One Easter Sunday several years ago, while I was still working as a parish pastor, I said something during the sermon about that time when Abraham Lincoln chopped down the cherry tree.
You might be thinking – what the heck is she talking about? Abraham Lincoln chopping down a cherry tree is not a legend, a cute story, or anything – it’s nothing. I have no idea what I was thinking when that came out of my mouth. Nor do I have absolutely any idea what it might have to do with Jesus on Easter Sunday.
I didn’t even realize what a crazy-stupid thing I had said until the service was over and my Dad very quietly asked if I knew that Abraham Lincoln didn’t chop down a cherry tree. It didn’t dawn on me right away, but then I saw my deep confusion. Oooooh, lord have mercy. My cover was blown. The jig was up. Everyone finally got a glimpse of what a total sham I really am and that I have no clue what I am talking about.
This is a perfect rationale for my anxiety about talking out loud. Once I open my mouth and say what I think — you will discover that I am stupid. If you know me at all, you know that I have a tendency to talk out loud, quite a bit. I would actually consider myself a person who talks out loud professionally. Yet, even as I love to teach yoga and preach, I have this little anxiety in the back of my head that you in the back row, who appears to be thinking hard, is surely thinking; “This Rachel person is full of *it. She doesn’t know what she’s talking about.”.
Every time I write one of these blog posts and send it out into the great unknown, I fear someone will reply to it with edits of all my grammatical errors.
I’m pretty sure I don’t have a social anxiety disorder. I know we all have some fairly similar fears about putting ourselves out there; fears of rejection, failure, stupidity, inadequacy, blah-de-blah, blah.
I have a hunch that for many people showing up to a yoga class brings up a similar anxiety of self-exposure and sense of vulnerability. You feel vulnerable to everyone’s (including your own) gaze of judgment about your body, your clothes, your ignorance about yoga, your health, your age, your current life crisis, on and on.
Just like you might talk very quietly or say nothing in a class when you feel uncomfortable about being there, some people move their arms and legs just enough to be “doing” yoga, but not enough to attract any attention or take up much space. It’s like they are physically murmuring with the hope that no one will actually see them.
What makes Daily Bread Yoga classes and retreats even worse is that I ask you your name. Not only that, I ask you to say your name out loud so that everyone else in the class can see you and know your name. At retreats I even ask you to say something about yourself (in front of everyone), usually related to the topic. You hate that, I know. It’s a lot to ask of people who prefer to be completely anonymous, invisible, and simply melt unnoticed into their yoga mat for an hour or two.
I’m honestly not trying to bust you out of your shell, challenge your introverted ways, or change a single thing about you. It’s just that since you made the decision and took the risk to show up I want to know who you are. I need you to be present and not just taking up space on the floor. I want your energy, spirit, and your voice – literally & metaphorically- to be part of the class. I say at the end of every class, “know that it makes a huge difference that you are here.”. I am not trying to blow smoke up your fanny, it really does. All the ways that you are willing to put yourself out there and risk being seen and heard [or not] makes a huge difference.
The next Daily Bread Yoga retreat is called “Becoming Pro-Voice”. All that you just read is the kind of stuff we will talk about and maybe a smidge more. Showing Up. Claiming your space, without apology. Saying stupid things in public and boldly practicing yoga; inflexible-out of shape-bundle of anxiety that you are.
That glorious retreat will be next Saturday, April 11th, 9a.m.- noon at Philo Presbyterian Church, in the always lovely Philo, IL. $20 or your best offer. Registration is limited to 20 people. Register by emailing me (Rachel) at firstname.lastname@example.org. Tell me how many friends & neighbors you are bringing with you. I can’t wait to hear from you! Be sure to bring a yoga mat, a bottle of water, and clothes that are comfortable enough to move in but will neither fall down or fall over your head – cuz then you will look really stupid and everyone will laugh and point at you. I’m kidding. But, seriously.
peace on your smart and attractive head,