I have always considered myself a relatively patient person. I have even experienced situations (and people) that led me to believe I have the tolerance of a Buddha. Don’t get me wrong. I have thrown my share of fits when someone cuts me off on the highway or doesn’t say thank you when I so kindly held the door for them. I mean I’m human for cripes sake. But in general, I always thought I had an ability to practice patience in some of the most trying of situations.
That said I have struggled to find patience in my life, and with myself. I wake up happy just about every day, and enjoy most aspects of my life. But I am constantly questioning my decisions that have led me to where I am; if I’m in the right job, city, etc. We all do this, of course…especially those of us in the generation of choice. It’s almost an abusive relationship we have with ourselves; this constant condescending voice that says, “This is good, but it’s really not good enough. Why haven’t you done this? Why are you still doing this? When is this going to happen?” And we f – ing do it to ourselves. Picture your excited, happy self as a small child coming home from school with a B…a B that you are so proud of because you worked so hard for it. Now picture that negative voice as a misguided parent who says “B?!, Why isn’t this an A?”. Now see the child (your happy self, remember) deflating into shame, hurt and defeat. We do this.
Anytime my dad was driving in traffic, he used to say “Everybody’s in a hurry to go nowhere”. Rush Rush Rush. We almost wake up in a sprint. But where to? Are we taking the time to stop and think about where we are going next, so we can move there intentionally?
I had a bit of a light bulb moment while practicing yoga the other day. It was time in class for crow pose. This is a pose I really enjoy, and was the first arm balance I was ever able to do. It served as a confidence boost and platform for my practice to progress. As a very natural “bull in a china shop”, I was totally stoked the day I was able to transition from crow pose into headstand. But this particular day, I could barely hold crow pose. I was annoyed, so I kept powering through into my headstand (always a great approach to standing on your head). I reached headstand, did some violent freak-out kick and fell out…gracefully I’m sure. I found myself in a very unnatural, sweaty ball on my mat, totally aggravated. As I decided to let it go and take child’s pose for a moment, a very simple thought floated in one ear. “Be patient. Take your time. Your body is more than capable of these poses, but you keep rushing to the end. That is why you fall out.” First of all, this voice sounded like mine, except way sexier and more exotic. It was like my alter-voice. I liked it.
It made me realize how so much of my practice is stifled by my pattern of rushing to the finish. I tell myself poses are out of reach for me, and so they are. I rush into them (mostly by violently kicking something up or flailing with wild abandon, and miss the foundational steps of getting there. I am certainly not a perfect or natural yogi, contortionist or acrobat. But my body is strong enough and capable enough to do lots of things. I want to do them NOW though. And so I don’t. I fall. And all of this…this is ok. But when you fall, do you land on your mat and recollect? Or do you let yourself keep tumbling downward? Do you sit in the disappointment? Do you allow yourself to be a victim to yourself? Or can you accept it, all of it – the good, bad, and ugly and be there with it. Because until you do …and I speak from first hand experience, you will stay in that crumpled heap or fall further. The moment you can look directly at yourself and accept it…that is when the magic happens.
So here’s the real breakthrough. What I do in my practice – how I manage ‘diversity’ or challenge, my patterns of thought, my reactions – this is exactly how I manage my life. I rush to the ‘end result’ only to create chaos and fall down. Which is totally ok, as long as you are learning. As a kid, there were two things I hated to hear “We have to wait” and “We’ll see”. That has not changed in my life. There is so much in my life I want – like all of us. All of our dreams are different, but yet still the same. Because they are all founded on the hope for something wonderful. And we are all capable of being completely wonderful and totally powerful. We sometimes fall out of line, we put our heads down and charge through, and we wander. But each one of us knows in our heart what our destiny is. And we are totally capable of it. But, and it’s such a catch, we have to be patient enough to build the foundation. Disciplined enough to stay focused. And kind enough, strong enough, to get up from the crumpled heap and keep going.
This is the most awesome thing about yoga. It allows you to be a witness to yourself and to your patterns. It allows you to see what is difficult for you, and challenges you to face it instead of turning the other way. And it can stay right there on your mat. Or, you can find where it crosses over into your life. Find where you are cursing the teacher, looking at the clock, making excuses…off your mat.
So as you practice this week, just try to notice. Be a witness to yourself. Don’t overthink it, don’t try to change it or ignore it. Just see the thoughts, emotions and reactions float in and out of your head. Don’t hold on to any of them. Just see them. And maybe, in crow pose, you might see where you are going to be kinder to yourself, where you are going to be more patient and intentional in your actions, and where you need to take child’s pose and recollect.
Enjoy your research my friends.