When I first stepped into that incense-filled, hardwood shala, I had no idea it would be the beginning of an end.
I hate goodbyes.
The thought alone brings a wet glaze to my eyes. Goodbyes, for me, mean grief. And boy, do I have a lot of that. One of the downfalls of having way too much love to give is the grief that comes with it.
I used to believe that to love was a risky act, but I did it anyway. I loved because loving was the gift I was given and placing my whole beating heart beyond the cages of my ribs was a freeing act of surrendering to why I’m here.
I am soft and squishy and warm, and experiencing pain by living outside my shell was the risk I chose to take because it was worth it to be myself. It was worth it to crawl into the world and expose my gooey heart to the sun.
But after some time, I’d bake too long and begin to burn.
And thus, I’d return to my shell. Returning to my shell was self-love—I become most vulnerable without the quiet darkness my soft soul needs to recharge.
I sometimes forget that my love can become depleted when I constantly pour it into other people’s buckets.
Eventually, the bits of my heart I thought I was ready to give would be abused and I was left, again, with grief.
And when I walked into that shala that smelled of sandalwood and must, I had no idea the grief would return. I thought I had finally understood that loving was a safe thing to do—it was safe because I knew I’d only lose it if I lost myself.
But when I sat down on my deeply rich purple cushion in that shala, I wasn’t prepared to learn that the love I was feeding myself was holding me back.
I closed down my outer eyes and I listened. The rise and fall of my belly mirrored the ins and outs of the ocean washing onto the shore then deciding to retreat. Each inhale and exhale mirrored the dance I do so often of opening and closing my heart so regularly.
The chatter in my mind never left—that’s not what meditation is for. I became the observer of my thoughts as they flowed with the waves of my breathing.
And then, I saw her.
There she was.
My eyes were gently closed. My sit bones deeply rooted into my cushion. My breath became longer and fuller.
She was me.
She walked up closer to me and I grabbed the hand of my higher self. She was more than her beauty. Her energy was intoxicatingly rich, pure, and balanced. She was divine light. We danced effortlessly down a long, narrow, white hallway surrounded by twinkling stars until we reached the door.
I clenched her hand tighter and looked deep into her golden, brown eyes as the grief crept closer to my crown and washed over me like a torrential downpour.
My only choice was to let go. I reached for the doorknob and spun it until the door creaked open and exposed nothing but white light. I took one step forward and released my hand from hers until there was only me.
Suddenly, I found myself still standing in front of the doorknob. I was pure. I was light. I was her.
I returned to my breath. I rooted further into my cushion and my eyelids blinked open.
My heart throbbed with dread.
I stood up from my cushion, feeling entirely numb. I grabbed my purple and gold journal and walked toward the door of the shala.
I took each step down the stairs meticulously slow. I grabbed the bottom of my shirt that laid at the base of my hips and I ripped it off, exposing my breasts to the mist from the sky. I kept walking as I carefully lowered my tiny black spandex down to my ankles. There was nothing left to hide.
Naked and alone, I moved deeper into the forest with the ferns, datura flowers, and giant Koa trees that surrounded me. I felt a dark sadness, and I didn’t understand why.
I came to a stop and fell backward into a wet, beautifully green patch of ferns. I pulled out my journal and began to write until tears became sobs that blurred my ability to see the page.
My pen escaped me as the trees listened to the wails of my grief. I missed her. I missed her so f*cking much. I still miss her.
The past self I finally detached from was no longer with me, and it was gut-wrenching to say goodbye because I loved her dearly—I had given her my heart. She was keeping me safe, but her safety was keeping me small. She was the reason my growth would stagnate, but also the reason I felt so comfortable. She taught me that staying small was safe, that keeping my mouth shut was safe, that always making sure people liked me was safe.
She was toxically delicious and addicting, and that is why I held onto her for so long. She was my home.
But we all eventually outgrow our shells and have to move on. So, I sat with my grief. I still sit with my grief. Just like I grieve the other people in my life I’ve had to say goodbye to.
But we have to remember the importance of continuously choosing our higher selves—the importance of continuously choosing the path that will allow us the space to bloom. And in order to bloom, we have to be willing to potentially feel pain.
We have to be willing to let go of the beliefs, the people, and the places that no longer provide us with the stimulation we need to grow.
For me, life is a constant practice of non-attachment—a continuous remembering that what’s in front of us now may not be in front of us tomorrow, and that’s okay.
We must remember we won’t always have the people we love or the things that bring us joy, but we will always have ourselves if we choose.
We lose ourselves daily when we become codependent on things outside ourselves—relationships, jobs, alcohol. We begin to attach to the juiciness of our addictions like a tic thirsty for blood.
But I am no longer thirsty for love outside myself. I’ve said goodbye to that woman.
And though it still pains me to watch her go, I am finally freed from the inability to grow.
Keep on loving, my love,
for it is so safe to do.
Because the only way to lose it,
is if you lose you.