In an instant everything changes.
I started my bike ride out on an eight mile stretch of sidewalk that wraps around the waters of the bay. As I looked out over the bay water, there were hardly any waves visible at all. The water was slowly rising and falling like a floating parachute sheet. On a rock in the water, three birds were calmly drying out their feathers in the sun.
I settled into a cafe for a bite to eat and when I went to travel back, my path was completely different. Gone were the smooth waters, replaced by fierce waves cresting with white caps. A storm was quickly moving in. The rock that had provided serene shelter for the birds, was now being pelted with splash and foam.
The reminder is everywhere that nothing stays the same. Sure, you can look for signs that a storm is coming. You can feel the winds kick up, see the clouds move in, watch the weather report.
But how do you prepare for a storm you never saw coming?
In the Year of Magical Thinking, Joan Didion writes, “Life changes in the instant. The ordinary instant. You sit down to dinner and life as you know it ends.” Her husband has just died and she is trying to make sense of her life without him. We all have to adjust to the ebb and flow of change in life. Sometimes the change is sudden, like the loss of a loved one, sometimes the change is more subtle like the yearly growth of children.
When my first child was born, complete strangers seemed to keep reinforcing this message for me. Everywhere I went it seemed people were stopping me to say, “Enjoy it. It goes so fast.” There always seemed to be this look in their eye of missing the baby days, a longing for the days of past.
I understood that look in their eye. That place of wanting to keep everything the same, but seeing the storm that day, I knew that was impossible. Days do not stay the same and neither do our lives. I understood that I couldn’t control everything that rolled into my life.
Cultivating detachment leads to acceptance.
I knew I couldn’t stop time or keep my baby from growing, so I figured the best thing I could do was to immerse myself in being present. I went to meditation classes, learned breathing techniques to stay calm, did yoga.
Each time I found myself losing my temper quickly or brewing over to do lists, I regathered my focus on the present moment. And truly began to enjoy it, no matter what situation arose. I found that the unexpected side effect of detachment and acceptance, is that you develop a more positive outlook on life when you are not grasping to keep things as they are.
There were some tough times, but the strength to be calm allowed me to manage any situation that arose.
“Life changes fast.” Joan Didion says. When we learn to be accepting of life’s challenges as they are presented to us—detaching from holding onto the past—we learn to be present in the moments of our lives as they are happening, allowing us to write a more interesting future. We know we can’t control everything, but we start to see the beauty of it all.
Storms will brew with friends, family, ourselves—some without any warning. People will come in and then out of our lives, but storms open the door for new adventures and experiences in life. Having the rain soak your hair and face, can become an exhilarating adventure when we accept the present day as it is.
As Joseph Campbell writes, “The big question is weather you are going to be able to say a hearty yes to your adventure.”
Sarah Lesch is a 500- hour registered yoga teacher and contributing writer for Yoga Tampa Bay. She teaches at Bella Prana where her classes are an intuitive expression of movement and breath, skillfully guiding students to draw upon their own inner strengths. She leads meditation, parenting, and advanced asana workshops throughout the area, as well as Stand-Up Paddleboarding adventures. Sarah enjoys poetry, art, music, and family. Following the wisdom that the individual epitomizes the universe, she promotes self awareness and personal growth.
Editor: Carolyn Gilligan