I used to be somewhat adventurous. I was never what you would call a “dare-devil”, but ocassionally I would take a chance and surprise myself. Some of my fondest memories are from these instances. As I’ve gotten older, things have slowly (or not so slowly) changed, and now many of my decisions are driven primarily by a need to reduce risk in any situation. Said another way, much of what I do is designed to make things go smoothly and predictably in my life. So, not really a death-defying existence. However, I truly believe that if you don’t take risks, and really stretch and challenge yourself, that you are missing out on a lot of potential opportunity.
So, there is one thing that I do, every day that takes an enormous amount of courage and opens me up to risks that I can’t even anticipate. I step on my mat and drop in on mySelf. You may think this is no risk at all. My mat is right on the floor, so I can’t fall off. Usually I am in a protected space, safe from the elements.But really, stepping on the mat, and dropping in on yourself take a lot of COURAGE. Why is that?
I can (and often do) argue that most of our waking hours are spent avoiding ourSelves. We connect to everything outside of ourselves, but we don’t want to look in. And with technology and “connection” at our fingertips, it gets harder and harder. Just think back to the last time you had 5 minutes to fill–maybe waiting for a friend to meet you, or just before a meeting, or waiting for a prescription to be filled–anything. How long before you reached for your phone? What is it like to “just be”? Could you do it?
It’s great to come to the mat to “just be” because we identify it as something to “do”. It seems to have that activity structure that we crave.Maybe you are there just for the physical benefit. That’s fine. Whatever gets you to your mat is fine!
We come to the mat and ask ourSelves to get quiet and take a look. This is the courage part. If we release our grip on judgement and expectation, we really don’t know what we will find. I think anyone who has evered practiced knows that Yoga is not all butterflies, unicorns and kumbaya. It’s really hard to be with yourself in the quiet. The mind starts racing! Distant memories resurface! Emotions that we’ve been avoiding come to the forefront! We notice physical sensations in the body we weren’t aware of! We feel frustrated because we can’t do something we did last week. Or excited because we can do soemthing we couldn’t do before. We look at our response to being still, to moving, to breathing. And our intention is to simply breathe through it all.
This week in my classes I’ve had students in tears on the mat, a student who joyously reported a “major break through” and a student who felt like he was having an anxiety attack. Students who had trouble staying present and students who fell asleep in Svasana; students who were truly suffering and dealing with huge challenges and students who were on vacation.
You never know what you are going to find when you come to your mat. And moving into the unknown takes courage. But we come back time and time again to the mat, we take that risk, because it is so important to really KNOW what is going on. To not just “numb out” with the busy-ness of our lives, missing the moments until some big “a-ha” incident, like an accident or illness, jolts us back to ourselves.
Sometimes we don’t want to step on the mat and practice. Sometimes we want to run away screaming, even in the middle of a practice. When you want to leave the most, that’s when you really need to stay.
I always say (my students may be sick of hearing this) that it is not “what” you do on your mat, but “how and why” you do it. Come to your mat, make some space for yourself, and open to whatever you find.
Being on my mat has helped me to summon up courage off the mat as well. I am leaving for India in less than 2 weeks! Ever since I began my Yoga studies, I have wanted to travel to India, but figured it would be later in my life, when the kids were out of school and I didn’t feel like I had so many responsibilities. However, an opportunity presented itself and I will soon be on my way. Honestly, I am pretty nervous to be so far away for so long. But mostly I am gathering my courage for a big adventure. I’ll be posting pictures and blogging, as long as the internet cooperates, so tune in to follow my adventure with me!
Do you have the courage to step on your mat? What’s your next big adventure? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know!