You think you believe something, that you are committed to something and you know yourself at your core. Then your ego (the negative voice in your head) pulls the chair out from under you, and you get to watch how fast all of that flies out of your hands and crashes through the window.
Once you realize what happened, you have two choices: leave it, and stay plopped on your ass, angry and confused; or go get it—look your ego dead in the eyes and pick it all back up. That moment, that very instant, is when you are transformed. All of those beliefs, all of those intentions, they become instilled in you. They melt with your heart and soul and become a part of you.
I experienced this while studying abroad for a summer in Prague, Czech Republic.
Before Prague, I thought I had “conquered” my body issues (the way too common obsessive thoughts and guilt about what to eat, my weight, how I look) and the anxiety and anger that comes along with them. For about six months prior to leaving, I really was sure I was on solid ground there.
In retrospect, I definitely was in a much better place—but only when my boat wasn’t being rocked. I was in a better place when I had at least an hour a day to do my yoga, and I could follow my way-too-strict diet (which I of course didn’t see as too strict at the time).
I knew I would be getting out of my comfort zone, I knew I would learn and grow. I was genuinely excited and ready for the challenge. Yet the thought of gaining weight or losing my strength to preform advanced asanas made me stick my fingers in my ears and sing to myself.
It was hard. It was harder than hard. Life threw me in a Vitamix and spilled me back out. I recited positive affirmations. I asked for guidance and support. I tried not to stress or think about what I was eating. I tried to enjoy and be present. I kept saying to myself, “The harder this is, the more I’m learning, right?”
Nothing did the trick. Every day just seemed to get harder than the last. I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t digest, I couldn’t be happy. I would sit on my yoga mat, crying, begging for the internet to work so I could do a yoga class.
My lowest point was about two weeks before it was time to leave. I went to visit Auschwitz, and while walking around on the grounds and in the buildings where some of the most horrific acts in history took place, the only thing I could think about was if I had gained weight. I walked through barbed wire fences, courtyards used for executions, a pond full of human ash and remains—and all I could think about was me.
What the fuck is wrong with me?!
Something had to happen. I reached out, nervously asked some girlfriends for help and support. I surrendered. I recommitted to my intention of letting go and letting love (my alarm reminds me every morning). To choose love over fear; to have faith, trust and gratitude.
I looked my ego in the eye and picked it all back up.
I decided to get back to the basics. My new mantra was: “moment to moment, choose love.” I checked every single thought at the door—if it wasn’t a positive, loving thought, it wasn’t getting in. Slowing down and putting my focus on the present moment let me slowly build, slowly pick up the pieces and get my shit together without getting overwhelmed and knocking everything down again.
The interesting thing I noticed was that once I was recommitted to keep living with my intentions, life seemed to flow effortlessly. Effortlessly. In every sense of the word, in every situation. My yoga practice proved the physical manifestation of being in the effortless flow of life—I would easily fly in arm balances and challenging transitions without even thinking.
Situations that would have had me in angry tears (such as a two hour wild-goose chase around the city just for a month long transportation pass I would only need for two weeks), I could now see the humor in and laugh! I could breathe again, but deeper than before.
Needless to say, the rest of the trip concluded with ease. Also needless to say, I was more than excited and ready to get back home.
Cheryl Strayed, in her book Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, perfectly explains exactly how I felt when I finally reached my bed the night I returned home and ended my journey:
“It was all unknown to me then… Everything except the fact that I didn’t have to know. That was enough to trust that what I’d done was true. To understand its meaning without yet being able to say precisely what it was…”
I knew I learned. I knew I grew. What did I learn and how did I grow? Well, that I couldn’t tell you at the time. But I knew it was right. And luckily, I can tell you now.
Growth and change create resistance in your body and mind. Big time. In that crucial, precious moment, I decided to pick up the pieces. I let it go. I surrendered. I had faith and trust. I became more connected to my intuition and to life than I ever have. I finally put my heart behind my intention, and plugged into spirit.
I cracked myself open, and found a deeper layer of myself that I didn’t know was there. How I’ve been striving to act—to choose love automatically, to forgive, to relax, to laugh—all those good things were now a reflex. An instinct. It was inside of me this whole time.
I just finally dug deep enough, uncovered it, and let it shine.
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Edited by: Ben Neal