Sometimes we become so consumed with who we’re becoming, what we’re working toward and where we might be by some hypothetical date, that we completely lose who we are, the quality of what we’re currently work on, and the importance of where we are right here, right now. Whatever we choose to do can carry an equal amount of meaning. It does not have to hold status or perceived importance. It does not have to satisfy the expectations of our families, friends, enemies, idols or mentors. It has to feel empowered and enthusiastic as it pours out of us. I discuss these topics and issues not because I believe that I am somehow “it”, that I’ve figured it all out and here is my wisdom for you to absorb. No. I am fueled with enthusiasm to share and to inspire contemplation because of where I am today, better than yesterday, worse than tomorrow. The only thing I KNOW, for certain, is that I know next to nothing. What I know I cannot possibly express through stringing letters together with some spaces to formulate sentences, because what I know is intangible, felt, not spoken or understood through language. I’ll never stop seeing myself as a work in progress and the biggest lesson I’ve learned is being ok where I am in this moment, knowing how much I’ve yet to learn and grow, and how much unknown there will always be. I know the choice, the ability to be happy and successful rests within me, not outside of me. Seeking only destroys whatever internal work I’ve managed to comprehend and keeps me trapped in the mind, which is an insatiable, perpetually disappointed little asshole sometimes.
I’m very grateful to be what is essentially an advanced student. I teach Yoga. And I learn more from my interactions with students, from my mistakes and from my mind-induced stress than I’m sure they learn from me. All I can do is level with them, acknowledge that we are all the same, no better or worse, just unique. I know people with a physically proficient practice, meaning they’ve acquired a high level of strength, flexibility, range of motion and balance in postures and sequences. But somewhere in there the world is missing out on their heart, their inherent goodness is disguised by an image of success, or their mind simply obstructs who they really are and therefore their essence cannot yet be seen. I also know many whose physical practices are very limited, their strength has yet to build, their muscles may be stiff and they’ve yet to find their grace and stability in motion. But their heart, their light, their essence shines very bright, providing a very palpable living example of how to operate in our world. Of course there are some with the total package and they are phenomenal mentors. I can honestly and sincerely express that I carry little to no judgment toward anyone, wherever they are, whatever their path. My only reason for discussing this is to show it is more important and more likely to leave a lasting impact when we are unafraid to be exactly who we are, to exhibit our essence (happiness, joy, trust, love) over our ego (dissatisfaction, mistrust, unease, fear) regardless of the who, what, where, when, why or how. Just because. I am. You are. That’s all.
Every class I teach, we begin with breath. We slow and quiet everything down to a pulse. To a moment. To simplicity. To life itself. And as we breathe I may introduce some piece of philosophy yoga or life has taught me that may resonate with the room. It could relate to the time of year, the time of day, timelessness, or just being human, but my purpose in sharing is to inspire self-inflicted kindness. We spend moments in silence breathing, contemplating, creating space, and then, based on what we’ve discussed, I’ll ask the students to set their intentions, their uniquely personal goals they want to work on during their practice, never forgetting that it only begins on the mat, and continues outside the studio. What is imperative here is the intention is not meant to act as a goal to be achieved at some future date, some measure of success that will somehow fulfill us more than we are currently. We need to confront what brought us to the mat, why we are practicing yoga, and more specifically, what we’d like Yoga to bring out of us. I’ll often suggest the intention be very simple, perhaps a quality or descriptor they wish to reflect their practice and who they are in the world. A personal example would be something like patience. My intention on and off my mat for most of this year has been patience, with myself first, and others second. Where it may be a perfectly acceptable goal to achieve a handstand at some point during your journey on the mat, delving deep into the intricacies that lead to success in high level poses are not without many small mental and physical achievements along the way.
It is important to not feel discouraged or disappointed by whatever challenges you encounter, whatever weakness you perceive in yourself, but rather feeling informed and inspired to overcome those often mind-made obstacles and feel somewhat at peace knowing tomorrow is a new day, each breath is an opportunity to start anew. I find when I’m most plagued with self-doubt, disappointment and frustration, I am merely resisting what is instead of accepting myself as I am here and now. Pursue, seek, discover and try because you feel joy, in the moment, and nothing else. No wanting. No expectations. Not result driven. Wanting to be somewhere we’re not only fuels the egos fire, adding gasoline and flames to an already deep lack of self-affirmation. The gift is the emergence of your genuine acceptance and bliss, derived not from what you do or what is given to you, but how you do it and what you’re giving to yourself and others, your best self. So the goal, the intention you set, is not for some mythical reward that you’ll earn with good behavior and the precise, chronological steps. The intention is to make that our pervasive state of being, everyday, every moment, because of nothing other than being patient with yourself allows you to feel more content each day, interact more productively with others and creates a ripple effect that will allow the future to unfold better than your mind could previously rehearse.
I’ve alluded to my formerly forward thinking self in previous articles and conversations. The only time I dwelled in the past was to relive some seemingly significant moment that I placed too much meaning so I could replay the memories in my mind. All that did was allow me to live in this sweet slice of denial, overlooking many red flags and discouraging events that would have benefited me to learn and move on. Instead, I let my mind retell the same stupid story over and over ad nauseum, basking me in superficial light, warmed from that of a tanning bed rather than the actual sun. That was more first love related and once I entered my 3rd decade of life, my twenties for the mathematically impaired, I was sick of my own nonsense and finally moved on. What has been a consistent issue plaguing me since early childhood is a very active imagination and an all around discomfort with the unknown. As a child the unknown centered around death and the future. Could I die in my sleep? Could I wake up blind? What would love look like for me? These are the irrational thoughts that would swirl in my mind as I’d try to convince my rational side to fall asleep. As I aged those worries turned to who would I be by age 18? 21? 25? 30? 40? You get it. I can say very definitively here this is a colossal waste of time and nowhere near an accurate prediction of who I’d turn out to be.
