When we’re chasing a dream, it’s easy – all too easy I think – to spend so much time looking ahead that we forget where we are and what is right in front of us. We’ll look at what others are doing or what they have and we’ll wish we had “it” too. Almost every day, on some level, we’re wishing to be some place we aren’t. It’s what’s called Destination Addiction and the moment it kicks in, any notion of being present or fully allowing ourselves to trust the process gets thrown out the door and we’ll find ourselves caught in a constant hustle between trying to “get” the dream and trying to avoid the “not-dream” – a constant state of pushing and pulling. In a word: stuck.
There’s an incredible yogic story I came across this week that really drove this point home for me:
An eager student comes to the shore of a river and is most anxious to get to the other side, where he believes the answer to life can be found. He sees a little rowboat go by, and eagerly flags it down for a ride. The people in the rowboat kindly stop and pick him up, and he begins to make his way across the river in the rowboat. A sleek and beautiful sailboat passes by. Captivated by the smooth efficiency of the sailboat and its progress across the river, and tired of the hard work of rowing, our friend gestures wildly to the sailboat to pick him up, and as it comes by, he jumps from the rowboat into the sailboat.
But shortly thereafter, the wind dies and the sailboat comes to an abrupt halt; now it is being carried downstream by the current, not across. Impatient with the turn of events, the student jumps to a motorized boat passing by that is obviously the best transportation to the other shore. But shortly after jumping on the motorboat, he becomes irritated with the noise and fumes from the motor, and then doubly annoyed when the boat runs out of fuel. Now he looks around and sees that the rowboat, with its hardworking rowers, is steadfastly making its way to the other shore. Ahhhhh. If only he had stayed in the rowboat.
How many times have you tried to get on the “faster boat”? Maybe it was the ‘faster’ lane on the highway or what seemed like the faster check out aisle in Target, but after changing lanes you discover the one you were in moves with much more grace and ease. Am I right? And while those are simple examples, the implications are huge, because how many times in our lives have we put off a current project to pursue another endeavor that we were sure would take us on our career trajectory faster? How many times have we looked for and gave into quick fixes and shortcuts only to have them not work long-term?
For me this story was poignant because I frequently carry the mindset, “There’s always a faster boat…and I want to be on it!” And so when I see the success of others around me or experience the pain of not feeling enough, I get caught up in hustling and striving and trying to be more without any sense of being. There’s zero connection to the present moment let alone myself, which only further leaves me feeling lost and stuck.
When we’re fighting so hard to be somewhere other than where we are, eventually something has to give. And it’s only when we come to that breaking point, that place of utter surrender, that we come to realize there isn’t a faster boat; there’s only the one we’re on.
Last Sunday I hit my breaking point. On so many levels and in so many areas of my life, I had been trying to get on the “faster boat” – to be some place “better.” Almost immediately as my practice began on Sunday, as soon as my head hit my mat in child’s pose – the ultimate asana of surrender – I began crying. The more I tried to fight back the tears, the harder I fought against being “that” person in class, the harder it was to fight. By the time we moved into a seated straddle fold facing the back of the person in front of us, I was hysterically sobbing. You know, the hiccupping kind, the kind where you are gasping for air. Perfect for a yoga class. The only place I wanted to be at that moment was anywhere but my mat – on any other boat. At this point it didn’t even have to be the fastest one. But, it was at that exquisitely broken open and raw moment that the woman in front of me reached behind her back to grab my hands, giving them an encouraging squeeze. Almost exactly at the same time, the woman behind me compassionately rubbed my back. Without saying a word, without looking, without anything other than reaching out, they brought me back on my boat and my mat that morning.
So often we think we should be or need to be somewhere other than where we are, and it’s only when we fully allow ourselves to be in the process – the real, often shitty and uncomfortable process – that we can discover some great truth about ourselves or peel back another layer toward becoming who we really are. Only in those moments of surrender can we be fully present and see how every step we’ve taken has brought us to this very place, the very place we need to be right now.
I don’t know what the future holds for me, but I’m OK with that. And, for maybe the first time ever, I’m OK with really being present with where I am. Prior to last Sunday, that wasn’t the case, but what really changed that for me was having that experience in class. Surrendering on my mat allowed me to let go and it allowed me to recognize that even though I taught my very first fitness class over 4 years ago and taught high school English for five years, I’ve only been doing what I’m doing now as a fulltime gig for about a year and a half. When I think about that – how all those tiny steps and big steps over the course of a year and a half, how they have brought me to where I am right now – well, it’s pretty freaking amazing! And if I can stay with that feeling, it can only get better from here.
This week, practice being present. Tune into your breathing and just notice what it sounds like and feels like. Without trying to change it, just notice. Maybe close your eyes (in a safe place, of course) and just observe the sensations around you and in you. Or, take some time this week to just reflect on all the amazing steps you’ve taken to get where you are right now.
Where you are is exactly where you’re meant to be. Promise.