She was speaking in earnest, and I could see from her expression that she meant it.
“I want to heal. I want to change.”
Despite her efforts to live from a more positive place, her life was a dizzying, fun-house mirror confirming that the gremlins were still at work.
I swallowed, endeavouring to choose a string of words that would be gentle, but resolute.
“I can only speak from being my own guinea pig, but if you want to change, if you want to heal, you have to fully commit. There has to be an understanding that, once you hop onto that train, there’s no jumping off, and you might get way more than you bargained for. You can’t plead for change, and when it sucks, un-want it. You have to be willing to see and wade through it all. Light, dark, good, bad, ugly…all of it, and I mean all of it.”
I thought back to the first time I stepped on a yoga mat at the tender age of 17.
I had no clue that I was signing up for a 180-degree perspective shift on nearly everything in my world. A few years later, I showed up of my own volition for the second (and final) time, with what seemed to be a relatively simple request:
I wanted to heal my heart.
It was in pieces, and I wasn’t sure how it could ever return to wholeness.
At the time, I was, by all accounts, a shadow of the girl I knew myself to be. I wasn’t entirely naïve—I knew, on some level, that breathing while making shapes on a rubber mat was a gateway to something deeper.
In my attempt to find a new, healthy “hobby,” I had a suspicion that I was subscribing to much more than a flexible, strong body, or a slightly less cluttered mind.
What I sought, both in movement and in stillness, were the threads that would stitch my heart back together as neatly and securely as possible so I could navigate the next chapter of my journey with deeper peace and grace.
With time, and a fierce dedication to making my practice my keystone, I found more of those threads than I could have imagined I would need. Those already well-versed in broken-heartedness reassured me that no matter how convinced I was that I would never recover, I would mend.
Those who knew me even better added that this experience would, in fact, re-birth me into a version of myself that was ten times stronger than before.
They were right.
But that wasn’t all.
“The practice never really ends,” my teachers said.
What began as a modality to heal my heart has become a lifelong path that continues to educate me, even if/when I want nothing more than a day off from being taught.
Rolling out a yoga mat that first time was equivalent to being gifted a lifetime membership to the “Great Embracers of Personal Change” club and, only now, I realize I can’t revoke my membership.
The strange thing is that I wouldn’t, even if I could. I can’t help but love the learning, even when it gobsmacks me, or when it turns my world upside down.
With the dawn of a new year upon us, earnest intentions for transformation and change linger at the forefront of our minds and hearts.
Whether we are rolling out our mats for the first time or the millionth; we are in the sanctuary of our living room or in the only space left at the front of the class; we move or we lie perfectly still when we start to breathe and touch base with who we are in that one-and-only moment; we remember that when we sign up to change one part of our lives, we quickly come to the striking realization that changing one part leads into the re-configuration of another…and another.
Where we longed for that one simple answer or solution, we find ourselves swept up in an endless stream of poignant lessons as everything re-arranges itself so we can be the change that we desire.
What we hoped would be simple, clear takeaways are actually a series of living, breathing, beautiful contradictions.
That the destination and the journey are one in the same.
That the light and the dark can (and in fact, must) coexist.
That what falls away is actually something greater falling into place.
That everything means nothing, and everything means something.
That not everyone will accept our life-giving choices, but those who see the bigger picture of how those choices are actually serving us, will understand. When we are awake, their lives, whether they see it or not, are altered by our waking.
That happiness is found in the acceptance and willingness to let go of how we think our life should be, and surrendering more deeply to what our life is.
It comes with not settling for less than what gives us strength, a feeling of purpose and a glimmer of light to keep us chasing; not compromising our values or devaluing our true worth; not stifling our voice when we need to speak what makes our heart ache, what sets our soul on fire, or what brings us to our knees with gratitude.
It’s not being afraid to let go when it’s time to grow beyond the walls we have built that prevent us from being greater, doing better, living larger.
That nobody wins by our playing small.
That we are, and we are not, our bodies—which isn’t to say it isn’t good to have a healthy body. It absolutely is.
(We couldn’t be in the world this way without it!)
And that’s not implying we shouldn’t love our bodies—we should.
But the nature of our being Human is that our bodies will (and always are) changing.
The more we strive for perfection in the bones and flesh of who we are, the more likely we are to be disappointed when our bodies “turn their backs on us,” or when, at the so-called-peak of our physical greatness, we look in the mirror and can’t quite place why we feel we’re still missing something, why we still aren’t content.
That, in fact, we are not lacking for anything—and yet, what we feel we need in order to feel more whole is what drives us forward along the path, coaxing us into living our purpose in full bloom.
That it’s all happening now.
This is both the final performance, and the decades-long commitment to a practice of becoming that which we signed up for when we came into our human form. The time is now, but in some cases, the time is later; there is a bridge that needs to be built from “here” to “there” before we can fully appreciate the other side.
And it doesn’t stop there.
In fact, the lessons never cease. At times, this can be downright overwhelming, and at others, can be the invaluable gift we are seeking.
As I listened to this woman speak, I knew her voice was only one of the many honest voices pleading to change and heal into wholeness.
The louder and more plentiful these voices become, the more I am reminded why we absolutely need to follow the persistent calls of the part of ourselves beyond our tight hamstrings and shoulders that want to stretch and grow.
It’s not just listening to that steady inner voice that is imploring us to rise—it’s responding, taking action, opening our eyes and our hearts up wide to what presents itself. What can or will shift things at our very core can look like the complete opposite of what we think we need.
When we say we want to change, we must accept all the terms of agreement that come with that change.
When we whole-heartedly say yes to transformation, we are saying yes to the mess.
We are saying yes to the confusion.
We are saying yes to the chaos and discomfort; to being shown all the ways we have kept our luminous selves in the dark, holding them hostage out of plain old fear.
We’ve been afraid to shine because we know we’ll have to be polished to do it. We’re afraid to lose the security we’ve found in relationships, creature comforts, habits in patterns and out-dated versions of who we’ve believed ourselves to be because, if we let go of those things (or have them taken away) we may not know who we are, or how to move forward.
It’s saying yes to stronger choices that turn us from a passive pile of sticks into a raging bonfire.
Yes to our worth.
Yes to our truth.
Yes to earth-shattering joy, love and gratitude for things that we wouldn’t believe we could ever-in-a-million-years feel grateful for. To a space where even saying no to what has ceased to serve us is a yes in disguise.
So, you say you want to heal. You want to change. Promise me you’ll say yes, and dive in. Believe that you can; that if you are fully committed to changing, and being changed, you will.
Let go of the how and the when.
Don’t will the mess away—swim in it.
Enjoy the ride. Relish in the beauty of the imperfection.
A heart with masterful stitches is certainly not the end. It is merely the beginning.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Author: Allison Goundry
Apprentice Editor: Brandie Smith/Editor: Catherine Monkman