THE BLOG OF
DR. JOSH C. SIMMONS
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DISCOVERING NEW MODES OF BEING AT AGE 32

11 MIN READ

“What fires together wires together” and I had done enough dysfunctional firing together in my youth to have pretty well wired up modes of being in the world.

At 32 I found yoga and those wirings changed. Yoga nourished my body. This nourishment awoke three qualities in me that had long become dormant and atrophied: sensitivity, dignity, and beauty.

Beginning

Yoga came back into my life serendipitously. I had done the odd class or two before but I was always competitive, forcing my body into the poses to do it “right”.

A friend suggested Yin - a very slowly moving and in a way, precise form of yoga. Yin changed my life.

Sensitivity

The author and physician Gabor Mate has an analogy for how we sometimes process trauma. Trauma opens a wound within us. This wound is like a physical wound, in that when it heals it is replaced by scar tissue. Scar tissue holds the skin and organs together, but it is thick and lacks sensitivity. We turn off feeling in certain areas when we experience trauma.

Sensitivity was the prerequisite quality that yoga gave me to move deeper into my journey back to my body. You need to be able to sense something for it to exist (if a tree falls in the woods, etc…) and there were plenty of parts of my feeling body I could not sense prior to yoga.

It was not a linear journey and it was clumsy. In this domain I was a baby learning to take his first steps. I had compassion for the process, but refinement would take time. This took many forms. I would feel an inexplicable sense of spaciousness in cobbler’s pose some days. In other sessions I would sob in forward fold for what felt like forever. I would have thought these things silly just months prior but the truth in those feelings was undeniable, I still struggle to use language to explain these experiences but they are as real as the ground beneath me.

Dignity

It’s incredibly strange to feel new things at age 32. Your experiential world is well-codified at this point.

It began when I would rise up steadily into warrior one - some kind of stable and righteous sensation. I am thousands of feet tall, joining together the heavens and the earth with my body. I am statuesque. I am powerful and I am deploying that power mindfully and compassionately to the necessary areas of my body. I am pure. I embody the part of me that cannot be harmed by the world, the part of me that glorifies God.

This, sensation is what I associate with the word "dignity".

Beauty

The culture tells me that I am expendable like a machine part. If I fail, I will simply be swapped out with “another one”.

The culture tells me that masculinity is harmful and should be suppressed and denied.

The culture tells me that feeling my feelings is “gay” as if that’s an insult in the first place.

The culture tells me that I can’t be abused because my genitalia makes me an oppressor.

The culture tells me that I can’t be raped.

The culture tells me that I must prove my worth through money and performance.

The culture tells me that Rebel Wilson is beautiful but I must look like Chris Evans who, by the way, got that body naturally, what is my excuse?

Yoga taught me that the culture is living in a false reality. When I am in a headstand or crow pose, time stops and I know that I am beautiful because I can feel it in my body. When my breath moves me between cat and cow the motion is poetry. It’s not that I’m doing it in some theoretical “perfect way” it’s that I’m doing it in the way that I’m able to in respect to my body. It is a unique expression of my essential Josh-ness. It is a balance at the nexus of respect for my body, growth, and awareness. Not inherently better or worse than anyone else’s, but perfect and beautiful in its own regard.

Off the mat.

More and more I see these qualities happening during my day off the mat.

I can sense when I’m overworking and respect myself enough to take the break I need. I have put my body’s needs over the expectations people have of me — I hope they align but I know deeply that I wont be betraying my body anymore.

I feel dignified when I refuse to eat seed oil laden bullshit food. I feel dignified when I consciously choose to make an occasional exception (I will always eat the Biscoff cookie offered on the airplane). I now know that an occasional exception actually keeps me from slipping back into my perfectionism.

I feel beautiful when I put on a nice outfit I put together. The respect for my beauty overcomes the social anxiety I feel about wearing a Stetson or a loud necklace. Paradoxically I get compliments from strangers all the time on the way I dress now. A cashier at a coffeeshop recently told me that he “liked my whole thing I had going”, it made my day and I didn’t feel anxious about being noticed.

The most profound experience I’ve been having in the background of all of these new feelings is that I feel like I’m showing up for myself. Most days I don’t feel guilty about feeling good. I feel like I deserve it. I feel like everybody deserves to feel this way. I am grateful.

Preach

I still suffer but there's more ease in my life now. I have this joyful desire to try and share this ease, this way of being. I don't know the best way to do it. Undoubtedly your "yoga" will be subtly or distinctly different than mine, maybe it won't even involve asana practice.

All I know is that I see these patterns everywhere now and I don't think it's just the "law of the instrument". I see workaholism, addiction to alcohol and drugs, anger, vicious competitiveness and inexplicably arising physical ailments. I see what seems opposite but is not: individuals championing lofty social causes despite not addressing the demons in their own house. I see individuals denying their own needs to appear saintly, wise, "manly", hardworking, etc. I can't know what causes forced these ends, but I have to wonder if the path to healing might begin with practicing feeling the body.

