A Dirty Yoga Mat, Fear, and Monkey Puke

Written By Dana Childs
Dana has been described as “non-definable” due to her immense gifts. Her work has been sought out and praised by actress and Goop founder, Gwyneth Paltrow, as well as a host of famed actresses, Grammy award winners, dancers, and talk show hosts. LEARN MORE

Six years ago, I gave up everything I owned and loved, packed a backpack and bought a one-way ticket to India. I ran from my fear and doubt and grief and into the land of Holy Cows and spicy food.

Five days into my travels, I find myself in Pondicherry taking a local Vedic Yoga class. I’m grateful they supply mats, but as I pick one up from the stack, I hold in a loud, “EEEEWWWWWWW!” It’s the dirtiest mat I’ve ever seen. What was once a sunny yellow is now dingy brown – black in some places. I hear Grace Morales from Charlotte Yoga in my head: “Wash your mats. Wash your mats. A little baking soda, a little tea tree oil. They do wonders.” But, Grace isn’t here, and neither is my clean mat, so I bite back the disgust and sit on the muddy sunshine trying not to shame myself for my first-world reaction. I spend a lot of time trying to not judge myself for my emotional responses. I wonder… if I can be more accepting and loving of myself, can I not then be more accepting of all around me? How would my perspective of the world and the people in it change if I truly allow myself to be and to feel everything without self-judgment?

The next day I wake up sick and nauseated. So tired. I lay in the dark, dirty room all day. I need water and food but am too sick to go out and buy a bottle of water. I sit up on the edge of the bed. I eat one of the bananas I got in the market the day before. I run water from the tap into my travel jug and drop in a purifying tablet. I try it. It tastes like chlorine. Disgusting. I don’t want it, but I drink. I swallow. I swallow again, a third time, a fourth, a fifth. One more, I tell myself. I must stay hydrated. My body revolts. I puke.

I try to catch it in my hand as I run toward the bathroom. It’s pushing between my fingers, eager to escape. I ring the squat pot. Bananas and water. I rinse my face and turn around to the survey the damage. It looks like a sick monkey is on the loose – little banana chunks line the floor to my bed.

There is no towel, no rags, no toilet paper, no broom, no mop, and no one around. Oh My God. I look at the mess like a lost child. Much the same way I look at scary feelings. Helpless. How do I deal with this and get through it? I remember I have some tissues in my backpack. I take one of those and pick up the big bits. Slimy. Wet. Disgusting. I pick up the bags and shoes from the floor, fill the water bucket, and pour it over the messy floor. It washes to a corner. It will have to do, I think.

I climb back in the bed, collapse on my back and tears begin to pool in my eyes. They roll down my temples and into my hair. I think about the past I’ve left behind, the painful moments, the damaging relationships. Tears flow while the puke dries in the corner. I didn’t leave behind self-doubt and fear. Running away to another country didn’t rid me of those emotions. They’re snuggled up tight beside me – boxing me into this hard bed. Drying to a crisp like the vomit by the door. It’s clear. I cannot keep running from these feelings. I must face and move through them. I must be braver than the brave of coming to a foreign country alone. I must be the sort of brave that ventures into one’s heart and seeks.

I cannot outrun loss and grief and doubt and fear or any of the other scary feelings that surface. They will follow me, cling to me and eventually make me sick if I don’t learn how to honor them – without judgment.

I am brave.

I can do this.

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