February 25, 2011

Hello Dreams. Goodbye. Tales of a Yogi Householder.

A couple years ago, I decided to stop waiting for someone to hand me what I wanted from life.

I had been living and working from a place that told me I needed permission from others to reach out for my dreams. Feelings of inadequacy, fear, and especially fear of failure, had kept me feeling pretty stagnant.

So during the pregnancy of my third son, I harnessed all of that juicy, gestational energy and wrote a book on prenatal yoga. I knew this would be my last pregnancy and wanted to be able to capture that voice with authenticity. I also started pursuing other dreams, like traveling and teaching. It turned out, after some examination of my life, that an odd weekend away from my family was much easier to pull off than commiting to an overwhelming load of regular classes.

Doorways opened and at the same time, critics and jealousy started showing their green, putrid faces.  Some of that criticism was subtle, others less so. I knew that most of it revolved around the idea that when someone is getting what they want from life, it tends to make others keenly aware that they have stopped reaching for their own dreams. I wasn’t doing anything that couldn’t be done by others, it’s just a matter of going for it. Still, I spent some time wallowing in fear and then decided to let the universe show me my path. And there it was, laid out before me, wide open, inviting and wonderful.

Sometimes the way is clear. But only for a while.

It’s easy to fall back into not knowing. For all the tendrils of hope I put out there, very few came to fruition. Yet the ones that did were wonderful. I failed more than I succeeded, but valuing success over failure taught me a good lesson on perseverance.

Okay, I can work, I can accept failure and keep going.

But something new happened. Grasping and jealousy of my own, for what others were doing and what I wanted. It’s so easy to bang your head into the wall and forget that the path is just around the corner.

Then there were the other things. Four, specifically: my husband and my three sons.

I would so like to be like those other yogis, the ones who have it all figured out, the ones that have time to roll out their mats and practice each day without distraction. The ones who can teach 50 classes a week because they have no other obligations. I want to be married to my yoga. But I am married to my husband.

Balancing married life with motherhood and yoga is very difficult. Throughout it all, yoga is my lifeline.  I practice the yoga of truthfulness, non-violence and especially contentment and unattachment.

I can’t tell you how many times I rolled out my mat and then someone threw up on it. Literally. Or the time that I got the kids in the car, on the way to the babysitter and then to teach a full day of classes and workshops, only to throw in the towel and head home because that someone threw up then too. Puke happens when you have kids. Often.

The greater teachings of yoga that are contained in the Yoga Sutras have so much more value to me than the execution of  an advanced pose.  But there are casualties: my practice, at times, and my body. I’ve put on 15 pounds in the last year since I had my baby. Practicing contentment can be hard when the inner critic is on with ferocity each and every hour of the day.

My teacher Kofi Busia once shared with me how much criticism he received as a parent and a yogi. Others would tell him he was missing out.  But he didn’t see it that way, and neither do I.

It’s not that my family and my yoga are at odds with each other, because it’s all about perspective. Contentment doesn’t come on its own, it takes work. Hard work. The snarky, snaking words of the inner critic, of the ego are constant. If yoga is all about the body and the pose, I would be a big, fat failure right now.  But it’s not. Asana happens, in the words of Richard Freeman. But yoga is all the time.

So when I notice the negative, grasping or self-pitying voices, I breathe. Lesson one in yoga: watch the breath, it has much to tell you and even more to offer.

Then I go back to walking my path and trying to avoid banging my head into walls. The walls will win every time, but the path is usually just around the corner.

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