The lessons we receive in life are often not the ones we set out to find.
Though far less often nowadays, I sometimes wake up thinking about people, events, and lessons I have not visited in years. The lesson(s) hit me decades later, like a ton of bricks, and they come unexpectedly and without warning. I do not know if this happens to other people, but for me, when it does, it is profound, and I cannot ignore it.
I was recently talking to two of my yoga teaching mentors. I finished my 300 hour training nearly 3 years ago. I went into it expecting to get better at sequencing, and make my classes more desirable and fancy, perhaps. What I found was not this, not at all. The lessons from this 18 month experience continue to show up at the least expected times. Like the other day, when I was thinking about inclusivity and language in my classes, and about my values as a teacher and human. Or when I realize time and time again that great yoga is not necessarily about great choreography. It is about deep understanding, and dedication to continuous self-study. It is in being willing to recognize our own habits and patterns, and sit with what we would much rather avoid.
I woke up this morning in a bit of a panic. For whatever odd and unpredictable reason, my brain decided to replay a moment in my life where someone I loved told me they had been dishonest and done something extremely hurtful. I remember the temperature of the air that night. I remember what they were wearing. I remember exactly how their hair fell. I remember crawling into bed sobbing after. Years ago, revisiting this would have made me miserable for days as I sunk deeper and deeper into victimhood. But today I felt a deep sense of appreciation for realizing that this was popping into my head as a guide, as a gift, and as a wake up call.
What stuck out to me about this distant yet clear memory, was telling myself I could pretend it did not happen, we could return to normal, but knowing deep down everything was different and I could never return to before. As much as my ego, my mind, may have wanted to, my heart could not.
And then it made sense to me why this random memory was popping up now, at 6am on a Thursday when it seemed completely insignificant to my current season of life.
I keep saying, “the honeymoon phase of teaching and practicing yoga has ended for me.”
I have struggled with what this means. Mostly this has been frustrating, yet unavoidable. I have to acknowledge that a shift has happened in my relationship with yoga. I could try to avoid it, pretend like everything was the way it once was, but the reality is a big and necessary change has happened where I am seeking deeper connection and understanding to my why for all things on and off the mat.
This feeling is strikingly familiar to that night when I wanted so badly to tell myself everything could continue to be comfortable and familiar, but knew deep down nothing was the same. Often we expect yoga to be something that makes us feel good all of the time. A magic elixir that takes us away from emotions we perceive as negative. In a way, it does. For me, feeling good often means taking a hard look within, and getting rather uncomfortable in the process.
Every time I have experienced meaningful growth, it has been after difficult change, dedicated self-study, acknowledgement of my habits, and willingness to surrender to the reality that I know so little. Younger me had no idea I was choosing to commit or not commit to my practice in every moment of my life. I did yoga poses on my mat, I tried to be a goodish person, and when I rolled up my mat I continued living my life with a vast, blissful lack of self-awareness. But I was making a choice to practice or not practice yoga in every relationship, both with myself, others, and the world. Now, nearly a decade later, I am certain this is where the practice lives for me. The time I spend on the mat is time I need and cherish deeply, but the lessons that show up most unexpectedly are where the “advanced” practice happens.