Finding A Way Forward

Posted by & filed under Blog, Listen, Practice, Svadyaya.

I remember in my 20s wishing I could live a multitude of lives. It seemed like I would need to live more than one so that I could experience all the different possibilities I wondered about. What would it be like to live in California? What about New York City? I was a news reporter so I could partly feed my curiosity by asking others about their lives, and I did. But partly, I wanted to be  different people having different experiences of life.

In my 30s, that felt hollow, like I was merely watching others live and I started to connect deeper into how I wanted to live in my work life and where I wanted to be. But then a longing set in that other parts of my life meet certain expectations, mainly that it be similar to my sister’s and others I was close to. By that measure, I should have a child, I should be married, I should have a lot of things I don’t, yet.

It’s helpful for me here to remember something I heard the Buddhist teacher Tara Brach once say, “should is an argument with reality.” I’m no longer interested in that battle. I find it most enjoyable to be around those who have ripped the script up on should, maybe even with a smile, and chosen to move forward with life their way.

The question I’ve been coming back to lately to let go of the “shoulds” is simply what is my path right now? It’s that yoga practice of being with life as it is now, which is the only place we can make changes from and claim a life that is ours.

When I started thinking about this blog post, I was driving home on Christmas from my sister’s place. My thoughts were dancing between news that a new baby was on the way in our extended family and hearing earlier that day that George Michael, who I was such a fan of as a kid, had died and so young at 53. I felt like life was yelling my age at me, nudging me forward in a particular direction.

I started to feel that familiar internal pressure that I should be somewhere else in my life and that somehow I was failing or not living my life fully because I am where I am. Then I saw the winding of Beverly Glen ahead of me, dark with so little traffic. I reminded myself that I only had to be right here, literally, on this road right now driving myself safely home.

It’s so easy to get caught in comparing ourselves to others. We diminish ourselves. One of my friends once said that we often long for in another, friend or partner, what we haven’t had the guts to be or do in our own lives. We date or befriend the writer or the cool guy to feed that longing, making our own selves smaller instead of filling out our own lives. It stuck with me because I’ve been guilty. The result is that I feel like less.

The asana practice has been my tool of choice to find my way back into my life. Alignment can sometimes seem like a quest for perfection in our bodies or to get the pose someone else has in their body. But what it really has the potential to do is bring us back into our bodies, on our individual path, right here and now, feeling the breath, prana, literally our life.  We break a pose down, one foot planted at a time to get into a Warrior 1. The next step is releasing the pose to move into the next. We get good at being in the pose we’re in knowing we’ll eventually move to the next.

The longings we have can be helpful, guiding us to the places we haven’t filled out. So we point our feet in that direction and take a deep breath and take the only next step available and then the next. Feeling our feet on the ground staying connected to the step we’re in, and from there seeing the only next step on our path forward.

From here, we get there.