by: Jenna Hills, Baptiste Foundation Executive Board Member
“If you never quit, you cannot fail.” Baron Baptiste
To all the Parents and Educators who would do anything to quell the restlessness inside, and have no where to go, I know that pain. For those of you who are at home facing yourselves in ways that you’d honestly rather avoid by busy-ness, running, numbing, going, doing or fixing, I know that pain. For those of you who may have longed for this sanctioned stillness and yet in reality, it is deeply uncomfortable, I know that pain too.
Three years ago today I had my last drink of alcohol. After 20 years of trying to moderate and a solid year of throwing the kitchen sink at it, it worked. There was nothing interesting about my final day. It came after so much work and the clarity that nothing about drinking served me anymore. With three little kids and all the thinking-about-drinking, there was no time for all the gripping and griping. The jig was up.
Anyone who repeats behaviors that they don’t want to be doing knows what I mean when I say it’s a certain type of death. If I am not growing, I am dying. And drinking was killing me. Quitting was the easy part. Most people I know who deal with addiction quit daily. And then we’d quit on quitting when we’d reach for that thing we said we’d never do again. With all that quitting came the experience of failure, punishment, and shame. It was exhausting. I longed for a way out. When I came across the HOMEpodcast it reframed the whole thing. What if I cultivated a life that didn’t require wanting to reach for booze ever again? And what if that part of me that kept starting over was my resolution and worth something? It was an awakening. Like, wait a minute! I’m not quitting anything! I’m never going to quit on my life, my integrity, my growth, my awareness, and this precious life!
It took a lot of falling and getting up to see that I was avoiding the thing that could end the cycle: I had to walk down a brand new path. I had to learn how to stay.
My early days of sobriety felt a lot like these times of social distancing. In fact, social distancing became necessary for me as I began to navigate a new-normal as a person who doesn’t drink. It’s pretty subversive to not drink, and from where I was standing, it was downright radical. It was a dark and beautiful time of solitude and I didn’t know it then, but I was going through a transformation. It was thanks to people living where I am now, years into their journey who said, “This is IT, this is the work, and I promise, it is worth it.” that had me keep it up. I put a whole lot of faith in their words WAY before I experienced it for myself.
I see now that I related to pain as bad, as something to remove or avoid. These days I really welcome pain as a simple communication. I listen carefully for what it’s letting me know. And that’s what this practice we call the Baptiste Methodology has given me. So, if you are in the throws of facing yourself full-on, in the pain of waking up to your glorious life, and having no proof that this is worth it — and though, you get that your whole life is at stake, because it is — I’m here to say: You are doing it. This is IT. You are incredible. Keep on going. It is worth it.
Six weeks after that last drink, I was confronted with an invitation to my dear friend’s surprise 40th birthday party. It was a weekend destination event on beautiful Vancouver Island, British Columbia. It would be a reunion of sorts, a chance to be together and a wicked good time. And I absolutely, most definitely couldn’t go. If I went, I would absolutely, most definitely want to party, and I absolutely, most definitely did not want to party.
I was livid.
A couple of months prior, I had completed Baptiste Institute’s Level One: Journey Into Power, a transformational weeklong immersive training - the best on the planet - and consequently, I had a whole new set of tools for exactly this sort of predicament. Here is a simple tale of how exactly those tools served me at a time I needed them. Please trust me when I say that being at home, distanced from my social life, and being in solitude were the perfect conditions for this particular work. You might be ready too.
First of all, I felt that anger. Like, really, really felt it. In my bones, my nerves, my skin, my lungs. I put all those Level One masterclasses into practice and got so in my body that I was able to un-numb and FEEL. I put aside all the chatter about ‘why so mad?’, and ‘what’s happening?’, and ‘what am I going to do?’ and instead just FELT mad. I didn’t rationalize or analyze. It was like being in crescent lunge and resisting the overwhelming urge to drop into child pose. Instead, I held the pose through all the discomfort and let all the emotion come up as a physical experience.
It’s a good thing I was alone during that time. I stomped around. Screamed into pillows. Dropped to my knees and cried. I would have barked at anyone who came near me. I was dramatic and ridiculous and without any of that judgment, I was also being authentic. It’s actually how I felt. Like them or not, I accepted my feelings. Something I’d had very little practice at doing. It hurt and I felt it anyways. It may have taken a couple of hours or a couple of days, I don’t remember. What I do remember is I let it all come up so I could let it all go. Like waves. No resisting. I got what it means to get empty. And then it was over. I wasn’t angry anymore. I was on the other side and I was ok. I held crescent lunge without dropping into childs pose. I got access to the possibility that I’m stronger than I think. Literally.
Next came the inquiry. And by inquiry, I mean, ‘the commitment to no answer’. The journey from question to question until there’s a discovery that causes a whole new way of being and acting. Spent and calm, I took a good look at what was going on in my mind. What did I believe to be true? One of the promises of Baptiste Yoga is access to new pathways. Here is the actual fork-in-the-road that presented itself through a set of self-inquiry question I participant in. It went like this:
Q: Ok Jenna, what had you so wanting to go to that party? I mean, it’s just a party. What was all that upset about? Really, truly?
A: Well…I want to be able to show up. I want to be someone who can be there with my people at important moments of their lives. I want to be able to be counted on. I want to be free like that.
Q: Good. Now what is it about being at the party that means you are showing up? What exactly would that look like?
A: Let’s see…I’d get to be with my buddy and share who he’s been for me, and how much I love him, and how awesome he is, and have that moment together. I’d get to connect and play and say all the things I want to say. Celebrate us.
Q: Right. Ok. Got it. And what makes that something that requires you to be at his party? What has the party be the conditions for that to occur?
A: … BOOM.
And there is was. The new pathway. It seems silly now, but I had collapsed ‘drinking with my buddy’ as the only access to deep and meaningful connection. I couldn’t get to the phone quick enough. I called him up, nearly ruined his surprise and told him exactly what I would have said at 1am on his birthday. Except it wasn’t 1am in a future date and I didn’t need particular conditions to share and connect. And even better, I was clear and open and available now. And so was he. It was awesome. I was free.
I missed the party, didn’t care a bit, and the next month his family came and stayed with mine for the weekend to celebrate my birthday. We stayed up late talking into the night. I didn’t drink, everyone else did, and we all had a wonderful time.
During those months of ‘social distancing’ three years ago there were many tales of facing and accepting the truth that resulted in little miracles like this. As painful and lonely as many of them were, I cherish them now.
I have no doubt that many of us are being confronted by, and are using this global pandemic as an opportunity to wake up. I stand with you being a great co-creator of your own life. Let us continue to thaw out and give up the shackles that keep us blind to our potential, keep us out of alignment to our own true north, and ultimately keep us from one other.
My overall lesson is one of learning how to stay. Stay in my body as the place where reality is experienced. Stay in the present moment with whatever shows up. Stay with what is true and real right here and right now. Stand on my own two feet and be with you no matter what.