Letting Go of Co-dependency
March 8th was an emotional day; in fact, the past week had been a bit of an emotional roller coaster. Learning how to be with all of it, instead of resist it, is part of the journey. I’ve been reflecting a lot upon aparigraha recently, the principle of non-attachment, which falls under the category of the Yamas; a limb of Yoga.
There are a total of Eight Limbs of Yoga: Yamas (ethical disciplines), Niyamas (rules of conduct that apply to the individual discipline), Asana (postures), Pranayama (extension and control of the breath), Pratyahara (shift toward inner awareness), Dharana (concentration of the mind), Dhyana (meditation), and Samadhi (enlightenment). The Yamas, are the ethical principles which “(transcend) greed, country, age and time”(Iyengar, B.K.S. Light On Yoga. George Allen & Unwin (Publishers) Ltd, 1976, 31). There are a total of 5: ahimsa (non-violence), satya (truth), asteya (non-stealing), brahmacharya (continence) and aparigraha (non-attachment/non-coveting). All are important aspects of spiritual growth.
I have been working specifically with this principle of aparigraha for about a year now. Step by step I’ve learned to let go and release my attachment to various forms of material existence: outcomes, relationships, feelings/emotions, objects (clothing, furniture, jewelry ect.), animals and food. Discerning and identifying emotional attachments on many levels has been eye opening. What became remarkably clear in 2017 was how co-dependent my behavior patterns were. I was almost constantly seeking external means to soothe and comfort, particularly when it was time to sit with the most challenging and uncomfortable emotions. The year began with settling in to a new city, 2 weeks after completing a 200hr Hatha yoga teacher training, 30 days after resigning as a PA and 10 days after a dramatic break up with a narcissist. I had much to digest, on many levels, and was exhausted. I slept a lot that first month.
Then I began to explore various ways to let go, and through this process discovered that a gentle, compassionate approach with myself was needed after barreling in too deep. There was a 2-3 week span in which I danced 4 or 5 times, attended 2 to 3 yoga classes/week, tried pranic healing, participated in a shamanic healing sound journey that was very intense emotionally and tried EFT (emotional freedom tapping). It makes me cringe to think about it now because the end result of all that found me exhausted and wide-eyed; like a deer in headlights. I was not yet aware of how much trauma I had experienced in my life other than the abundance of physical injuries I had sustained over the years mostly while playing soccer. The most traumatic were ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) ruptures twice in my right knee requiring surgery as well as extensive rehabilitation, and a transverse arch fracture in my right hand (dominant hand) with a capsule tear requiring a cast for 6 weeks and occupational therapy. I was unaware of the emotional trauma.
Enter Denver, Colorado and the Trauma Informed Yoga Therapy (TIYT) intensive training (65 hours) I had signed up for 6 months before. For the first time in my life, I recognized how traumatized I was on many levels. Part of me was in denial, but the evidence was in front of me, and having practiced as much self-study as I had, I couldn’t ignore it. When I first learned of Stephen Porge’s Polyvagal Nerve Theory (PVT), I remember thinking: wow, I’ve experienced fight/flight and freeze/fold most of my life over and over and over. Stage fright while dancing at 4 years old; folding up in the corner of my parents’ living room with my cat when my mom dropped and had a seizure in front of me when I was 12; the numbness I felt for weeks after my grandmother died when I was 14; all the times I was sexually molested in college and couldn’t speak up, and many others. As I was still playing out my full throttle mode, I went to Sedona, AZ for the annual yoga conference 10 days after I returned from the TIYT training. I spent 5 days in the vortexes releasing emotions, behavior and thought patterns that no longer served. It was an amazing, amazing experience. It was there that I first learned of Ayurvedic psychology – it was so simple, and drastically changed my interpersonal relationships moving forward. Essentially the concept is, to surround yourself with balanced people if you want to feel balanced.
But I digress from my main point. I developed an awareness of how co-dependent I was as a result of these traumas, not yet aware of what the core trauma was. Once awareness is present, then the practice moves forward and healing occurs. Now aware, and knowing how to self-regulate, I was able to begin detaching from all of the things I sought externally. Honestly, I feel that I began that practice when I moved to TX and had to leave most of my belongings behind; either giving them away or donating them because they didn’t fit in my car with my 2 cats and I. Those items never got fully replaced because I have a tendency towards extremes, and I enjoyed the lack of clutter immensely as it freed my mind in many ways.
So gone were most of my personal belongings. I started re-evaluating my relationships and whom I surrounded myself with. I spent a lot of time alone, at Barton Springs with the trees and the earth. Rest was calling still. I began my Reiki attunements in April. I continued to practice letting go; it was becoming easier. The more I practiced loving myself, the more progress I made with letting go. But I struggled to remain grounded and embodied. In May, I went on a 10 day Yoga retreat on Moloka'i, an island in the center of Hawaii. Moloka'i is a special place, guarded by native Shamans for thousands of years. It was one of the most profound experiences in my life; truly She showed me how I am capable of serving others in a big way. I played, a lot. I found my inner bliss that I didn’t even know existed. When I came home I completed my Master level Reiki attunement. Three weeks later I completed my first Vedic Thai Assisted Yoga Training and felt like I’d come home to myself.
I had found my dharma, and in speaking with my new teacher, became aware of the emotional abuse I had allowed in my life because of the co-dependency. The training was quite transformational, in the gentlest way possible. Unlike other methods I had tried, with Vedic Thai Assisted Yoga I needed extra sleep for a few days and then felt fantastic! And in creating that space for joy, I was able to continue to self-transform and heal. Wow! I was so excited to share this with others, and how perfect that it was a medical folk art emphasizing compassion when my passion was and is to bring compassion into medicine. I was inspired to start reading the Bhagavad Gita; this too was transformational. I developed increasing awareness to the areas where I had struggled and allowed for unnecessary suffering; illusions I had created and false beliefs. Vital to this self-transformation was the amazing support I had from my closest friends who were there to support me when I faltered. It was this unending support and presence that kept me going. So, I say thank you, because without you I may have given up.
To be continued next week…