The Class

Dear Angelique,

It made me smile when I read your post about the four planets in retrograde. It’s funny that these letters touch on Astrology, but are really about so much more. All of these planets are going into retrograde just as businesses are starting to open up again, and so it feels like the eye of a hurricane to me. I feel we have a moment of calm before the second half of the storm comes, and that we can use this time to regroup. I am happy to report that Stephanie and I are doing very well, all things considered, thank God. And I’m glad to hear that you are doing well, safe and sound, down there in Bahia.

So Angelique, today I did something completely new for me. I did an online exercise class called The Class by Taryn Toomey. I really enjoyed it, and I had to overcome so much internal resistance to it. There have been so many times that I’ve been in a gym where I’ve seen exercise classes going on behind a glass wall. It would be a room full of perfectly synchronized graceful women doing complex moves that I could not imagine myself doing. There would perhaps be a couple of guys in there, but I could never figure those guys out. What were they doing in there with all those women? Were they like dogs who think they are cats? Were they trying to meet girls? What were those dudes doing in that exercise class?

I would joke with my trainer about it, about them. And in doing this, reinforced in my own mind that exercise/dance classes were for other people, people who wore tight pants and leg warmers, and who knew how to dance. Not me.

I don’t know if I ever mentioned it to you, but back in the day of my being a complete type A, I used to compete frequently in triathlon. I was part of a club in Miami called Team Hammerheads, and we had a lot of fun, and we took it very seriously. At my peak I think I did about eight races a year, building up to the half Ironman level. So I was no stranger to endurance training.

I was lithe and quick and strong. But my last triathlon was in 2008, twelve years ago. I’ve continued to train over the last several years with a personal trainer, but it’s different. It feels more like strength training, and much less cardio vascular. And as I’ve started to get a little older, I’ve started to feel tightness in my legs and shoulders. My calves sometimes feel like cold taffy that might snap if stretched too much. The idea that I might step outside and run ten miles at a seven minute pace seems foreign and ancient. Something has been missing from my life.

My introduction to The Class came through a spiritual retreat Stephanie and I had signed up for in Georgia in May, but with Covid, we had to do the entire retreat on Zoom. I’m not sure exactly how many people participated, but I think there were about forty of us on the phone. It turns out that Taryn Toomey was participating, and she sent a link to her class, and she gave us a coupon to take a free session. Everyone responded with cheer and gratitude, and I immediately felt excluded by my own judgment. The Class was what those other people do behind the glass wall in the gym. That glass wall was there specifically to keep me out!

As the retreat went on a lot of people gave great feedback about The Class. Of course, I had not participated, so I was quiet. Then at some point the conversation in the retreat turned towards constructing our own medicine wheel in the Native American tradition. I found myself thinking that the Medicine Wheel is maybe a great tool for people on another path, but it did not really resonate for me.

Someone asked the facilitator a question about how to invite their parents to walk their medicine wheel with them, and the facilitator, Grey Wolf, guided her through how to introduce the concept of the wheel to the parents, and so I spoke up for the first time during the session and shared that I had never heard that kind of introduction to a medicine wheel and that it was very helpful to me, and it opened the door for me to participate. The key that opened me to the experience was when Grey Wolf explained that the interaction with the wheel was a dance.

Right now I’m doing some essential travel in Northern California, and I’m staying at a Best Western Hotel, and I have some time on my hands to ponder the lessons from the retreat, and so here in my hotel room, before I went to bed last night, I got my iPad and an external speaker all set up, and I found the link to The Class, and I got everything ready so that when I woke up in the morning, I could just push a button and start. And so this morning, I got up and I laid a towel on the floor, and pushed the Play.

First thing off, is that Taryn is immediately engaging. She has a very warm hearted inviting demeanor. She started the session slowly with some nice words, and then some groovy music started to play. She had advised me before hand to use an external speaker, and I’m glad I did, because the music was definitely part of it. Before I knew what was happening we were doing jumping jacks, and then burpees. She had us do lots of good movement with the shoulders and arms, and I felt the creaky rusted hinges and stiff pulleys of my joints starting to move more easily. And she related the movements of our bodies to emotional and spiritual energies getting stuck and trapped in there.

This was my first aerobic type of class, and my first online exercise experience, so I have very little to compare it to, but maybe it’s not about comparison. Maybe it’s about this was what God brought to me, and my experience was super positive. I feel invigorated and loose, and bouncy in my steps now. It was really good for me to get up and get moving in the morning.

So as I sit here and meditate on this experience, I’m asking myself, why did I have this resistance to participating in the class? Would I have felt this way when I was four years old? No. Six years old? Probably not. But by 13 I know I would have been mortified right?

What took me away from the very natural instinct to move my body in rhythm to music? When did I first learn this was something that I should be ridiculed for? When did I develop the expectation that I would be treated unkindly if I went behind the Glass Wall to do something that the four year old Spencer would have simply seen as fun? I’m not sure I even have to answer that question, and that seems like Taryn’s advise, which I followed, to get out of the mind and into the heart and into the body, is really the answer. I am learning from this to follow my authentic heart and have some faith that new experiences coming to me are for my higher good.

And when I do that, here and now, a couple hours after The Class ended, it really boils down to some simple truth. It’s natural and fun to move our bodies in rhythm to music. It’s good for us. The blocks I had to doing that were of my own making. And a simple act of kindness, an open hand with a promise of welcome, is all I needed to put down my resistance.

So I went from stiff and frozen and feeling excluded, to light and happy and energized. And now I think I have a new friend in Taryn, because after all, aren’t our friends those who help us on our way, even if only by giving us good energy over our iPads? What a good trade I made Angelique! I traded a crusty grumpy feeling of exclusion and some aches and pains for a new friendship and a vibrant energy.

When we get together again in Bahia, let’s do a session in the gym. Aho!

Love Spencer

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