Ever felt overwhelmed by an uncertain future? Do a handstand and think about hugging your big, Italian mama!
I have always been a planner.
As long as I can remember, I have found it ridiculously exciting to make a list over all my plans for the day and then cross them out when accomplished. It has given the day purpose and although the tasks have varied in importance (yes, I have at times written down “eat lunch” when tasks for the day have been scarce…), it has given me a feeling that my day, my week, my life has had meaning and that I have had some kind of control.
This is also reflected in my career. My two gap years after high school were carefully planned out, leaving nothing to coincidences. I started a Bachelor’s program, followed by a Master’s, and when faced with the uncertain future of a fresh graduate, I figured a PhD would probably be a good fit. I was accepted and relieved as I now had a plan for the coming three years.
I would not have to face the uncertainty of not having it all figured out.
That was a year ago.
The plan, however, has changed and I am no longer enrolled in the PhD program.
After a whole lot of unhappiness, self-doubt and uncertainty, I had to take a serious look into what made me so unhappy. This washing-up led to the realization that I was not (said in a very yogic way) being true to myself, and that a big reason for why I was doing a PhD was because I did not know what else to do. I was terrified of the thought of not having a plan, of losing control, and this fear made me choose the safe path rather than going head-first into the hard work and uncertainty embedded in the process of discovering what would be more “me.”
So I quit this summer.
Probably one of the toughest decisions I have ever made, and faced the total new situation of having no plan.
And to be honest, I have never been more scared in my life. These last few months have been an emotional roller coaster on which it has been incredibly hard to hold on. I’ve tried letting go, surrendering to wherever this crazy journey would take me, but letting go in a sharp turn or a steep descent has been a lot more challenging than I’d ever imagined.
Why is it so difficult to just let go? Where does this feeling of losing control come from? Why is it so hard to step out of these old thought patterns and avoid being trapped by them over and over again?
In my quest for answers I have learned a whole lot of things:
I have learned that I have books in my yoga library that I never thought I had. I have learned that Sally Kempton is probably the wisest person on earth. I have learned that running is extremely underrated as a stirring-the-thought-waves-kind-of-remedy. But most of all, I have learned that dealing with fear and uncertainty is a process during which you find the tools that work for you.
A yoga teacher once told me, when I was working on my handstand and feeling like a sack of potatoes up-side down, that I should try thinking about “hugging my mama.” Obviously, his metaphor was influenced by his Italian origins and reflected the physical action of “hugging” the muscles to the bones in order to get proper alignment in the pose.
The metaphor has been a huge help to my handstand practice ever since but for the past months, with a slightly different meaning than the original one:
I picture being hugged by my big, Italian mama not to get better alignment in the pose but in order to face the fear of falling, of breaking my neck, of crashing into my bedroom table, of letting go, of being a disappointment, of changing a job.
Yes, it might sound silly, but she reflects the grounded security, safety and comfort I need to not only face my fearful challenges in handstand but those in general.
Try it. When feelings of fear and anxiety for an uncertain future gets the upper hand, get on your mat and flip upside down. Your big, Italian mama might help you out!
P.S. And read this article by Sally Kempton for a lil’ help on the side…
Katinka is an adventure-seeking, wine-loving yogini with a passion for the unknown. Her curiosity has led her into many peculiar situations, from having tea with Sudanese ministers and roadtripping through India’s heartland searching for guerrilla soldiers to crossing the Alps on skis. She loves contrasts, which is why you find a mix of high heels, climbing shoes, cowboy hats and yoga mats in her closet, and she strongly believes it enriches her life. When she is not in the classroom teaching French, you will find her climbing a mountain, working on her handstand or under a blanket reading while sipping a tempered Côte de Rhône. Get in touch with her by e-mail or Facebook.
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Ed: Kate Bartolotta