The Way of Rest by spiritual teacher Jeff Foster is a treasure. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve referred to this collection of little writings, some of which read like poetry, and find just what fits my mood. I’d bookmarked work #33 a couple weeks back because it fit thematically with my monthly topic on facing fear, doing shadow work, and shaking trauma off. But when I sat down to reread it several days later, I realized that it described exactly the challenge I was facing in my aerial practice: The semi-private training program I’ve been doing since the beginning of the year has been really throwing me off center. In addition to the physical challenge of waking up before dawn to learn a bunch of new skills, this winter I was hit three times with the cold and flu. Rationally I knew my body was getting stronger, that my brain was forming new neural connections, and that as I figured out how to integrate all my learning, I would likely reap the benefits in my flying and fabric work. My anxiety, however, led me to feel that I was backsliding in everything I was trying to do.
Jeff Foster basically says the same thing that everyone else in my life has told me about trusting the process, but somehow I’m more apt to trust a stranger because he has no interest in making me feel better. (Insert sheepish emoji here.) I hope his words resonate with you, too.
Sometimes you have to commit to feeling worse in order to feel better. Sometimes you have to lose the hope of ever getting better, then you start to feel better. Sometimes healing involves staying very present as powerful waves of energy move in the body. Sometimes the body shakes, convulses, shivers, aches, sweats, burns, as it rids itself of toxins, releases bound-up tension.
The mind says, “I’m getting worse.” The heart knows you’re okay.
True healing is not the removal of surface symptoms, but courage, and trust of the body, and connection with the breath, and knowing that symptoms may intensify before they disappear. And they may never disappear. Yet you may fall in love with yourself as you are, despite the future, and you may drop to your knees in gratitude, for you have been given another day on this precious Earth.
Maybe getting worse was the best thing that ever happened to you. Because you’ve never sensed the presence of love so clearly, and your path has never been more obvious, and you’ve never felt so alive. (Foster 61)