Yoga-versary

We interrupt your regularly-scheduled weekly program to bring you this update. This week marks the one-year anniversary of the beginning of my Yoga practice. I’ll talk about the next limb next week, hakuna matata.

The last 12 months have been, without a doubt, the strangest of my life. I’ve already talked about some of this, so I won’t get into it. But changes have been afoot so frequently that change has come to feel commonplace. I’ve been impatient and needy, and life has given me time and space.

After the bottom fell out of my brilliantly-conceived and utterly foolish 5 year plan that was enlisting in the Navy, I knew I needed time. I chose to ignore that need. I enlisted mostly because I panicked at not having a next step at the ready, but also because many people in my life had told me that I would be good at it. And I would be. The important lesson there was, just because you have a talent for something doesn’t mean you should be doing it.

The thing about Yoga is that it was the engine driving the change in my life, without me even realizing it. At a time when my job was asking me if I could be harder, sharper, more focused, more brutal, Yoga asked if I could be gentler, softer, kinder, more easeful, more empathetic. I quit that job. Thus the story goes.

When I’ve been angry and filled with ego, Yoga has given me levelheadedness. Not peace, peace is a choice you make when you’ve gotten a hold of your ego in one hand and reason in the other. Peace is acknowledging that anger was a reasonable response to what happened, and choosing not to be angry. Disclaimer: this doesn’t apply to issues of social justice. Anger is not only the correct and reasonable response to injustice, but it’s the necessary one to create large-scale change. Yoga has given me the ability to understand that anger is sometimes necessary to create change. That would be Shiva, who asks of us whether we can dance joyfully in the fire of transformation. I’m still learning to do that.  That may be the work of a lifetime.

Remember that I don’t have any value attachments to any particular religion.

I’m happier now than I’ve been at any point in my life that I can remember. Moving is joyful again. I’m living in a way that I feel nurtures my own growth. I’m exhausted because I work all the time, and there’s no dignity in my labor the way there would be if I was a craftsman. But I eat as healthfully and balanced as I can, and let myself eat cookies when I want them (because cookies are sacred, and the reason I will never be vegan). My sleep isn’t abundant, but it’s restful. My friends are as busy as I am, but we make room for each other in our lives. I have enough. I am enough. I exist in a time and a place where I can do the work to put my body and soul in the same room, and get them to have a conversation. These are the things Yoga has given me that nothing else ever has.

Someone asked me the other day why I decided to become a Yoga teacher, and the truth to that is that I don’t know. It didn’t really feel like a choice at the time, so much as the next step. One of my wise and wonderful teachers mentioned that there was a teacher training coming up, and my only reaction to that was, “can I find a way to make this work financially?” And I have. That, in itself, has been an accomplishment.

One of the things that came up with some frequency when I was in college was the dichotomy of fact and truth. Talk about a liberal arts education. That’s not really a distinction that a lot of people draw in life. The idea of this is that nearly every story has an element of truth; there’s something fundamentally real to the story, which is sort of the seed of why it exists, why people engage with it. Is it a fact that Orlando Bloom is a 6 foot tall elf trying to prevent the bad guys from taking the hobbits to Isengaard? No. That is false. But there’s a reality to the story of struggle and faith in those books that transcends the fantasy for which we suspend our disbelief. In other words, we believe the story because it’s true, not because it’s fact.

Some people are fact people. I’m a 24-year-old woman, I have brown hair and eyes, I’m 5’6″ and I grew up on a horse farm. I also tend to be bored with facts, because often facts are used to obscure the truth, to derail the conversation in a forest of pedantic dribble. I’m a story-teller by nature. But Yoga demands that we beware the stories we tell ourselves, that we not string together unrelated events in our lives looking for meaning where there is none. I could talk ad nauseam about what I’ve learned and how I’ve grown, and give charming anecdotes for each lesson. That’s a talent of mine. But in this case I won’t. Life is the event, and the meaning is obscure to us while we’re in it.

That’s a mathematical theory, that you can’t disprove a system that you’re operating within. I think.

“I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

I feel my fate in what I cannot fear.

I learn by going where I have to go.”

From ‘The Waking’ by Theodore Roethke

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