invigorating! Instead, just try it for yourself. That is the best way of knowing for sure.
Get Free Fest was perfect timing. It help me to reset my thoughts. This feeling is just the beginning, in my mind. I have things to work through. Yet I smile. Life is a process and there will be continuous moments to appreciate and, at times, analyze for growth. Everyday I learn more about myself and I am loving this evolution.
Until next time, peace, love and FLY!