“Let yourself be gutted. Let it open you. Start there.”
-Cheryl Strayed as “Dear Sugar” in Tiny, Beautiful Things
Yesterday I took a yoga class at a different studio, with a different teacher. It was long, slow, painstaking and painful, every movement deliberate and precise. You can’t bluff your way through this class, with assistants passing through, making adjustments, correcting form. The teacher’s eagle eye seeing the modifications you are making to cheat your way through a long hold–the knee that caves, the ribs that sink, the arms that lock. She doesn’t allow this, this shortchanging of your potential replaced by what’s easier. So you learn quickly to work harder, breathe smarter, push through what you think is pain (but relax your face!). You wake up the next morning to turn off the alarm clock, and the soreness instead becomes your alarm clock, waking you up instantly. It only takes one new class, with one new teacher, to realize that you still pretty much suck at yoga.
For most of my life, many things have come easily to me. School, sports, career; I could figure out quickly what work needed to be done to achieve a moderate level of success, and how to expend the least amount of effort to get there. I chose classes that I was naturally inclined towards, and jobs that played to my strengths. I could work hard (and I very often did) but it was, for the most part, taking the easy road. And when I didn’t have the technical skills, I faked it. It’s amazing how far that can take you, using the skills you do have to manipulate outcomes and compensate for those you don’t. I didn’t have interest in years of tennis lessons; but I could win matches by hitting the ball hard and running fast. There was no formal sales training in my first two sales jobs, but I could present the hell out of those brands and feign confidence that somehow made it work.
Those things that really challenged me, really perplexed and eluded me, I just decided I didn’t like, and stayed away. Science? Nah, I’ll take a literature class instead. Golf? Oh, it’s just too slow for me. Dancing? Economics? Geometry? Hiking? No thanks. I didn’t push through, I didn’t strive to understand, I didn’t try new approaches. I shut down.
Somewhere along the line, life got hard, and messy and complicated, so I shut down there too. It was easier. I could get by. I could fake it. So that’s what I did.
And then came 2012. And suddenly, faking it just didn’t work anymore.
Yoga was, incidentally, what precipitated this change. It’s really difficult to fake it in yoga. Especially with my body, where nothing in the yoga world comes naturally. I had no skills to fall back on, and no amount of being fast or strong was going to get me into those poses. There was no manipulating the breathing. And emotionally, mentally, there was no way to do it in “shut down” mode. I had to start at the beginning, start by being gutted, and fill up from there.
They say that when the student is ready, the teacher will appear. I’m ready, I’m listening, I’m learning. And almost every lesson I’ve learned this year started forming on that yoga mat:
-Make mistakes. “If you fall, you must laugh” (thanks JP). There is beauty in mistakes, and in what you learn from them. Pick yourself up, let go and move on.
-Be in tune with your body and your heart. Dare to push yourself further, but accept your limitations without judgment. Listen, intuit, FEEL. Be aware, of yourself and of your impact.
-Live your truth. Be authentic. Live a life that’s full and rich and honest by being yourself, past the secrets and facades, down to the core.
-Share your gifts. EVERYONE has something to share; find your voice and allow it to be heard.
-Allow yourself to be inspired. Find the beauty that is all around you, at any moment, in any day. Permit yourself to be moved by it.
-OPEN YOUR HEART. Let love in. Deepen connections. Abandon judgment. Let life soften.
Through yoga, I know how rich the feeling of accomplishment is when you’ve fought so hard for it. Through yoga, I know how freeing it feels to surrender. Through yoga, I found writing. Through yoga my world turned upside down and then righted itself in a richer, more fulfilling way. Through yoga, I’m discovering who I am.
At the end of every year, I typically make some lofty resolution that I break within the month and beat myself up over in the month that follows. Some variety of “I will lose 10 pounds”, “I will work out 5 days a week” or “I will accomplish x, y, z.” I’m giving up this recipe for failure, this one-size-fits-all statement that could never serve as my mantra for 365 days. Instead, I resolve this:
I will live an intentional life.
I will set intentions, perhaps daily, perhaps less, and live them. I will accept that life will still be messy and hard and complicated sometimes. I will accept that I may never master a handstand. I will accept that there will be mistakes and setbacks. I will accept that living truthfully may be harder on some days than on others.
I will set these intentions as little reminders to get through those messier times, to remind myself of how beautiful, how magical, and how full life can be when you open your heart to it.
Thank you for the love and support you have offered to me in 2012–I accept it all. Cheers to a happy and healthy 2013!
A montage of some of my favorite moments of the year….