Updated: Sep 18, 2019
Three months ago, I said goodbye to the first of our long time team members slated to leave over the summer. I thought, “as soon as we get to September, everything will fall into place.” Three months before that, I moved back into my house after a cascading renovation project that took 6 months. I thought, “as soon as I get the landscaping done, I will finally be finished with this *@$&#ing house.” Three months prior to the move in, I finished my advanced certification. I thought, “as soon as I move back into the house, I’ll feel settled again.” And, sure enough, three months before the end of my own teacher training, it was September 2015, and I thought, “as soon as I finish my 500hr, I’ll be able to rest a little.”
Oh, how silly I have been.
I see this pattern throughout my whole life. “As soon as” I was done with whatever I was doing, life would be better. More settled. I’d feel grounded. Surely, I would sleep better. I would finally have the time, the space, the motivation to do all of the things I claim I want to do outside of my normal routine; read for pleasure, travel to Iowa, pickle this, can that, play piano, organize the underwear drawer, become a master surfer, and on and on and on. If we’re not thinking about all the things we could be doing once we have The Time, we’re thinking about who we could be. “When I get this, I’ll be happy,” we think. Then, whatever it is - the new clothes, the car, the toys, the body, the boyfriend/girlfriend, the baby, the wedding, the certificate, the knowledge, the accolade, the validation - we enjoy it for about seven seconds until the next thing that will undoubtedly improve our life grabs our attention.
We can even look to our yoga mat to watch this pattern play itself out. We often find ourselves attached to a never-ending process of “improvement” in our asanas. They do improve quickly at first—in the beginning, we are on a veritable honeymoon of discovery; we grow by leaps and bounds in ability and understanding. After a couple of years, or a decade, or several decades, however, our poses change much less. As our practice matures, it becomes more about consistency, deeper understanding, and smaller breakthroughs. This is not to say we won’t continue to improve, but the improvement may be subtler. Oftentimes, we can no longer practice certain poses because of age or injury, yet we feel agitated because we assume that the poses of our youth should be the poses of our middle and old age. We are surprised when familiar asanas become difficult and formerly difficult ones become impossible.
In our yoga practice, we see this as the familiar struggle of Dvesha and Raga, or aversion and attachment. The clinging to the things we value as “good” and comfortable, and the avoidance of things we value as “bad” and uncomfortable, is a battle that plays out every. single. day. Notice as you sit and read this - are you sitting in a comfortable chair, enjoying your time, perhaps considering what you will read next so you can stay in this space of enjoyment? Or are you at work, dreaming about how your life would be better if only you could study and practice yoga all day long in an ashram, all of your householder responsibilities a distant memory? These thoughts are driven by Dvesha and Raga. My meditation teacher says:
Suffering is both wanting and getting what you want.
Transitions, by their very nature, are uncomfortable. We have a tendency, when life slaps us in the face when all of the expected and (even worse) UNexpected things happen, to put our heads down and get through it. Look too far forward and you’ll miss the step you’re already taking. We experience transitions in every day of our lives, from the very profound to the very mundane. On a macro scale, life is inherently one very long transition from birth to death. Yoga teaches us that the ultimate truth - of our lives, the universe, and time itself - is that all things are impermanent. We have only the moment that we currently experience. After all, even if you have the memory of something in the past or ideas for future plans, you are still thinking about those things in the present moment. You can’t escape it. You can’t wish it away. You are living right here, right now, and feeling/thinking/doing whatever it is you’re doing in the present moment, and that moment is now gone.
In an effort to skillfully live within a life that for ALL of us is in constant change, flux, and transition, we must learn to sit with the discomfort. Feeling secure, grounded, safe, and validated cannot depend on external sources. You, by practicing this practice, are learning to watch your mind with awareness and learning how to catch yourself in moments of chasing after comfort and turning away from discomfort. Use the poses not only to feel good in your body but to also detach yourself from the immaturity of the chase. When we forget the truth of impermanence, we forget the truth of life. The yoga practice is about remembering that truth and then embracing it. In the past, I kept making the changes so I could finally be “done.” Of course, the changes are never done. Now when I look at the to-do list of my day/week/year, I try to see it as an expression of what life is all about: moving through the different stages, surrendering to impermanence, and remembering to embrace it all.
After all, it’s all life. It’s all good.