Something happened to me recently that made me want to run away from myself.
I was reminded that life is kind of in charge—and while I am here, breathing its breath, it is in truth breathing me.
It is scary as Hades to feel a sense of powerlessness, especially when things seem to go awry. But, beneath the crazy, chaotic messiness, there lies that pulse—an inhale and an exhale—that somehow stays constant while the outside world seems to storm.
Before I tell you what happened, I need to share that I have been questioning parts of my life for a very long time. I’ve questioned my heart’s yearnings, then followed them, then gotten scared and ignored them—then listened again—and the tireless dance has continued.
I have been teaching Yin Yoga for the past two years. I found Yin over 10 years ago, in a church community room in Vancouver, British Columbia. I wouldn’t ever in a million years have chosen that practice for myself at that time.
Why? It required to much stillness.
I was in a 500-hour teacher training, and I was required—forced, it felt like—to take it. I did the required classes and studied the theory and then forgot about it—until a few years ago.
Something in me craved that stillness. I actually looked up my original Yin teacher’s site (Bernie Clark—he’s an amazingly knowledgeable teacher) and started to practice with him online. I was hooked. I began to delve deeper into the philosophy and explore how other teachers teach it. Eventually, I found my own way of teaching it. The practice has not only shifted my body, but my mind.
And now, it is seeping into my way of life.
Back to life having a plan—and it does! I am so in awe of the way things happen.
Yoga constantly humbles me. I get into this egoic frame of mind: “I have control and power and can manifest x, y, or z in my life,” and then life spins things in a very new light.
I am a nature lover. I have had a deep love affair with nature, most especially trees, since I could remember. Other than my mat, the woods are my go-to reset place—a home for my heart to be heard, seen, and reflected upon with grace.
A few months ago, my city in upstate New York had a major, state-of-emergency windstorm. I was scheduled to teach a yoga class about a 20 minute drive from my house. I received a text in the morning from my intuitive mom that I should not drive because of high winds. I rolled my eyes at the text.
She’s just being a worried mom, I said to myself. I’m a grown woman, I don’t need to listen to her worries and fears—I’ll be fine.
Oddly, I had a fear in the pit of my stomach and also felt drawn to cancel my class, but the self-preservationist in me told me I should go—I needed to make money and it was not right to cancel on my students last minute out of fear.
Needless to say, I got into my new, little Ford Fiesta and drove.
The wind didn’t start whipping my car until I got closer to my class location. It wasn’t that bad, I thought, until I stepped out of the car, and 80 mph winds blew me to the door. I taught the class. Teaching always brings me to my center, so being wind-swept back to my car wasn’t such a shock. Somehow, the wind seemed stronger than before.
I decided to wait it out a bit, and opened the lunch I packed to eat in the car. With music on to lull my fears, I dipped carrots in hummus and watched the tree trunks around the parking sway back and forth. Twenty minutes in and with my lunch box empty, it wasn’t letting up.
I decided to drive—what else could I do? As I pulled my little car out of the lot, the police were directing traffic. The traffic signals had literally blown off of their poles. Electricity was also out. I decided to take what I deemed a safe route and drove through a nearby residential neighborhood, full of cul-de-sacs, that led to the main road that would get me home.
Well, I didn’t make it very far.
A quarter of a mile down a nice, quiet, albeit windy street, a large gust whipped my car and I saw branches hit my windshield. In less than a second, those branches turned into a whole tree trunk. Something in me said hit the gas and just as my foot hit the pedal, the tree bounced from my hood to my roof, all the way to my trunk, smashing the entire back window in. I kept pressing the gas and my car drove on about 10 feet before my foot hit the break. The tree smashed onto and across the street.
Shaking and in shock, I got out of my car hesitantly. Just then, two more large trees were uprooted by another gust across the street. I was at a four way stop. Two other cars driving by stopped to ask if I was okay. I couldn’t answer. I looked back at that tree—the one that had just smashed up almost every inch of my car, but spared me.
It was at least 24 feet in length—huge and completely uprooted. The street was blocked and so was I.
The universe told me to stop—and I listened.
Listening becomes easier with time. I am as impatient as the next person, which is why I do asana and meditation and take nature walks. I need to remember to slow down. Yes, I lost my brand new car. I actually left my corporate yoga job shortly after, which I had been guided to leave a while back, because for some reason it drained me. The driving from place to place and working with lots of personalities and places in one day did not resonate with my highly sensitive and empathic self.
I was mad at trees for a while after that. I didn’t trust them. They, who had been my best buds—who I’d hugged often and gawked at daily—really pissed me off. I screamed to the universe, Why the f*ck would you choose a tree? And why such a dramatic act?
This happened months ago. I left my main job and took an office position where I could work from home. It felt like busy work. It was keeping me from really delving into my studies as a mental health counseling student, and from my writing, and really and truly, from my deepest self.
And in this process of questioning, I somehow found an answer.
Today, I laid on my belly in Yin Sphinx and set my meditation timer and breathed. Yin works with time, which I often resist. Time and I have had a dysfunctional relationship. Those old jobs of mine that didn’t resonate felt like they were stealing time from me. Have you ever had one of those resentful moments where you curse something or someone for wasting your time?
Suddenly, on my mat, with my shoulder blades aching and my lower back muscles expanding, I said thank you for this time. I gave myself the gift of seven minutes to be present with body and breath in this one asana I chose for myself. I honored myself. I made time for myself.
At the end of my practice, I smiled. I actually thanked that tree for the very first time in my life.
That tree was saving me from running from myself. That tree slowed me down. Sometimes, things we love piss us off, right? That person we have such an affinity for says something that puts a bad taste in our mouths or ignites our inner dragon. I see more and more that those fiery moments are a sign of life showering us with growth. It is only in stillness that we can purely and truly experience the wisdom, the energy, and the subtle currents of life that have a rather mystical component.
Even in pain and chaos, there is stillness.
Here and now, two months after a tree fell on my car with me in the driver’s seat, I can write about it without a heavy charge. In fact, I write about it with love and understanding.
My fear has turned into compassion; my heavy, blaming heart has lightened. And I see that patience—and time—contains a depth that is timeless. If you told me two months ago that I would find peace now, I would have run from your words. But in the mystical force that is life, time is kind of an illusion. Seven minutes into my Yin Sphinx today, my bell went off and I wasn’t ready to come out. I stayed for 10. I could have stayed more. But when I first set my timer, that seven minutes seemed like it would be an eternity.
We can’t get lost in the future—it hasn’t even happened yet and it’s just a mirage.
It’s here, one breath at a time, that we experience the truth and wisdom of being breathed—by life. And when we do, chaotic moments can be breathed too. It just might take a little longer than our present moment self wants.
And that’s okay, because we can keep inhaling and exhaling, only to realize we’re not doing any of it. No, we realize we’re being done.
Author: Sarah Lamb
Images: Author’s Own
Editor: Catherine Monkman