"...I have been running so sweaty my whole life Urgent for a finish line And I have been missing the rapture this whole time of being forever incomplete
Ever unfolding Ever expanding Ever adventurous And torturous And never done..."
--Excerpted from Alanis Morissette's Incomplete
When I was new to the practice of yoga, I watched people in class executing more advanced poses like Headstand and found myself wanting to get there -- to that place where I could effortlessly extend my body into Headstand, balanced perfectly for as long as I desired to stay in the pose. The first time I attended a weekend-long workshop, I checked off beginner to the skill level question but I found my mind drifting with great enthusiasm to the day that I could check off intermediate/advanced.
I wanted...more. I wanted to get somewhere. I wanted to be able to define myself in a certain way. I wanted a certain skill. I wanted specific knowledge. I wanted some sort of societal ideal. I wanted to get to some sort of final destination in my head that promised nirvana and everlasting peace and fulfillment.
The funny thing about all of this wanting is what happens when wanting becomes having. Not a whole heck of a lot. I can remember one training in particular -- I had been working towards completion for a little over a year. I had worked hard and devoted myself to the work involved in completing the training. I had written numerous papers, spoken to my mentor once per week for 8 months straight, completed dozens of assignments and tests and videos and nerve-wracking evaluations. When I reached the home stretch I found myself feeling anything but elated. I felt sad. I didn't want the training to end. I didn't care about the nifty, suitable-for-framing course completion certificate. I didn't want to be done. It was the unfolding that I wanted more of.
Of course that's the whole crux of it -- we're never done (what would be the fun in that?). There's always another certification or finish line or yoga posture to conquer or relationship to be had or income level to reach or thing to acquire. It's like the donkey chasing the carrot on the string phenomenon. Oh we try on our yoga mat and on our meditation cushion to be here now and quench the desire to get there, but that brain of ours is always chasing the next thing (or person, for that matter).
These past 3 years I did something that shocked some folks in my life -- I dismantled just about all of the things I had built/achieved/chased for much of my life. Some would say this is a terrifying time in my life. I say it's exciting, real, perfect...and I wouldn't change it for anything. It's undefineable, and I suppose that's what makes it uncomfortable. Just the other day I was discussing this with a close friend. I was asked when I would be building up the very thing that I had just torn down. I laughed -- "What's the rush? Why must I replace something right away or jump back into something immediately?" My friend replied, "No rush...it's just...don't you feel like there are a lot of loose ends right now? Don't you want the same thing you had before, just better? It's so up in the air. Don't you want to know how it's going to turn out? Don't you want something solid?" Again, I laughed. The truth is that I already had solid and firmly tied ends and it didn't even come close to being the right thing for me. It was wrongness disguised as solid, achievement, safety. I was "there" -- that mythical place where everything feels safe and rainbows are lighting up the sky and unicorns are prancing about. Funny how I was unhappy "there." You'd think those cute little unicorns would have ensured my happiness but...
Seriously though -- "there" is an illusion. Once you get there you realize there's another there over the horizon. Or when you're "there" you realize that "there" doesn't feel how you thought it would. Perhaps "there" doesn't suit you at all. It certainly didn't live up to its high standards. All the rushing to get there, all of the wanting to know how it's going to turn out, all of the driving need to solidify what's happening -- it doesn't amount to much. Often it doesn't live up to expectation. Most often it leaves you with a niggling feeling that something is missing, that there's more out "there."
Right now I'm so far from "there," it's laughable. And now that I'm here, I can finally, as Alanis says, enjoy the rapture of being incomplete. Yes, it's scary in that there are no clearly defined spaces -- it's all undefined and incomplete. Yes, it's intense. And you know what else it is? It's aliveness personified. I'll take alive over complete (or the illusion of completeness) any day.
Now that I have all of these loose ends, I realize that "I have been missing the rapture this whole time of being forever incomplete." And I also find myself not caring about executing Headstands or checking of the intermediate/advanced skill level box. Funny, eh?