“Water does not resist. Water flows. When you plunge your hand into it, all you feel is a caress. Water is not a solid wall, it will not stop you. But water always goes where it wants to go, and nothing in the end can stand against it. Water is patient. Dripping water wears away a stone. Remember that, my child. Remember you are half water. If you can't go through an obstacle, go around it. Water does.” ― Margaret Atwood
My body told me I need to trade talk therapy for yoga. So I did.
Yin yoga is typically done at a very slow pace where you remain in each pose for 3-5 minutes or more. For me, it's like a moving meditation, and it is absolutely a practice that is about patience. It's slow, but it is deeply intense. There are a lot of opening poses - heart, hips, thighs, shoulders... A battle is being waged inside your mind, and your only weapons are breath and gravity and surrender. I have had several sessions where upon arriving back to my car, I have collapsed into tears, just weeping from the overwhelming emotional release that this class provides. My instructor is a beautiful human who makes me feel so comfortable and safe. It's like having your own muse whispering to you while you try to just be, no matter how much you want to fidget and move and adjust. I practice patience. I practice being still when it is deeply uncomfortable. I practice letting the thoughts and feelings I experience come into my mind and go out without me following. I practice staying in the present. I practice letting go of magical thinking. It's one of the only times in my life where I am absolutely disconnected from everything except myself. It is very, very hard. But it is healing me.
The thing I love about yoga is that it is always there when you need it. And you can always come back or begin again or for the first time. Always. Yoga does not judge or expect. Yoga is patient. Yoga is meditation with movement and breath.
I also rejoined my gym and got back to work. With each workout, I feel stronger, fitter, and more confident. It's amazing how resilient the human body is. All those years of working out weren't lost because I got off track for six months. I've still got that base level of fitness, so it's not like completely starting from scratch. My muscles still remember how to ride that bike and pick up a barbell and bend and twist and move. My cardio stamina isn't even as bad as I expected. The body will respond if you listen. It tells you what you need to do. It knows. This time it's telling me not to stray for so long again. It's just easier to keep going.
Once some time passed and I began to heal emotionally, it all started coming back. The girl I am was still in there. Everything good in my life begins with self care - mental and emotional and physical things that I do for myself to feel the best that I can feel. Physical care and treating my body and mind with compassion became more and more feasible and important with each passing day.
Whenever something hard, stressful, or painful happens, like a move, or a lost job, or lost love, or death, or any tragedy that kind of derails your whole life, it's easy to want to run away from it. I spent my late teens and 20s (and a few, very brief momentary lapses of reason in my 30s) trying to medicate myself against feeling pain. I procrastinated breakups and delayed decisions, I chose the thing that was best for someone else instead of myself. I stayed when I should have left so many times I can't even keep count anymore. I trusted people too soon and gave them too many chances. I sacrificed and martyred and lost myself in other people, trying to fill that void with romantic love. It took me over a decade to learn to step up and face my feelings. I got stronger, and somehow that made me softer and more compassionate. When you stop deadening yourself to your life, you realize how beautiful it is to feel things completely unadulterated. A clear and present mind is the new altered state.
If I had known how long it would take me to reach each new level where I feel a profound sense of spiritual and personal growth, I don't know if I would have kept going. It's much easier to remain stagnant and ignorant and blissful in our negative habits and behaviors. I mean, no one has to change. It really hurts. You can live your entire life being miserable and living in fear and constant disappointment and regret. We can be bad to each other and to ourselves and keep hurting. I think most of the time we don't really know how bad it is because we're trapped inside it. That's hard. But change is possible. Always.
We each get to choose.
Life has never stopped showing me that I have more to learn, and that I am only able to learn at nature's pace. Time passes like water. Patience is just like yin yoga. It may appear that you are waiting, still, doing nothing, but patience is active. It takes courage and persistence and effort. It can exhaust your body and mind, which is why your best tool is surrender. Acceptance. Climbing into the demon's mouth. As soon as you do that, everything reveals itself to you. When you put kindness, compassion, and care into yourself, positive things unfold before you. We have to trust time, and trust ourselves more. Be less afraid. Be more courageous. Love more. Trust that the right things will happen with the right people when they are supposed to. Trust that when you don't get the things you want, it's because something else is coming for you.
As Eleanor Roosevelt so eloquently says, “You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, 'I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.' You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”
Growing is forever. Be the tortoise.