Be willing to be vulnerable, to be broken, and to find wholeness in the process of “coming clean” after a misstep.
Have you ever had the experience of saying something and then knowing immediately that what you said wasn’t exactly right or correct or true? When it happens, you have this gnawing feeling that isn’t easily dismissed, and that feeling may stay with you for a while. This can happen for many reasons, especially when we are trying to express something, and the thing we say just doesn’t come out the way we intended. Often our comments are well-meaning and part of a larger commentary, but still—what do we do when this happens? How do we handle a misstep in our communications or actions?
I ask this because this very thing happened to me recently. I was teaching a yoga class and trying to spark the idea of joy into my students’ practice. It was going really well, I thought, and then I said something like this: “If you are coming to yoga class without any joy, what’s the sense in that?” I might have even said, “What’s the point in that?” It was indeed part of a larger context and sort of made sense in the moment, BUT I knew immediately that it was not correct. The resonance of that statement was definitely off kilter, not accurate, and not true. There was a clear dissonance in the “feeling state” of what I said. But, because of where we were in class, I didn’t stop the class to correct the statement. Instead, I went home and pondered over it for the entire week, until I taught that group of students again. At the start of the following week’s class, I talked about the statement and about some of the insights I had gained as a result.
Insight No. 1:
No matter what state you are in—bring yourself to yoga. You don’t have to be any certain way in order to practice yoga. I have both taught and practiced yoga in every emotional state possible—bone tired, grieving a loss, mad, happy, sad…you name it—and my practice of yoga has given me a safe place, a healing haven, where I could cry, laugh, be silly, be angry, be tired, and it was all okay. Some days, my practice consisted of simply breathing or staying in savasana; other days it would be a vinyasa practice for two hours until I got all the stress off my body and could breathe again. So, you don’t have to come to yoga only if you are joyful. You come to yoga to explore your inner world, your thoughts, your body, with love and acceptance and compassion for where you are in the moment.
Someone said, “It’s not about holding back, it’s about truth.” And, the truth is that yoga is so much more than the poses we do in class.
- It is about finding your honest-to-goodness self, and then letting that be enough.
- It’s about exploring who and how you are in the world—how you feel and how you act and what you do that makes you amazingly you.
- It’s about taking responsibility and breathing; it’s about living a real and authentic life to the best of your ability, one spectacular day at a time.
But know that on any given day, your “best” may be different. Sometimes my 100 percent is not as “strong” as on other days because I’m tired or funky or in pain, and that’s okay, too. All we can do is bring our full selves to the table—or to the yoga class—each and every time.
Insight No. 2:
Another insight for me was that I knew I had to “come clean,” as my own conscience, my own spirit, wouldn’t let me brush this one under the rug. Rationally I thought, “Oh, no one even heard me, or noticed, or thought twice about it.” And how many times do we know we should say something, but it’s uncomfortable and we just kind of let it slip away? Sometimes it’s hard to apologize for a misstep, or to own up to a mistake, or to say something that is difficult to say. But, it is necessary for us to speak our truth, even when it isn’t easy. We just do our best to speak with open hearts and an over-abundance of compassion and humility. We consider our words and we look to do no harm, and then we jump off the proverbial bridge and say, “Here I am, warts and all, and this is what I have to say.”
Insight No. 3:
Once I said what I needed to say to make it right, all of the stress around it went away. There is a beautiful Zen parable that speaks to this holding on to things. Here is a shorter version of the story:
Two traveling monks reached a river where they met a young woman. Wary of the current, she asked if they could carry her across. One of the monks hesitated, but the other quickly picked her up onto his shoulders, transported her across the water, and put her down on the other bank. She thanked him and departed.
As the monks continued on their way, the one was brooding and preoccupied. Unable to hold his silence any longer, he spoke out. “Brother, our spiritual training teaches us to avoid any contact with women, but you picked that one up on your shoulders and carried her!”
“Brother,” the second monk replied, “I set her down on the other side, while you are still carrying her.”
I wonder how much time and energy we waste postponing the inevitable or avoiding that which we know we must do? How long do we carry around a burden that isn’t necessary to hold onto?
Maybe it’s because I am getting older, but I find myself speaking my truth more and more. It’s not always as gracefully as I’d like, but still it is the truth as I know it at the time. And, then I forgive myself for the foibles. I do my best to let go and forgive, even when I’m the one messing up.
Which brings me back to our practice of yoga. Bring your full self to whatever you do. Be willing to be vulnerable, to be broken, and to find wholeness in the process. Some of our most wonderful insights come from those times. As Paulo Coelho, author of The Alchemist, said, “Remember that wherever your heart is, there you will find your treasure.” Come from that place, and you will always head in the right direction.
Mary Boutieller is a Registered Yoga Teacher through Yoga Alliance. She has been teaching yoga since 2005. Her work experience includes 22 years as a firefighter/paramedic and 10 years as a Licensed Massage Therapist.Mary’s knowledge and experience give her a well-rounded understanding of anatomy, alignment, health and movement in the body. She is passionate about the benefits of yoga and the ability to heal at all levels through awareness, compassion, and a willingness to explore. She can be reached at: SimplyogaOm@gmail.com.