I don’t pretend to understand why some people so easily live out their dreams and others never get close, no matter how hard they try.
Life can seem like a race. The starting gun goes off and some easily cruise by, the wind to their back, while others must leap tall hurdles and find their way around seemingly insurmountable obstacles.
There are theories on wanting it badly enough or deserving it, but I personally don’t buy into any of those. Sometimes, no matter how you slice it, life just doesn’t turn out the way you planned.
The day I died to my dreams started out like any other. I was moving along in my morning routine: coffee, breakfast, journaling and sun salutations on my yoga mat.
After breakfast, I opened a forgotten and rarely used journal that I pulled out of the bottom of a storage box, seeking only a blank page to smooth out some usual morning ramble stirring around in my mind. To my surprise, when I opened the journal, I found a couple of entries from almost exactly one year ago. As I read the lines, I remembered the day I wrote them, and how I so desperately wanted the life I pictured.
There on the page was a vision for my future in the form of a list. I like to make lists. I’m one of those people who include completed items on a to-do list, just for the satisfaction of marking it off right away.
This list contained three major events that I had long been eager to experience, but sadly felt no closer to today, than I did a year ago.
1. To have a healthy, loving marriage.
2. To have children and be a good mother.
3. To find success in a career that is my purpose.
I was reminded of a stack of journals from the past several years that contain, cover to cover, the details of my emotions related to these much written about yearnings.
What was I doing wrong? My motivations for these experiences weren’t selfishly motivated or harmful. I had done the hard work on myself. I had opened my heart.
I gained a better understanding of myself—strengths and weaknesses.
I focused on doing all the things I loved to do. I had patiently waited, and actively sought, and waited some more. However, no matter what new approach I tried, nothing seemed to bring me any closer to finding these key elements of the life I envisioned for myself.
Can you identify with the yearnings of a dying dream?
Maybe the career, love, marriage, family or success you dreamed of never happened. Maybe you made a wrong turn along the way that cost you something valuable. Maybe something unfair and unforeseen happened to you.
Maybe you didn’t take that leap when you had the chance or you took the leap when you should have taken a closer look. Maybe the obstacles are mounting as the years pass by. You just can’t understand why that wonderful life you so desire never seems to come together for you.
That morning in the presence of only my journal, I asked myself, a tough question, “At what point is it time to let go of a dream?”
The idea of holding onto your dreams no matter what, has sold many a poster with sweet kitten faces, rainbows and unicorns. Regrettably, a particular Journey song that I don’t like to remember roller-skating to in the ‘80’s, comes to mind.
As inspirational as unrealized dreams can be, when these yearnings become so strong that they become attachments, our focus and priorities shift, and the higher purpose for which we live changes. We become out of balance and frustrated. We struggle with feelings of defeat, or seek a greater sense of control, which can lead to later regrets.
Reading last year’s journal entry raised some questions for me about my dreams for the future.
Was I going to sit down today and write yet again about the same longings in my heart? I put the pen to the page, but couldn’t do it. Instead I decided to write about what my life would look like if I let go of my vision and admit to myself that the life that I dreamed of for so many years, may never happen.
Perhaps my future was meant to be different from the one I envisioned.
I sat with that thought for a few minutes. At first I felt like a freight train may run me over, but as I cradled in my heart the idea of surrendering my attachment to my dreams, that freight train surprisingly faded away into the distance.
I made a list of a different sort this time. Without the future I have envisioned all these years, what do I have?
The list flowed easily from the pen; my family, my friends, my writing, yoga, my health, the now and whatever it brings, and God. It was apparent that this list was filled with powerful resources of love, support, encouragement, joy and direction for my life.
Three realizations stood before me at that moment:
1. I have an abundance of invaluable treasures in my life already.
2. I love God even if he doesn’t give me the life I desire.
3. Without my dreams, I have what I already have, (refer to #1).
I’m not saying that we shouldn’t have dreams—quite the contrary.
I believe visions for the future are important. It’s just that when dreams become attachments, when they cloud our perception of the present, when they control us, or when our sense of fulfillment can only seem to come from realizing external these achievements or desires, it may be time to reexamine.
Dying to your dreams doesn’t mean you will never see them happen. Rather, it means that if your future doesn’t hold what you planned, you can accept with peace and gratitude, a life without them. Said another way, and to quote the Rolling Stones, “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you just might find, you get what you need.”
I closed my journal and stepped onto my yoga mat, ready to power-vinyasa sweat my way out of every last attachment to my self-designed future.
As I grounded myself in Mountain pose, however, I heard my body calling for something else. Savasana? I hadn’t even started my practice. I decided to obey.
I laid down flat on my back, pulled a blanket up to my chest, and let my hands fall out beside me. It took several breaths before I realized that corpse pose is only the most fitting asana for dying to something.
With each exhale, I surrendered my dreams and visions for my future, letting them pass by like clouds overhead. Each yearning that floated away was accompanied by heart-ache and tears that crept sideways down to my earlobes. I’ve always been sentimental with goodbyes.
Soon, a calm stillness quieted every part of my being. I was free. I remembered what it was like floating in the salt-water waves of the Gulf of Mexico as a child, looking up to the blue sky with only contentment in my soul.
Today I wrote a new entry in my journal, a new vision for my life. The list of what I seek for my future looks like this:
1. Wisdom in all areas of my life.
2. Courage to do what is called for.
3. Gratitude for all that I have and will be.
4. Compassion to serve others.
5. The sweet surrender to fully embrace whatever my destiny holds.
When I roll up my yoga mat I feel light, new, whole, attachment-free and at peace.
I don’t know what the path ahead will bring, but I have a strong feeling that no matter what my future looks like, this new dream for what I hope to have in my life, is just exactly what I need.
Amy Williams has been practicing yoga for more than 10 years. She is a lover of writing, yoga, music, travel, children, hiking, sweet tea, fried catfish, good wine, American literature, her Mama’s pound cake, afternoon naps, running, swimming, interesting people, strange but true stories, and a cat named Jimmy. Amy currently teaches yoga, travels, and writes.
Editor: Lara C.