Yesterday, I felt more joyful after a day of studying Anusara yoga than I have in a long time. It has been a difficult year—January 2015 to now—and I have been carrying so much grief in my heart that it has grown the heaviest it has been since I went through a divorce and left my job in Alaska.
In the process of earning my PhD in Sustainability, I went through what felt like one storm after another as I began peeling back the layers that had been built up around my inner voice and true self. Several layers belonged to external expectations from family, friends, bosses, coworkers, and society. These layers felt at times like tentacles that refused to loosen their grasp on me.
Once fired up, I found that I was not willing to play the layers game. I wanted to be happy. I wanted to lead a sustainable life. And I made many sacrifices and fought several battles while leaving others behind that did not seem worth my effort. Some metaphorical battles, even when won, do not make us happy. This was the case with my job in Alaska and the false perceptions about people my superiors had made. I could do no wrong until they decided I could do no right. Sound familiar?
I left many jobs, I moved a lot, and I spend hours upon hours writing and reflecting. After earning my PhD, I felt a breath of fresh air, like I was finally on the path.
I think that somewhere through all of this self-work, my ego snuck in and started patting me on the back because I started feeling like I pretty much had figured myself out. My ego told me that I had done enough self-work that I should just be happy, but the universe let me know in no uncertain terms that this path I had entered upon did not have a specific beginning and ending point. It was continuous. My self-work was not complete. I moved in with my beloved, and I was not perfect and content.
What I did not realize—at least, what my ego did not realize—was that being on the path is not always, if ever, a smooth ride. I could, and likely did, choose to step off the path any time. But I would most certainly experience the repercussions of disappointment in my self and lack of purpose, which would likely lead to frustration and sadness.
In diving in to study yoga full tilt, I have regained a sense of purpose and found my self once again on the path, whatever that path may be. What I seem to keep learning about my self is that I need to be on a path where I feel I am behaving with intention and purpose to make my own life more sustainable. In so doing, I truly believe that I can be a vessel for creating a more sustainable world.
During my class yesterday, my Anusara yoga teacher told us for the second time that the more she learns about yoga, the more she realizes she does not know. This is a humbling phenomenon I have experienced in the birding and natural world time and again. All of my years of study as a park ranger and my continued observations of the world of birds tell me that I have only just brushed the surface, if that.
It took a lot of work to get to the center of my being and to find the tenuous self inside. It felt all but extinguished, and it took some convincing and stoking of the fire to get things fired up.
It was such an intense storm, one that I did not believe would end. When I finally felt the dust settling, it was like I was a different person: the same, but different. I guess I just imaged that was the worst of it and the most intense self-work I would do.
The voice I found was just one piece to my self puzzle, however.
This morning, I awoke thinking about the words my teacher had shared the night before, and it occurred to me that the more I learn about my self, the more I have to learn. The path of yoga is to help us return to our true self, beneath all of those layers.
And so I continue this journey of self-discovery, wherever it may lead me, with yoga as my guide.
1 thought on “Who are you, who who who who?”
The point where I figured out that staying on the path 100% of the time was impossible and that letting go of the feelings of failure for straying off the path was a huge part of being on the path was a great day. It felt like I’d internalized the lessons I’d been practicing.
Rather than forgiving myself for failing to be perfectly zen I just accepted that such perfection could not be obtained, only persued. And that sets up this wonderful feedback loop where even ones failures are valuable for helping to define the path; finding my way back to the path hourly, daily, monthly is just as affirming as being on the path in the first place. Acknowledging the failures provides more opportunities for purposeful action and focus. Just like science, there is information to be had from null and negative experiment outcomes. They are just as relevant and valuable as the positive outcomes.