What I Can

I haven’t been doing enough yoga. I haven’t been on the mat since Danielle, chakra yogini extraordinaire, returned to Portland two weeks ago to lead her students there for the next nine months. My body needs the work. My shoulders and back are beginning to hold tension; my hips are tight. When I’m sitting at the computer or walking from one room to the next, I find my arms spontaneously floating over my head, palms touching, inviting me to engage in a series or two of Sun Salutations. But I don’t. I do a quick body scan instead, determine I can go another couple days without practicing before my body really needs it, and go on with the business at hand.

What I forget is that even if I think my body can go without it, my mind can’t. What I can’t immediately see is that tension builds up there, too, and this tension is even more dangerous. When stress accumulates in my brain, my picture of the world and my role in it gets distorted, my sense of my own power diminishes, my ability to stay grounded in the moment nearly disappears. Worry and fear-based thinking overtake calm and joy and the knowledge that I am exactly where I should be. I begin to strive which I experience as an attempt to mentally bend a situation to my will while becoming emotionally exhausted and even more frustrated in the process. Striving to change rather than accept. Striving to speed up rather than follow the natural rhythm of a process. Striving to have it be done rather than patiently, systematically doing. Wanting it all, fully formed, and perfect NOW rather than enjoying the organic unfolding and growth. Needing to check it off my list so I can move on to the next piece of the Universe with which I must do battle. Because that’s exactly what I’m doing–battling the Universe.

I didn’t go willingly into Danielle’s class this year. I had participated in her Energy Healing classes last year and been blissed to the max after each 90 minute session, but I balked at the idea of sweating in public and doing more strenuous work in a true yoga class. I prefered to do my Power Yoga at home by myself, doing the exact same poses in the exact same sequences every time I practiced without any witnesses to my body’s limitations. But the classes were given to me as a gift from my boss, so I went. It was frustrating, exhausting, maddening. The top of my yoga pants would roll down compelling me to pull it up after every pose, I couldn’t breathe in Child’s Pose, I couldn’t kick my feet over my head into Plow (well, maybe I could, but I would probably never walk again if I did), my shoulders were too tight to attempt Wheel, there was just too much of me to squeeze into some of those poses. And to top it off, when I thought I was so exhausted I couldn’t possible do another sequence, Danielle would invariably say, “Step or hop back to Plank,” signalling the beginning of yet another series of movements. At first, I could actually feel anger and rebellion well up in me when I felt she was pushing me beyond my limits. The Universe had shrunk to just my mat, me, and Danielle. I had two choices: lay down on the mat in protest, i.e., continue to battle the Universe, or step back to Plank and push myself through another series. This is how I learned to surrender. To let go of the anger and just keep moving – because with the exception of one day when I hadn’t yet recovered from the flu, invariably I could keep moving (regardless of whether I wanted to) – until Danielle finally said I could stop.

At the end of class I had been wrung out, physically and emotionally. My will had been reduced back to a reasonable size and I was too exhausted to worry or strive for anything more that day. I could move through the world in a state of peaceful presence, do my work without judgment, and enjoy being in my body.

Tonight, I’m awake typing this because when I went to bed worries about my finances wouldn’t let me fall asleep. When it comes to money, in some ways I feel I’ve been caught in a one step forward, two steps back situation (which is not really a fair assessment because, by any measure, I’ve been blessed), and I’m frustrated that emotional issues, and the same old time-management issues, have kept my writing and publishing from progressing more quickly. I see a happily creative professional future but I can’t seem to manifest it fast enough to satisfy my expectations. But like it or not, I can’t draw the right tenant for my house to me any faster through worry. I can’t control whether a publisher has the funds or the time to take on a new writer right now or whether an editor has already assigned a story very similar to mine to another writer. I can’t instantly materialize clips I haven’t done the work to earn.

So it’s time for more yoga. Lots of yoga. Yoga to melt my body and my fears. Yoga to shrink my will back to an appropriate size. Yoga to compel me to write every day without worry about outcomes. Yoga to support my efforts to adopt a healthier eating and exercise plan so I don’t lose my eyesight – or my life. Yoga to refocus my thoughts and actions on what I can do, experience, explore, and be, rather than what I can’t.

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