A few weeks ago I was talking to a yoga teacher that I met by chance at a health food store. She said something to me that has stayed with me. She said, “In yoga there are the strivers and there are the coasters. The strivers bring it, each and every class. The coasters just do what they need to do to get by.”
I hate to admit this, but I have a tendency to be a coaster. I don’t like pain! And I don’t like doing things that I am not good at. I am blessed that I am pretty good at a number of things, so for the most part I have been able to just build my life choices around my skills.
Recently, I have begun to challenge this pattern in my yoga practice, in my career, and in my relationship. Slowly but surely, I have been inching my way closer to the things that are hard for me.
This morning I took a Physique 57 class (Yes, I do actually work sometimes and don't just take exercise classes and go on retreats). I have another name for this class; I call it Torture. It is so hard. Basically it’s a series of moves that are somehow perfectly designed to isolate your muscles and tax them until they feel like they are on fire. It involves a ballet bar, a ball, loud music and an insanely fit instructor who cheers you on. This morning’s instructor, Tanya, kept saying, “Move towards the burn - That’s where you are going to torch calories and transform your body. Move towards the burn.” Afterwards, as I was riding home on the subway, my body feeling like jelly, I couldn’t help but see that I am feeling “the burn” in a lot of areas of my life right now. My romantic relationship pushes me to compromise and (at times) admit when I am wrong. In this past year, my career has challenged me like never before. Venturing out into the world to build my own counseling practice, I have had to learn new skills in business management, finance, and marketing. Even writing this blog can sometimes feel uncomfortable as it forces me to put myself “out there.” I am experimenting with striving.
When faced with these challenges, my first instinct is to run in the other direction. I want to go back to when life was comfortable and predictable. The challenges are painful. They bring me into uncharted inner territory, where it’s no longer a given that I will be successful. Intuitively, though, I know I must move towards “the burn”. Just doing what I was good at worked for a while, but it’s not enough anymore. I want to see how far I can really go in life. As a teacher once said to me, “This is actually your life. It’s not a dress rehearsal.”
Taking it in:
Where is the burn in your life right now? Are you moving towards it or running away? What would it mean in your life to really strive for something? What are the fears that come up?
Next time an uncomfortable feeling arises in your life, be it anger, fear, shame, pain, etc., see what happens if you actually just let yourself feel it, and perhaps even move towards it.
How to do this? Let's say your boss says something that offends you or makes you feel put down in some way. You feel hurt and insecure. In the past you might have started running away from this feeling pretty much immediately. You would have called your friend and started bitching about your boss. Or, maybe you would take a walk to get some air and somehow find yourself in line at Starbucks ordering a latte and a piece of cake...
I'm asking that you try not to do this. Instead, make the choice to face your feelings. Feel hurt. Just sit there and feel. Breathe. Acknowledge that you are hurt, angry, frustrated, etc. See what happens. In all liklihood the feeling will fade. You may still need to take an action to rectify the situation, but that action will come from a place of clarity and reality rather than fear.
Try it today, even with something small and then post back and let us know how it went!