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August 4, 2011

What lies behind Door Number One?

Photo: NottNags

Failure.

What does this word evoke in you? Emotionally?Physically?

For most of my life, failure, the word and the concept, has created a knot in the pit of my stomach—one that wasn’t easily undone. Failure seemed to compound upon failure, and each knot drew tighter around the previous. It almost seemed as if there wasn’t a way to begin to undo all these knots, so why bother trying?

Instead, I chose to ignore the knots 99% of the time, continuing to stay numb through what I knew I was good at: not-eating, being too thin and excessive working out. This was a safe place in my mind where no knot, however tightly bound, could get to me. Failure after perceived failure grew inside, almost parasitic in the attack, taking up the room that was authentically me.  Perhaps it had started with a bad grade, before moving on to relationships, jobs, friends and ideas. Nothing ever seemed to work out—it would have been a lot easier to throw my hands up and let the monster feed.

However, inside this tangle of life existed a determined soul. I was prepared to deal with this whole failure thing. Life couldn’t be allowed to go on this way. The decision wasn’t so much a cognitive choice, but rather something that unfolded. Looking back on the unfolding, I can see the path a lot clearer—as if I had just come over a mountain, and looking back I could see what I had crossed to get where I was.

So what is failure? Busting out the dictionary, I found quite a few definitions:

1. a: omission of occurrence or performance; specifically: a failing to perform a duty or expected action

b: state of inability to perform a normal function

c: a fracturing or giving way under stress

2 a: lack of success

b: a failing in business

3: a falling short

What do I think of the above? Been there, done that.  And then there are the other words related failure: deterioration, decay, deficiency, neglect, negligence, default, misprision and dereliction. Whew! That is almost too much for anyone to handle.

So how to move away from being defined as above? This started for me—where else, but the yoga mat? I began in my yoga practice terrified of making the smallest mistake, scared of getting hurt. I thought I might fall over while doing a headstand! But over time, I grew to feel safe and at home on the mat—and I started to experiment.

Did I fall? Yes, but I learned that these mistakes didn’t hurt as much as I had anticipated. In fact, they even opened the way for new learnings on how to come into or out of poses, and I gradually became comfortable with the idea that both falling and the inability to get into a posture were inevitable, and were going to happen frequently.

Photo: Tinou Bao

The cliché—”what happens on the mat translates off the mat “—is so true in this case. I’ve started to notice that what I would have viewed as a failure in the past—and a blow to who I am as a person—doesn’t hurt as much, and at times washes over me. An example: A yoga class I was teaching was recently canceled. In the past, I would have stewed over this and it would have eaten me up inside. Perhaps I would have even thrown up my hands at the idea of being a yoga teacher. How do I feel about it now? I’m ok with it. Maybe it wasn’t the right time, style or location.

Failure is an opening of energies for a new idea or endeavor.

And besides, as one door closes, another opens—sort of like a room with two doors. As you walk in, the door across from you is closed, and by closing the door through which you entered, the other door magically opens on its own.

Time to go see what is out there.

 

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