I started going to yoga about six weeks before everything fell apart. The work-out “thing” had been a back-and-forth fight between us for a long time. As in, I wanted to do it and he felt it was a waste of money and time. I fought and fought him on this point (as I had on many others) until there wasn’t any more fight left in me…
Then one day he came home and, for some reason, he had changed his mind. “I heard yoga is good for improving your focus and productivity. I think you should go,” he said.
I walked immediately down the street and signed up.
In those early days of yoga, I remember realizing how out of shape I had become. Not only physically, but mentally and emotionally. The instructor explained how for my first few classes I should focus on simply staying in the room (which is heated to over 100 degrees). This suggestion seemed ridiculous to me, since at one time in my life I had been a long distance runner and even completed a marathon.
How hard could it be to stay in a room?
Then I got in there and realized how far you can get from yourself without even knowing it, how short of breath you can become when the heat is turned up to ten, how terrifying it feels to have so little control of your environment.
The only reason I kept coming back was that the instructor said yoga would give us three things:
1. More love
2. Less fear
3. More of what we want in our lives.
I prayed she was right…
Six weeks later, everything fell apart.
It was a normal Thursday afternoon when I uncovered the truth of us.
It’s crazy to think how little it takes to snap everything back into focus. A couple of messages. That was all it took. It’s amazing to imagine how surprised we can feel by something we have known all along. The day it happened, a friend asked me if I’d had any idea, and I told a her to imagine she had been in a fist fight for years with a blindfold on.
Then today, someone took the blindfold off.
So yes, I knew. We hold truths in our bodies that are too big for our minds.
Yet as I walked away from everything I thought I had wanted, I remembered that steady, clicking mantra our teacher would sing in yoga class, time after time—more love, less fear, more of what you want in your life—and I couldn’t help but feel a burning resentment toward those words.
This seemed like exactly the opposite of what she had promised.
Still, for some reason, later that day I went to yoga.
Who knows why I did it—who knows why we do any of the brave and beautiful things we do when we are in our own bodies, when we have stopped fighting and started surrendering. All I know is that what I found when I did it was the tiniest bit of peace that perhaps progress doesn’t always look like progress while its happening, and that maybe, just maybe, what I thought I wanted wasn’t what I wanted at all.
More love, less fear, more of what we want in our lives…
You do the best you can in a yoga practice. You give it all you have. You fight and hold postures, even when your body shakes because you know that shaking means growing, because suffering is the only way anything changes and because you have been so desperate for change for so long.
Then, when it’s all over—when you’ve done all you can do—you lay on the ground and let it all go.
In yoga they call this Savasana.
I thought about “fighting” for us. Even after everything, I thought about it.
There were people who said, “you can’t give up when things get hard,” or “you have to be willing to fight for love.” And I heard what they were saying. I did. But the more honest I was with myself, the more I realized I had been fighting for love for as long as I could remember, and the one thing I hadn’t done yet was the hardest the hardest thing of all to do.
We cannot make people in our own image. We cannot control them or coerce them or manipulate them or “fix” them and also love them.
We can either be in control or be in love. Not both.
I am ready to be in love.
So that winter, I filed for divorce. I walked into the attorney’s office and did the thing I swore to myself I would never do, the thing I had judged others for doing, the thing I had wanted to do for longer than I could even allow myself to admit. The truth does this to you, I guess. Humbles you. Makes you human again. Gets you back into alignment with yourself.
More of what you want in your life…
And of course, after signing all of those terrible, beautiful, life-altering papers, I went to yoga. I fought and cried and melted into my mat again, and again and again… praying that one day this would all add up to something.
It was all I had. It was all it took.
An offering. A softening.
One of the things I have loved and hated and resented most about yoga is that there is nowhere to hide. In life we hide behind make-up or name brands or job titles or relationship statuses. In yoga, in that hot room with all those smelly, sweaty not-so-covered-up bodies, there is nowhere to go except… right there.
In the truth.
The fleshy, terrible, magical, beautiful truth of you.
It’s a terrifying and beautiful thing to to see yourself so completely.
To look at where you are weak or soft or grieving or heartbroken and let love go there. What a strange and petrifying feeling to find that all the pieces of the puzzle you had been fighting to hold together weren’t even your puzzle pieces in the first place, and that all that love you were dying to have had always been right there. It’s just you were hardened against it.
All you have to do is get soft.
Really really soft.
Let love happen where you are soft.
People say love hurts, but I’m not so sure that’s true. I think what hurts is to let yourself be soft after all that hardening you’ve done. It’s like cement cracking, like ice popping in your water glass.
You either be in control, or be in love. Not both.
This is how we get strong enough to leave when staying is killing us, strong enough to stay when love needs us most, and strong enough to let go of the way we thought things would go, the way we assumed people should be, of the impossible expectations we had for ourselves and our lives.
It’s the letting go of control that hurts.
Not the love.
I wish I could say there were a better way. That there were a way to get to love without the breaking. I wish I could offer you some sort of formula or guarantee or magic button that would get you past the pain, faster. More love, less fear, more of what you want in your life. Unfortunately, there is no such thing as skipping steps.
There are no short-cuts.
What an amazing strength it takes to be so soft.
What a spectacular offering.