Taking The Time to Ask Myself What I WantBY CARLA
My husband, Richard, had moved out of the house, and I was still doing his laundry. I had just carried a box of clean clothes down the street to him and walked home in the rain. My housemate greeted me at the door, eyes blazing with rage. She had a diagnosis of borderline personality disorder. I stood in the hallway, dripping with rain, “How dare you have any contact with that man!” she raged. I completely lost it and ended up on the kitchen floor in the fetal position.
Soon after this incident, I realized that even though I was a capable woman with a good job, friends, and a house of my own, my life was a wreck. I was caring for my mother, who had Alzheimer's, and I was stuck living with an unbalanced woman while I went through a painful separation from my husband. I was exhausted.
In a moment of clarity, I saw that my pattern of caretaking, along with not paying attention to my own needs, would not serve me any longer. I also saw that because I had created the situation, I had the power to untangle the mess and create something different in the future. I just had to figure out how.
I started actively looking for ways to understand myself better, including therapy, but nothing clicked. Richard urged me to try OM. “It seems to me you don't have confidence in yourself,” he said. “I think this will help you develop confidence.” At first I was resistant because I had just read a negative article about the practice, which said the opposite of what I soon discovered. But I trusted Richard, so I agreed to try it.
I met several women who OMed regularly and understood what he was talking about. I could feel their confidence because I sensed them as fully grounded in their bodies. There was a gravity to the way they walked, the way they held themselves. I had spent most of my life ignoring my body to the point of going to work with a 104-degree fever and a kidney infection. The confidence of these women, so solidly in their bodies, attracted me. I sensed they had something I'd been trying to touch within myself. It was a never-look-back kind of moment.
My first OM was with Richard, right after we'd been arguing. I was very much in my head, and the process felt awkward, without a lot of sensation. For my next OM, I wanted to OM with someone besides my estranged husband. While I was looking for someone to OM with who lived near me, I was introduced to a man who had been OMing for four years. We spoke beforehand and hit it off. I could feel his dedication to the OM container as he told me about himself and his practice over the phone. I asked him to OM, he said yes, and then we scheduled the time and place.
When that day arrived, I took off my pants, I got in the nest, we had an OM, and then we said goodbye. It was a mind-blowing experience. During the OM, I really dropped into my body. At times I felt buzzing throughout my pelvic region. I felt safe to fully experience the sensations. It could have been easy to wonder what might happen. What if I get sexually turned on by this person? What is that going to mean to him? What am I going to have to do? None of that worried me. In a situation that would ordinarily not seem safe, I had a sense of total safety. I felt held by this person, by a man, no less. I saw how the men in the practice got something out of holding that space for women, holding the container of OM. And there was no requirement for me to give to him or take care of him. He and I are still good friends today.
Over the next few years, I went through periods where I was OMing daily, sometimes a few times a day. One day I did four OMs in a row and then I felt dizzy and nauseous for a couple of hours afterwards. It helped me realize that such a fast pace was not where my body wanted to be.
In the process, I also noticed that most of my life revolved around rushing. I continually put myself in situations where I had to go fast, or where I was subjected to intense sensations, as a way to avoid my feelings. This understanding didn't come all at once. The day I went and bought a car on my 45-minute lunch break, I ended up having an accident. That was the moment when I recognized that rushing was an addiction. I was afraid if I slowed down, I would fall into the heavy depressive state that I sometimes fell into and had trouble climbing out of. But in fact, when I got to the tail end of one of those periods of rushing, I hit a wall of exhaustion and had to stop. That was where the depression came from.
A slower pace gave me time to contemplate and reflect. I came to accept that I am an introvert. Some people see my quietness as being dark or weird. Once somebody walked up to me at a party and asked, “What do you think happens when you die?” I was thrilled he was asking me such a deep question. That's where I feel most alive, in the quiet depths. OM helped me accept myself exactly as I am.
For the last five years of my career in the public school system, I worked as a literacy specialist. I have also been a longtime mindfulness practitioner, certified to teach mindfulness. Whenever I tried to get the school district to offer mindfulness training to the staff and students, my boss put me off. I credit OM with making me more comfortable speaking my truth and asking for what I want. I finally made an appointment with the superintendent to discuss my proposal. A year before I retired, the entire school district adopted mindfulness training. It brought me so much joy to create this change, instead of resigning myself to stay in my lane and just do my thing. I really have acquired more courage and confidence.
I've also learned to make a lot of decisions based on what I feel in my body, from deciding what to eat to decorating my house. I've been getting the floors done and slowly furnishing my home with pieces I really like, consulting my body as I make my choices. In the past I would have been bothered by the house looking empty, so I'd go buy cheap furniture to fill it up. Taking the time to ask myself what I want, and honor that, is a new place for me.