I end this essay knowing that I have gone against my "no more long essays dictum" and with a poem by Charles Bukowski that I feel is relevant.

Let It Enfold You

by Charles Bukowski

Either peace or happiness,

let it enfold you

when I was a young man

I felt these things were

dumb, unsophisticated.

I had bad blood, a twisted

mind, a precarious

upbringing.

I was hard as granite, I

leered at the

sun.

I trusted no man and

especially no

woman.

I was living a hell in

small rooms, I broke

things, smashed things,

walked through glass,

cursed.

I challenged everything,

was continually being

evicted, jailed, in and

out of fights, in and out

of my mind.

women were something

to screw and rail

at, I had no male

friends,

I changed jobs and

cities, I hated holidays,

babies, history,

newspapers, museums,

grandmothers,

marriage, movies,

spiders, garbagemen,

english accents,spain,

france,italy,walnuts and

the color

orange.

algebra angred me,

opera sickened me,

charlie chaplin was a

fake

and flowers were for

pansies.

peace and happiness to me

were signs of

inferiority,

tenants of the weak

and

addled

mind.

but as I went on with

my alley fights,

my suicidal years,

my passage through

any number of

women-it gradually

began to occur to

me

that I wasn't different

from the

others, I was the same,

they were all fulsome

with hatred,

glossed over with petty

grievances,

the men I fought in

alleys had hearts of stone.

everybody was nudging,

inching, cheating for

some insignificant

advantage,

the lie was the

weapon and the

plot was

empty,

darkness was the

dictator.

cautiously, I allowed

myself to feel good

at times.

I found moments of

peace in cheap

rooms

just staring at the

knobs of some

dresser

or listening to the

rain in the

dark.

the less I needed

the better I

felt.

maybe the other life had worn me

down.

I no longer found

glamour

in topping somebody

in conversation.

or in mounting the

body of some poor

drunken female

whose life had

slipped away into

sorrow.

I could never accept

life as it was,

i could never gobble

down all its

poisons

but there were parts,

tenuous magic parts

open for the

asking.

I re formulated

I don't know when,

date, time, all

that

but the change

occurred.

something in me

relaxed, smoothed

out.

i no longer had to

prove that I was a

man,

I didn't have to prove

anything.

I began to see things:

coffee cups lined up

behind a counter in a

cafe.

or a dog walking along

a sidewalk.

or the way the mouse

on my dresser top

stopped there

with its body,

its ears,

its nose,

it was fixed,

a bit of life

caught within itself

and its eyes looked

at me

and they were

beautiful.

then- it was

gone.

I began to feel good,

I began to feel good

in the worst situations

and there were plenty

of those.

like say, the boss

behind his desk,

he is going to have

to fire me.

I've missed too many

days.

he is dressed in a

suit, necktie, glasses,

he says, 'I am going

to have to let you go'

'it's all right' I tell

him.

He must do what he

must do, he has a

wife, a house, children,

expenses, most probably

a girlfriend.

I am sorry for him

he is caught.

I walk onto the blazing

sunshine.

the whole day is

mine

temporarily,

anyhow.

(the whole world is at the

throat of the world,

everybody feels angry,

short-changed, cheated,

everybody is despondent,

disillusioned)

I welcomed shots of

peace, tattered shards of

happiness.

I embraced that stuff

like the hottest number,

like high heels, breasts,

singing,the

works.

(don't get me wrong,

there is such a thing as cockeyed optimism

that overlooks all

basic problems just for

the sake of

itself-

this is a shield and a

sickness.)

The knife got near my

throat again,

I almost turned on the

gas

again

but when the good

moments arrived

again

I didn't fight them off

like an alley

adversary.

I let them take me,

I luxuriated in them,

I made them welcome

home.

I even looked into

the mirror

once having thought

myself to be

ugly,

I now liked what

I saw, almost

handsome, yes,

a bit ripped and

ragged,

scares, lumps,

odd turns,

but all in all,

not too bad,

almost handsome,

better at least than

some of those movie

star faces

like the cheeks of

a baby's

butt.

and finally I discovered

real feelings of

others,

unheralded,

like lately,

like this morning,

as I was leaving,

for the track,

i saw my wife in bed,

just the

shape of

her head there

(not forgetting

centuries of the living

and the dead and

the dying,

the pyramids,

Mozart dead

but his music still

there in the

room, weeds growing,

the earth turning,

the tote board waiting for

me)

I saw the shape of my

wife's head,

she so still,

I ached for her life,

just being there

under the

covers.

I kissed her in the

forehead,

got down the stairway,

got outside,

got into my marvelous

car,

fixed the seatbelt,

backed out the

drive.

feeling warm to

the fingertips,

down to my

foot on the gas

pedal,

I entered the world

once

more,

drove down the

hill

past the houses

full and empty

of

people,

I saw the mailman,

honked,

he waved

back

at me.

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