My experience from Baptiste Level 1: Journey Into Power | a special guest post by Justin Cook

“There is no off the mat. The mat IS your life. It’s everywhere.”  ~ Baron Baptiste

These words may be the ones that stick with me the most from my Level 1 experience in Sedona, Arizona – An experience that was one of the most impactful weeks of my life. Over the years, events had created the person I was, and when I truly got a chance to sit down and examine that, I realized that I was living a story through a filter created by someone who existed long ago. It was costing me my happiness, blunting my impact, and causing real medical issues.

I entered into the week completely exhausted, worrying about my health, and not knowing how I was going to make it through an entire week of physical power yoga practices; worryingas I always did, that something would go wrong, that I would do the wrong thing, or say the wrong thing, and that everything would implode. However, another phrase started to creep in the moment I heard it, on the evening of the first night:

“Do the thing, and you will have the power.”

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that it was exactly what I needed to hear at that exact moment. That night, I came to the realization that the more I tried to plan, and compensate, and adjust, and engineer this thing, it just wasn’t going to work.

I needed to stop thinking about doing the thing, and just do the thing! Nothing else would get me there but doing the thing!

What that looked like for me was showing up authentically and enthusiastically every day. I was early to every event, soaked it all up like it was my only shot, and tried to give every single ounce of energy I had to those around me. What I got from that completely surprised me. I left every single ounce of effort on my mat every practice – literally leaving no drop of energy left within me. I listened deeply and intently to everyone I partnered with. I worked to hold the space for anyone that wanted it, and through all of the numerous physical practices and days of meditation and self-inquiry, I found myself on Day 4 so full of life and energy that I was literally skipping at times. That’s not to say that it was easy – it wasn’t – but every day I got the choice:

“Am I going to talk about doing the thing? Or am I going to DO the thing? Am I going to be a YES and make the most of this opportunity?”

It was hard. It was uncomfortable. It meant I had to make myself extremely vulnerable. And it was worth it! Being a yes to that – showing up, doing the work, and sharing – gave me my power back as a person.

That power is the ability to really by authentically me again. It isn’t the ability to be a “perfect yogi”, which doesn’t exist. It isn’t the ability to never feel bad. It’s definitely not the ability to never feel hurt, or sore, or tired, or anxious. The power to be authentically me is the power to show up in my relationships unafraid again. To restore connection without the fear of loss.

I long feared loss of connection with those that are close to me, and it began to drive me to the point that I had started to feel like I couldn’t even be myself around them anymore. In life, people have often told me how to think, the “right” way to act, the “right” thing to do, the “right” things to say… Hell, I even told myself those same stories as well, and all it had left me was hurting. This story of fear had gotten such a death grip on me that I couldn’t even see it anymore. All it was doing was telling me that I wasn’t good enough, that I was a bad person, and that I wasn’t lovable; and that inner monologue was manifesting itself into existence in my life, my health, and in my relationships.

Now, I can see “it” happening, and remember: “The moment you’re present to it, you’re not it.” That doesn’t mean it won’t pop back up, but I now know how to see it, so I can recognize that it’s a part of me, and treat it with care. That doesn’t mean I have to accept it as reality. It doesn’t mean I have to like that it’s coming up. But it does mean that it is still a part of me, and I can embrace it, realize that it’s a part of my past, and then let it go as many times as is necessary…

As for now, I just need to keep showing up, being me, and just DO THE THING!

“My name is Justin Cook.

My new way of being is of trust, connection, and love.

I give up that that I am “bad” and unlovable.

Because that is who I AM!”