Yoga’s not meant to be pleasant—it’s meant to make us more present.
If we crank our heater to 90, hold high-plank for 60-75 seconds and imagine a 215 pound former mixed martial artist with 100 hours of tattoo work (that’s me) shouting alongside The Gaslight Anthem She Loves You then you’ll be right there in class with us.
That’s why we come—there’s nothing quite as uniquely uniting of our small and big selves like a common hatred for what’s happening right now.
A low-plank hold is a lot like love—drop to your knees if you need, but don’t sacrifice your integrity.
Stay there until you and the commentator in your head agree on at least one of three thoughts: this sucks, this guy sucks, or yoga sucks.
Press up and back to down dog. Take child’s pose when we want—an outlaw’s got nothing to prove to anyone but themselves in this life.
Repeat this as many times as it takes to unite these two selves in a moment of forced presence.
Like an awkward first kiss, stubbing the shit out of your toe, or the rib rattling rat-a-tat of getting tattooed, a moment of forced presence can often show up as immediately unpleasant.
I wont’ lie to you: when we first begin to cultivate mindfulness it isn’t all sunshine and moonbeams.
In fact, in the beginning our enhanced presence may only seem to reveal how unpleasant this moment really is.
I’m not one to avoid talking about the elephant in the room—even when I happen to be the elephant. I’d recently been through a break-up that my community was well aware of. I’d taken a week and a half off and was teaching again for the first time—we’d expect it to be raw.
If I forget what side we’re on please forgive me. If I say lift your leg and then forget how long it’s been in the air please remind me—this isn’t one of those times though, so lift your leg higher.
We know when someone in the yoga community knows about our break-up because instead of seeing you and saying,
or “How’s your day been?”
or “What’s new?”
or “How’ya been?”
they cock their head at an angle, reach out and put their hand on your forearm in a loving way, affect a look of great concern and ask,
“How are you?”
But, as fate would have it, this happened to be the only break-up that I’ve ever been proud to be part of. I know that pride is a strange emotion to feel towards a break-up—at least one that didn’t involve a large sum of money—but hear me out.
For starters, it was the first and only relationship that my ex or I had ever left honorably. Ever. That is to say without fucking someone else, lying about something significant, or, as often as not, just ignoring the dwindling passion until we’ve both spent several months (or years) making each other miserable all because, at one time, we made each other happy.
It was also, and perhaps not coincidentally, the most mindful break-up I’ve ever participated in.
Our intention and visions, the trajectories for the aim of our lives, had slowly drifted off course. Nothing more and nothing less. A drift caused by some familiar topics:
“She wants kids, like yesterday and he might consider wanting them one day.”
“He won’t stop smoking joints in the house.”
Hell, we were both pounding off a bit too much in the end too.
Truth is, we were both scared—scared to hurt each other, scared to be without a familiar form, scared to recreate our lives from the inside out.
In love and in life everyone gets scared, even outlaws. But an outlaw acts despite their fear. We realized and openly communicated to each other, that failing to act would only leave us scared and inert as today a minor drift in the story goes on to tell us into tomorrow, then on into next month, or next year.
It is easy to see where this goes, right? So could we. (It didn’t help that both of our respective sets of parent’s currently suffer from a similar mid-life malaise.)
My grandparents are recently divorced for chrissakes.
My ex and I weren’t bad to one another. We hadn’t hurt each other, or broken each other’s hearts, hadn’t given each other a single cause to leave the relationship. But we realized that the lack of excuse for leaving a relationship is not the same thing as a reason to stay in one.
We’d both been less present with each other, and we’d both lost touch with being grateful for one another.
It may have started with her job, but it also involved a lot of personal choices that he made—choices about where to live that chiseled a path for him, just as surely as questions about how to spend my free time did for her.
We can change the details and, if we dare, ask ourselves if we’re living something of a similar story?
We’ll meet in down dog.
This moment may rub some of us raw. Let it. Let it expose us, let it make us brand-new. (An outlaw plays the limit of the poetic license.) Partner hand-stand will be challenging to do on our own at home, but we do it every day in outlaw.
We can keep the world at arms length by treating love like its a precious and rare commodity. One whose absence has stung you in the past, one that may very well hurt us in the future for the same reason. But I, for one, would not trade the rich texture of my sadness, for all of the love that led up to it.
An emotional wall doesn’t discriminate between good and bad—when we shut the world out by building a barrier to ward off sadness, we keep the full range of experience at the same distance. From fear, many of us have come to treat love like a commodity, worried that if we give too much of it away, one day there won’t be enough love left for ourselves. We’ve come to treat love a little like a stoner does his lighter, paranoid that if we offer it to someone else it may never find its way back to us.
We act as if love is something that can ever belong to us in the first place.
Love is infinite, more vast even than water on this planet—the more we go to the well to give love, the fuller the well of love gets.
Every time we share love it’s like dumping a bucket into the well.
I dare you to share love again and again so that one day we might fill our internal wells to overflowing. I invite you to make it in all forms so that it begins to bubble up and out of it’s own accord. I challenge you to choose to let it spill over and break its bounds, to form a torrent of the single most renewable form of energy in this human life, a free and flowing fountain from which the fabric of existence may be formed.
Floor frog. Find acceptance—this feeling may last a while.
The possibility present in painful moments far exceeds those in moments that are pleasant.
An outlaw does what’s right, not what’s popular. An outlaw knows that there can be no change without challenge, whether in love or in life.
In the end, my ex and I decided that we all deserve a limitless expression of love in our unique experience of life, even if that means letting go of something really good, so that we might connect to something great. I choose to celebrate our break-up, to celebrate the power inherent in making our own bold choices for change —our exercising of an outlaw’s imperative.
Everyone deserves to decide what their unique expression of love will look like. Outlaw.
Yoga is mine. I didn’t make up mindfulness, I just try make it more contemporary, maybe a little sexy—hopefully more applicable on and off the mat.
As the popularity of this moment to moment practice grows, so too will our capacity to love and respect one another as individuals, so that, even in the most trying times, we outlaws can lead from a place of love and precede from a place of devotion, a fearless place of presence and service in all of our relationships, especially our romantic ones.
Mindfulness is the only tool we need for any problems, be they in dating or our day-to-day. Over our next cup of coffee, challenge ourselves to let this moment be brand new and each of us in it.
When we’re ready to accept this challenge, only when you’re ready to make this choice, join us in a comfortable seat and we’ll seal in our time together.
Let us give thanks for our effort and energy, for sharing it with all of those around us.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Apprentice Editor: Ashleigh Hitchcock / Editor: Renée Picard