Emotional pain and hurt often stems from the rejection of our love. It takes a lot of inner strength to give and receive love. You have to soften and open to a bigger energy. You need to let your guard down and be willing to be vulnerable and share your heart with someone. There’s a high risk in that. “If I open myself, will my love be received or rejected?”

When your love is not received, you can feel rejected and hurt. When that happens to me, my internal commentary goes something like this, “My love is not good enough. I’m not good enough.”  This negative self-talk comes from patterns of hurt, shame, and ridicule from my childhood. It also comes partially from never being taught how to receive feedback without collapsing into feeling like a failure.

Positive Psychology has a slogan,“Learn to fail or fail to learn.”I love this because it points to the fact that in order to receive feedback, even when it’s given with love, you need to be ready for it. You need to be able to love yourself in the midst of the feedback. No matter how negative the feedback is, we all need to learn how to receive it without collapsing, without giving up on ourselves, and without doubting or abandoning ourselves. This is no small task and can take a lifetime to develop.

These insights and more flooded in as I flew out to Grand Rapids last month for my 40th high school reunion. This was the first reunion I had attended. In the weeks prior, I felt a kind of low-grade anxiety. Even though I was looking forward to reconnecting with friends, my smaller self was freaking out. I had a fear of being mocked or made fun of, which is one of my childhood wounds.

The pain of rejection is very intense. But I stepped aboard the plane believing that the risk of rejection would be worth it. I know that our relationships give meaning to our lives. No doubt I would revisit my old childhood hurts and wounds. But maybe I would experience the capacity to witness these core-wounded identities without falling into the dark abyss of self-rejection and shame.

After walking through all that fear, to my great surprise, I had the most wonderful time at the reunion! I loved seeing my high school buddies. It was amazing to see how some people changed in appearance and temperament, while others hardly changed at all. For the ones who changed a lot, I had to look at their eyes and mouth to remember them. It was always such a revelation when I found out who they were. I met many of these friends back in kindergarten. That’s a long time ago!

We talked for hours and hours catching each other up on our lives since high school. After each day of the reunion, I meditated by myself in a quiet room in order to rest my brain. After hearing so many stories and telling my story over and over, I was exhausted, but in a good way.

We were supposed to go to our homecoming football game on Friday night, but due to cold and rainy weather, we decided to skip the game and stay at the restaurant where we had gathered before the game to continue our conversations. On Saturday, we took a guided tour of our old high school which was beautifully renovated. In fact, much of the town surrounding the high school had also recently been renovated. Everything looked fresh and new and the energy around town was buzzing.

Later in the day I taught a yoga class at a local studio, and it sold out with locals and classmates!!!! The class was entitled, “Happy Hips. Happy Life. Yoga Therapeutics for the Lower Back and Hips.” I felt very fulfilled and grateful to be able to offer what I love to my friends and to help them soothe and heal their aches and pains. Saturday night we gathered in the newly renovated downtown Grand Rapids for our reunion dinner which was also wonderful.

All in all, I had a great time and I look forward to our next reunion. My take away is how great it is to have friends who have known me for such a long time. As I do now, I really did forge deep relationships with people back then. I didn’t realize that my high school friends could be so important to me now. But they are. No matter what your job is, what income level you’re at, how many marriages you’ve had, what life experience you’ve had, we are all on the journey of life together and we all experience the same stages of life that come with walking this earth for 58 years!

I’m grateful that my journey of yoga has opened my heart and mind to be able to see my own self-worth while also appreciating the gifts and worthiness of others. The fear and doubt that I carried before the reunion had magically vanished. I was able to stay in my heart throughout the weekend and cultivate closer and more meaningful relationships with my friends from long ago. Through the reflection of others and getting to know everyone all over again, I saw this experience as a benchmark for my own growth. It opened my perspective on what I’m doing and the life I’ve chosen. I feel blessed. The journey of life never ceases to amaze me!

I invite you to take the next step of your journey with me on retreat at Kripalu Center or in Costa Rica, or in Lenox, MA for the next Ashaya Yoga In-Depth Study/200-Hour Teacher Training.

“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”  – Anais Nin

Namaste,

Todd