October 12, 2010

What You Need Is A Good Wake Up Fall

Whether you trip or get shoved, it’s always a good time for a Wake Up Fall.

Nothing gets our attention like suddenly being confronted by the unexpected. Whether misjudging a headstand and tumbling to the floor, or getting fired out of the blue, we find ourselves in a surprising new landscape for which we weren’t prepared—like opening a map of California and finding one for North Dakota instead. With wounded pride, we pick ourselves up and try as hard as we can to repair the damage to our tissue-thin egos.

That which we had taken for granted has given way to something new. There is going to be change.

With unexpected change comes fear. “What if I fall again and hurt myself?” “What other job can I do?” But if we can approach these moments of transition with an open spirit, we might just find opportunities beyond our wildest expectations. I like to think of unexpected change as the moment when the curtains rise on Rogers and Hammerstein musical. Suddenly there is music, a beautiful set, characters who are on a journey, all of it heading towards a memorable ending.

 We cling to what we know with white-knuckle intensity. We display what we think are the best parts of ourselves under the brightest lights, to as many people as we can find to watch us. I don’t mind being in the front row when it’s a sequence I’m sure I can pull off. But throw in a few things I feel inferior about and I want to get out of the front row as fast as I can. I could lie and tell the teacher I’d a lot of coffee before class and run to the restroom. Or I could pretend limp to the sidelines. Cramps, I’d mouth to the teacher.

But those vulnerable moments are the most valuable of all. When I review my life, it is the falling and getting back up that has made me who I am today. It was the getting back up that turned everything upside down, changing my life positively even though I was terrified.

After an ex-boyfriend told me “If I ended up with you I would be settling” right after he’d asked me to marry him, my life felt like it was unraveling. It was unraveling, but only because I needed to take my life in a new direction—one that didn’t include him!

Something about the timing and placement of his drop kick was absolutely perfect. As I pulled myself from the wreckage, instead of spiraling to an all-new low, I found myself oddly exhilarating and galvanized. His casually cruel words freed me from bondage—the low self-esteem that was allowing me to entertain thoughts of marriage with someone who thought so little of me.

Wikipedia describes samskara as “imprints left on the subconscious mind by experience” (I can’t do a headstand, I’ll never find another job). Memory can actually inform our evolution, but when it becomes repetition without learning, it ultimately brings us down—way down—and keeps us there. I’d allowed myself to become bargain basement material in the romance department thanks to my samskara, but something about the impact of his words turned on a light. The courage that blossomed was limitless. I studied and became a yoga teacher. I found myself leading retreats around the world and even designing yoga pants (Shmandypants)—things I’d never considered before. And in the midst of this inspired new life, I met and married the best man on the planet.

Embrace the unexpected changes in your lives, as painful as they may be. You’ve just received a wake up fall.

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