Life happens. One of many clichés and expressions for the truth that all we can count on in life is change. Life happens. Life hands us experiences. Some we receive gratefully and many we would not choose if given the chance to decide. Life’s been happening to me since I left the womb. Perhaps you know what that’s like. Some say flippantly “change is good”. I don’t believe all change is good. But change is inevitable. And if change is inevitable, then the suitable thing to do about change is to learn how to get good with it. After being ejected from a moving vehicle at 15, I came up with the saying “if you don’t lay yourself out God will lay you out for you”. That event was the first of many major deviations from my daily norm that changed the permanent course of my life. That event was the beginning of me learning how to get good with change.
Learning to get good with change requires a few things. The most important is being aware of where one is, especially when life gets stagnant. I like to think of this as reading the road signs. This is learning how to choose the changes we experience before life or God chooses them for us. But reading the road signs is hard because being human means being afraid. Afraid of what might happen if we choose to step out of the rules that we have become entrenched in. Afraid of what might happen if we unbuckle our seat belt. Afraid of what might happen if we step away from the things we believe are our responsibility to carry, our burden to bear. Fear, the weight of responsibility, commitment to a belief, and habit, can and do enable us to ignore the road signs. Then life happens and just like that we are flat on our backs.
Being in the midst of change is not the same as being comfortable or good with it. But learning how to be comfortable or peaceful in the midst of change is the best kind of yoga, for it requires effort and surrender. Effort to move forward into the wild unknown and surrender to step away from the past.
Surrender is not the same as giving up. I’ve been thinking a lot the difference between surrender and giving up in the context of the surrender of the south during the Civil War. First they had to effort; they took up arms for a principal, a belief they were committed to dying for. Whether we look back on that purpose now and label it right or wrong is not the point here, the point is to acknowledge that such a belief carried the Confederate Army through many battles, the near destruction of a nation fought hard to gain, the death of many, the loss of great resources, and most of all the loss of an ignorant and boastful pride. In the face of all those losses the south did not give up. No.
To give up is to resign oneself to failure, to cease the struggle toward the goal. To surrender is to give into a power or motion greater than yourself. The south surrendered. They surrendered their army to the northern army, but they did not give up their beliefs. The south surrendered the crux which made up the backbone of their economy, but the nation did not give up the power structure which had created it. This is why racism and white supremacy are alive and well in America today, and this is the difference between giving up and surrendering.
Giving up leaves the residue of defeat. Surrender brings peace. The conversation around racism in America is important and is one I am deeply interested in having. I find this piece relating to the difference between giving up and surrendering to be significant in that conversation. If we are truly going to create long lasting positive social change regarding racism and justice in America we will all have to learn how to surrender with grace and give up without anger. (This July Shree will be hosting a very interesting workshop discussing America’s Karma with relation to Racism. Keep your eyes peeled for that.)
The Spring Yoga Challenge, taking place now through the end of April at Shree, is an invitation to be present in the process of change, to learn to get comfortable with change though it may not be comfortable, and to choose to effort toward change willingly, to learn to surrender with grace, and to learn when to give up without anger. It is a practice of choosing to do difficult things even when, or expressly when, time is a slim resource or the task is scary. Purposefully stepping outside of one’s comfort zone to step into discomfort teaches all about effort and surrender and everything else that keeps their company; courage, fortitude, and faith.
When we opened the yoga studio nearly ten years ago I was afraid. I had never done anything so big before. I wasn’t sure if I was financially capable of holding such a commitment, and to top it all off, I had literally only just begun teaching yoga a couple months before. Looking back, I see there was not a lot of sense in such a choice but rather a lot of faith. Giant leaps of faith mark many of the deviations to my life’s course after God laid me out. Not interested in being laid out again I read the road signs, I look, and then I leap. It’s as if my whole life is a string of foolish, wild, crazy choices transporting me in a powerfully enduring current, far beyond the boundaries of comfortable shores. But I guess that’s what life is, a series of events that seem unrelated but eventually ties together making the story clear; or we make a clear story of it to make it make sense in a world of unknowns and happenstance. These days thinking of the wild string of seemingly unconnected choices and giant leaps of faith which make up the narrative of my life has got me believing I must be a shark; if I stop swimming I might die.
And so, goes my narrative. Leaps and changes. I am currently in another big change process, undertaking the opening of another new business and leaving a chapter of my life and the shores of steadiness and consistency behind. After seven years of teaching Level 1 yoga on Monday and Friday mornings I have changed my schedule and handed the class on. I have surrendered these classes and the consistency they brought to my life to invite room to be at my new business as is needed. For me this change is not good, nor bad, but necessary. It doesn’t mean it’s easy, it doesn’t mean I know exactly what’s coming next, and it doesn’t mean I’m comfortable.
Much like taking on the yoga challenge there is value in setting a far-reaching difficult goal and rising to the meet oneself in the face of that experiment. I say this often in my yoga classes – It doesn’t matter if you can do the pose or not, that’s not the point. What you do in the company of yourself there, that is what matters. Do you meet yourself with courage and faith or do you meet yourself with criticism and defeat?
Any task we take on that pushes us outside of our comfort zone, invites us there to surrender who we are, for who or what we are becoming brings us to satisfaction, whether we achieve the goal or not. To surrender the identity of what makes us feel strong, whole, successful, complete; or the identity of what makes us feel incomplete, incapable, broken and unworthy; for something better, something different, something new, something unknown; this is where we find value in our lives because this is where we learn to become comfortable with change. Like a bird flying fourth from the nest for the first time, taking the leap of faith and spreading their wings, in the realm of discomfort we come to know freedom.
I’ve been called the Queen of discomfort. That doesn’t bother me. Being comfortable with discomfort is to me synonymous with “good with change”. Being good with change is what I desire and so, I work for it in all endeavors. I’m stubborn so it’s not always easy. But I continue to choose it anyways because I’m grateful to have the opportunity and the experience whatever it may be. I invite you to join me on this path. The more comfortable we all become with change it is likely we can together, create a more beautiful world.
My new business is Clean Taos Inc. “Eco-Friendly Specialty Laundry Services”. I hope to be open in May, but who knows what plans life has for me. I have left the Monday and Friday Level 1 classes in good hands, with Kari Malen, and I hope you join her soon. I plan to when I have time. I’ll still be teaching at Shree for the foreseeable future and you can catch me for now on Saturday and Sunday mornings. If you haven’t yet, you can sign up for the Spring Yoga Challenge until the last day of April. From the day you sign up, you have 30 days to complete 21 classes. Beyond the self-satisfaction you attain from completing, Shree will reward you with 50% off your next punch pass. If you are interested in learning more about racism in America and the current status of white supremacy I suggest starting with The Scene on Radio Podcast Series: Seeing White in America. And, as I said before, I’m interested in the conversation and have a long list of other resources I am happy to share if you ask. The challenge of dismantling white supremacy and building up social justice around anti-racism in America and globally is going to be longer and harder than the Spring Yoga Challenge without a doubt, but likely far more satisfying to complete. Sign up now and bring your heart.
With Love, Always, In All Ways, For Giving,