Two months ago, I put in notice at my full-time job. The last day came this Friday.
For eight years, I’ve been a journalist and social media strategist — the latter falling in my lap after joining the workforce at the time social networks debuted for business. I’ve made my living interviewing, researching and then digesting and regurgitating information, bits and pieces at a time.
Some days, I was in my element. Other days, it was a chore. My evidence is a trail of bylines in industries such as healthcare, decorating, dogs, natural foods and obesity prevention. These are my “I was here” epitaphs.
It takes about seven years to master a skill, according to this comic by Zach Weiner. So if you live to age 88, after you turn 11 you have 11 opportunities — lives, if you will — to be great at something.
That’s why I’m dying this year — metaphorically. My greatest byline of all is in helping others (you!) become overcomers through yoga and meditation.
If I were to introduce myself to you now, I’d say, “Hi, I’m Caren, and I work for myself” and it will feel odd those first few times, but I will get better at it because it will be just like kicking up into an inversion: first, foreign and flailing and then comfortable and steady.
But let’s be honest: Dying while you’re living is anything but comfortable.
Since putting in my notice, I’ve ran the emotional gauntlet, American Gladiators’ style. I’ve freaked out about financials, climbed mountains of self-doubt and been pummeled by fear and uncertainty. But for every inner “I can’t” there has been a whisper, a breeze of “I will.”
This is not willpower. This isn’t any voice in my head.
I know this feeling in my heart.
Your heart on mute
When our hearts aren’t heard, anxious, unsettled and nervous feelings collect in the upper chest. It’s like taking shallow breaths over and over, never allowing the lowest, deepest part of your lungs to travel oxygen throughout your body. The mental cycle perpetuates your physiology until you’re not sure which came first.
Soon, you mistake physical discomfort for the struggles in your life. If only I could be less anxious or less lethargic, you think — and so we treat the physical symptoms and not the root cause. Many people, myself included, first come to yoga because of physical ailments. We want to mitigate the symptoms, not expecting a cure.
We fail to see that it’s our tender hearts, being shushed, that we should have listened to all along.
Is an hour of relief at yoga enough? What about the other 23 hours in the day? When you ask these questions, you’ll soon discover your tolerance for pain — whether physical or mental. Please ask yourself. Find out how much struggle you’re willing to put up with.
And then ask: Why?
- Why are you okay with living a life that no longer appeals?
- Why do you dismiss where your heart is leading you?
- Why are you limiting your happiness?
That moment you surrender
There is something sweeter than holding on tightly and hoping for predictability and living a life pockmarked by precious vacation time. Sweeter than feeling useful or productive or helpful or desired.
This sweetness is found in you, right now. When you surrender to stillness — what is in this moment — you will begin to notice what is not. And when you notice what is not, you understand that there is no true separation from your heart, body or soul except for the barriers you construct. There is no limit to your happiness.
Admittedly, I am nowhere near accurately describing this feeling I get when meditating or deeply in my yoga flow. Instead, I’ll describe what it feels like physically.
For the first time, you will effortlessly exhale. The abdomen joins the chorus of your breath, releasing the hold on the upper chest. The back of the heart meets the front. The mouth smiles. The eyes know and see every detail, yet none at all.
Dying when you’re alive doesn’t have to be so scary. You attempt this every time you’re in savasana, so you’ve got more practice than you know.
It’s time, dear heart, to speak up. What will the next seven years of your life look like?
If nothing else, let it be a series of effortless exhales.
Try it: Birds of Paradise, Svarga Dvidasana
After last week’s Bound Extended Side Angle Pose, what better way to take flight than with Birds of Paradise? And do you know what I love about this pose? I’m not yoga-model perfect in it (or many poses for that matter) and I love it. I love it because it’s indicative of my process and shows me where I need to open up, let go and surrender to what is.
I hope this pose does the same for you.
- Practice Bound Extended Side Angle Pose on both sides. Then, proceed from the bind around your right leg into step two.
- Keeping the bind, shift the weight into your right leg and step your back leg forward so the feet are parallel. Readjust the bind to get a better grip if it came loose.
- Now, shift the weight into your left leg, firming the left thigh bone back. Inhale to lift up through your low belly as you raise your torso to standing. Keep the right leg bent first, as shown above. Steady your standing leg and find one point of focus in front of you. (Note if the shoulders feel tugged on or strained. If so, you may want to come out of the pose and use a strap to create the bind.)
- Stay here or inhale and straighten the right leg to the side. If the standing leg buckles, only straighten to the point where your foundation can be strong. Flex-point through the right toes to engage the full length of the leg, no matter if your right knee is bent or straight. For the full expression, take your gaze over the shoulder away from your lifted leg. Stay for five deep breaths.
- To come out, bend the lifted leg, and then the torso, returning back to the ground. Release your bind. Soften in your forward fold, allowing your arms to hang, before practicing the left side.