Guess what all that pontificating about how the future might play out resulted in? Hours, days, weeks, months and possibly years wasted trapped in my mind, in the vicious cycle that is the human psyche, that is anxiety, that is playing the “what if” game. And being achievement oriented, expectations serving as the basis for my motivation, only led to a very rigid, confined box that narrowed my scope, my learning, my openness and my overall success. I did fine in school, high school and college, played sports well, had some nice friends, occasional boyfriends, but I look back only a few short years later thinking so fucking what? Most of those years are a blur because I was so consumed by such small, superficial measures of success, and this bizarre self-satisfaction in limiting myself to academic marks and following what I felt were my “strengths” that I know I missed out on so much. On what? I don’t know because I was unwilling to even examine those possibilities. I look back and can still feel this baseline of dissatisfaction and unhappiness because there were so many things I wanted to do, people I yearned to know, and mischief I wish I learned from that I was stuck in perpetual motion of fear and then anger toward myself for lacking courage.
I still struggle with being truly open and fully courageous, but the point I’ve reached is recognizing how I was limiting myself then and to actively work on living a more ballsy life now. I had very little belief I’d fall in love and I reached a point where I was sick of my shitty ego telling me this and I refused to listen anymore. I thought I needed to follow a very clear-cut career path and make my parents proud. They could tell their friends their daughter was some blah blah at this blah blah firm. I couldn’t have been less interested in that way of life, I just thought achieving whatever that was would allow me to finally relax and let go. But whenever I took steps toward those inauthentic goals I’d feel so sick inside, so wrong, so off. I felt like a fraud. No matter how many A’s I earned, how much money was on my paycheck or even how staunchly I believed in whatever worldly criticisms I was spouting, it was never enough. I was still dissatisfied, living in fear. This is not to say people who follow the billions of other paths there are other than mine are unhappy, living a lie or pursuing something toxic. Not at all. I’m just speaking from my experiences, from the battle raging inside my head.
I feel much more content now, more aligned with what challenges and inspires me, but I still have those days. Where do I go from here? Being sick of my own need to project the future and plan every moment until then has led me to rebel into presence, to desire only to commit fully to each day, and whereas that is an improvement and has led to a more fulfilling internal state, I’m still finding the balance of having goals and not being consumed with reaching them, but instead encouraged to be productive and wiser each day, having learned from yesterday and looking forward to tomorrow. The two paths that seem to come rather intuitively to me, teaching Yoga and writing, are not necessarily careers with decipherable steps to climb the ladder to success. In fact, both are laughable as far as income. Do I limit myself by defining my career or etching out specific goals? Only if my happiness rests on that future date when that level of achievement has been reached, that amount of money has finally been earned or when enough of the world perceives me as a profitable, accomplished person. If, however, I’m working diligently to be a better teacher and writer each day, regardless if money or accolades arrive sooner or later, and I’m enjoying the process, uplifted by the task and feel like those around me are affected positively by my presence, then I will continue to envision and dream while embracing how the future unravels in unpredictable and exciting ways.
Lately my physical practice has reached some new heights. I’ve landed some difficult postures I previously thought my body could not pull off. The lesson I’ve gleaned is the many years of slow progress has led to these small victories and that as soon as I get a big head about it, as soon as I feel finished and satisfied, I’ve lost the message. I was patient. I believed. It happened. So now the goals are re-imagined, advanced and better reflect who I am today instead of who I was then or who I think I’ll be down the line. There’s no way for me to accurately anticipate my interests, progress, values and objectives 5 or 10 years from now. I’ve learned that much. Life laughs at a plan and I cannot honestly attest to the past 6-7 years of my life being wonderfully unpredictable, each surprise humbling me and teaching me that the only true constant is change. Progress or parish. Evolve or dissolve. Many of the details surrounding my external reality, where I live, what I do, and who plays major roles are wildly different than they were just a few years ago, let alone 10 years ago. And for this, I am very grateful.
The racket behind visiting psychics is they’re not providing you with specific predictions as to how your future will lay out. They’re perceptive people, paying close attention to your attitude, body language, and energy. A few questions can provide a fairly educated estimate on where you’ll be in a few years. If you want your future to turn out bright, do not cloud your presence in darkness, in limits, in sameness, in the crippling fear of the unknown. Feel and be better today and that will carry into tomorrow, next week, next month and next year. Let go of the heavyweights that insist you struggle and strain in the shallow end and instead go float in the deep, light, having the courage to surrender to the flow, without worry about the unknown darkness below. You deserve to feel happy and accomplished each day and this feeling comes from being you, not trying, thinking, doing or receiving, but by giving yourself what you need and being a beacon of realistic everyday success and exhilaration for others to absorb and enjoy. The chain reaction of the choice to be happy will benefit you exponentially with the advantage passed on to all you encounter as well.
Become aware of your internal dialogue. Acknowledge the story your mind repeats. Select honest, beneficial language. Eradicate fear and eliminate what-ifs and you advance from surviving to thriving. Believe you deserve it and become impervious to negative rhetoric and influences. Come out of the mind and into the moment, out of ego and into your essence. Be you, here, now. And remind me and others to be the same.