Ch-ch-changes . . .
Sometimes they’re baby steps, sometimes they’re giant leaps and sometimes they only look that way. Over the past year, I made some changes that looked huge: I became a Forrest Yoga teacher and then a Pilates instructor; I left my job of 8 years; I announced plans to relocate to the other side of the county.
The reaction from many of the people in my life was eloquently summed up by a friend who, with a tone of awe in his voice, said: “You’ve got bigger balls than I do.” The assumption being that there was something innate and inside me (and lacking in him) that enabled me to fearlessly fling myself into the unknown. From the outside, it’s an understandable misconception, but the reality is far less glamourous. There was no overnight transformation. Real growth and evolution is a long, winding road filled with thousands of tiny steps. Day by day, breath by breath, through times of struggle and joy, I slowly inched myself to the place where these changes weren’t huge - they were simply the next step.
Fearless vs. Feels-fear-and-does-it-anyway
Change of any sort is scary and let’s get clear on this - there’s no such thing as fearless. To be brave, you must first be afraid. Courage doesn’t exist without fear and in an ironically cruel twist of the universe, the things that light us up are rarely waiting inside our comfort zone. Perhaps that’s the price of admission for personal growth - feeling the fear and slowly, gently pushing the boundaries of our bubble to reach them, whether that’s showing up for Pilates for the first time or moving cross-country.
Trying to eliminate fear is a waste of my time and energy. Instead, I’ve learned to let my quickened pulse and butterflies serve as an early warning detection program. When they rise up, I know there’s something important to pay attention to. It’s time to slow down, deepen my breath and feel inside for guidance.
One of the things I treasure most about my Forrest yoga practice is that it provides a safe space to do just this. It invites me to slow down my breath, my movements, the ongoing chatter of my brain (my success at this varies by day) and drop into feeling. It’s where I connect to myself, my needs and the person I most want to be.
It also gives me the space to redefine impossible. There’s something self-righteously satisfying about declaring something impossible. It’s too difficult, too out there - why even bother and risk failing if it can’t be done? Better to stay in the safety of our comfort bubbles.
Through my Forrest yoga and Pilates practice, I’ve learned to redefine “not possible” into “hasn’t been done yet.” I find this infinitely more freeing and exciting. I may not achieve my goal today but I can try, knowing that each micro-step of progress gets me closer smashing the fallacy of impossible.
I still remember the terror of being asked to go upside into handstand for the first time. Me? Handstand? Oh no! My wrists are too weak. I’m not strong enough. . . blah, blah, blah. I’ll just sit this out.
My teacher had none of that, instead showing me how to come into Downward Dog on the Wall. It was HARD but not impossible and I held it for about 3 seconds. Slowly that 3 seconds turned into 5 and then 10. My progress gave me the courage to try handstand against the wall (in yoga and in life, it’s nice to have something/one to catch you when attempting impossible things). Then came handstand variations. Now I’m slowly playing with - gasp - moving away from the wall. When I start thinking that handstand in the middle of the room is impossible, (which I sometimes do), I remind myself that a few months ago, the things I’m doing today felt that way too. I may not there yet but every time I try, I get one step closer.
In this way, my yoga practice is a microcosm of my life off the mat. Three years ago, teaching, leaving my job, moving were impossible things. Feeling the fear, finding (and accepting) support and taking one small step at a time and over and over again have allowed me to redefine what my life can be.