for the love of Durga

I feel full. And tired. And so immensely grateful.

I had a packed week at work, three days of yoga immersion, and another tough week of catch up afterward. Having just completed the third weekend of yoga teacher training five days ago, it feels like my yogi friends and I are in the thick of it with the learning right now. Each day is tough but emotionally fulfilling.

Each yoga teacher training weekend is physically, mentally, and emotionally demanding. It's also completely worth it. So much growth is happening for each one of us right now. It's a tall order, but I truly feel like viewing my life through the "yoga lens" - when I remember to - is helping to make me a better person. But it's really more of a "remembering" rather than a remodeling. It's who I am at my core, but am often afraid to fully let myself be.

On Friday, our first yoga asana class of the weekend, we did a partner exercise about acting from a place of love rather than apathy or overexertion. In a martial arts stance, one of us put an arm out in front of our body and the other worked to pull the arm down with their hands. The first time we practiced the arm exercise, we were supposed to be indifferent and lazy. When our partners pushed our arms down, they swung down easily to our sides. The next time we had to put all of our physical effort and anger into holding our arms parallel to the ground. It was much more difficult both to hold up the arm and for the partner to pull for to pull it down. But there was also a lot of strain. Veins were popping out of the side of my neck (attractive).

The exercise was framed with a story about the goddess Durga, who killed demons effortlessly and gracefully, fierce and badass but also completely loving in the divine. She rode into battle on her lion, battle arms overhead and fearlessly, lovingly slayed the evils of the world.

And so on the last round of the arm exercise, we were instructed to be like Durga, focusing on something each one of us undeniably loves while our partner attempted to pull down our arm.

Like when we strained with force and anger, during the last round it was also difficult to pull down the arm. But for the partner with the outstretched arm, it also felt nearly effortless. We viewed the symbol of our love off the tips of our outstretched fingers and from that we drew a different kind of strength.

As a result of teacher training - not just from that exercise but from all of our explorations - I'm trying to approach each situation from a place of ease and love rather than difficulty and control. I definitely default to trying to control my circumstances, but it's not always possible and is often frustrating. I think it's one thing to plan and accept that the unknown is likely going to shift those plans...and another thing entirely to plan and grasp onto the way things "should be" with all of your might. I'm learning. And I hope that my acceptance can come from a place of love rather than indifference or fear.

My aspirations are lofty right now. Find my voice: speak up courageously, but not forcefully. Accept rather than control, but still engage fully. Serve others without hesitation or expectation of gain. Say yes more than no. Love without fear. It's...a lot to think about all at once.

I expect this will be a lifelong process, this expansion of my heart. But it also feels like the most worthwhile pursuit there is, no matter how long it takes or even if I never reach some determined level of innate goodness (which...I don't think really exists anyway).

I'm finding that it gets significantly easier when I remember to tap into that same feeling of love from our Durga arm exercise. I can hold a yoga pose longer, hold my breath longer in pranayama exercises, connect with new friends easier. It's a constant check-in with myself of whether I act from a place of fear or of love. From difficulty or ease. Pride or purpose.

Easier said than done, but definitely worth the time spent.

Iris Rankin

Soulful questioner, exuberant organizer, here to find the balance between discipline and delicious relaxation. Iris Rankin is the founder of Project Intention, a values-based community focused on living day-to-day with purpose, planning, and heart. Iris encourages women to adopt the self care practices that make them feel divine, the planning tools to hone in on their essential wants and needs, and the emotional resilience to express their most authentic selves.



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