When you gaze at the stars from Earth, you see their light as it shone ages ago — from a couple years to billions.
Even the sun’s light is not what it seems, as it takes eight minutes for the sun’s light rays to reach earth. (Crazy fact: If it burned out, we wouldn’t know for at least eight minutes, and then we’d know all at once and there’d be nothing we could do about it. Ignorance is bliss?)
Our present moment with celestial light is not shared with their present moment, and yet it’s because of the vast distance between us and the universe that we are able to know and chart our cosmic history.
Nature works on delay, and so do we. Any major life event can cause a delay in your emotional reaction — like so much time passing at the cosmic speed of light.
Think about the aftermath of a breakup, a loved one’s death, the end of a current lifestyle and the beginning of a new one. The body and mind may be on board with moving on, but the heart won’t join in. Or the heart knows what needs to be done, but it’s too painful for the mind and body to process.
Yet it’s the vast amount of space and time between us and our difficulties that often invites clarity into our own history. I know few people who, while going through hell, can decipher why. It’s not until years — maybe even decades — later that the “why” dawns on us.
Case in point: I certainly had no idea that being depressed as a teenager and young adult would lead to my life’s work.
Meanwhile, we’re living by our own clocks of self-imposed “should have accomplished that by now” and “wish I would have known that earlier.” But speeding up your life or rushing truth isn’t the way to sustainable happiness. It’s the recipe for more heartbreak.
The desire to know why
Growing up Catholic, I thought that my whole life was predestined. That God knew the choice I was going to make, even though I had the free will to make it.
So why would God not answer me when I pleaded for a “why” while I was deep in depression? When my relationships failed and I felt unlovable? When people I befriended suddenly stopped being a friend?
When everything fell apart, why couldn’t I see the reason it had happened? And why wouldn’t God tell me?
As a grown up not identifying with Catholicism anymore, I now think it has to do with those cosmic stars. Even if I had been given a Divine, direct access to why I’ve ever gone through any great trouble in my life… would it have made any more sense?
More important, would the pain have been any more bearable?
Look inward for light speed
When we get stuck trying to discern “why,” it’s easy to stop trusting the deep life force within us that knows everything is going to be okay. Too much reliance on “why” is like waiting for the sun’s 8-minute delayed rays to touch your skin, instead of feeling the warmth on your skin right now.
To put it simply, there is no delay when you live in the present moment.
At any one moment, we are spiritual co-creators and also cosmic vagabonds — able to come home to ourselves while feeling as though we don’t have a home.
It’s this push-pull relationship with wanting to know why and realizing that we already know, that draws us to mindfulness and yoga. When we live at the speed of light, we aren’t rushing our lives — we’re present every step of the journey.
There are days when you will never want to step on the mat. When it will be all you can do to just breathe. And days when joy fills you up like so many stars twinkling their light from decades past.
There will be days when you realize that nothing lies between you and the answer you need. That time and space is self-imposed, and that the only thing keeping you from handstand is that you’re not practicing it.
I often wish the God of my youth would visit me again in the forest, beneath the honeysuckle in bloom, and tell me (in words!) that I have done well for myself. That all those years struggling in depression and anxiety have amounted to something much greater than myself.
The funny thing about waiting for approval is that it comes in many forms, not just verbal. And if you’re not present to witness how truth bubbles up in your life, it’s easy to miss.
When you’re struggling with why, there’s comfort in trusting that you do not need to know in order to move forward. Like all cosmic beings, the light will arrive as it always does.
And when it does, you will understand why it took so long.
Try it: Revolved Wide-Legged Standing Forward Fold, Parivrtta Prasarita Padottanasana
It’s through the spinal column that your cosmic energy travels, so take good care of it with this standing twist. Twists rejuvenate the spine, which can stiffen with age and disuse, and bring clarity to your posture and mind. After you practice this pose, you might wonder why you haven’t done it sooner!
- Step wide on your mat and stretch your arms wide, lining your ankles underneath your wrists. Place your hands on your hips. Turn your big toes in and heels slightly out.
- Inhale to lift the chest and crown of the head, then exhale and bend from the waist to a flat back, bringing the palms down to the mat underneath the shoulders. If the hands don’t reach the floor yet, support the palms on yoga blocks.
- Root the outer edges of your feet into the mat to lift the inner ankles and avoid collapsing your arches. Lift the knee caps up to engage the full length of your legs and tuck the thigh bones up into their sockets.
- Place the right palm in between the two hands and bring the left hand to the sacrum. Inhale to lengthen with a flat back and exhale, twisting from the upper spine and keeping the hips and sacrum level. Reach the left arm up and soften the shoulder blades onto the back of the heart, away from the ears.
- Keep the gaze to the side, lengthening through the crown of the head, for six deep breaths. Exhale and release the left hand to the mat. Place the left hand where the right hand was, right hand to hip. Inhale to lengthen and exhale to twist. Reach the right arm high for six deep breaths. Exhale and release to a flat back.
- Bring both hands to the hips and inhale the torso up. Walk the feet together.