Keep on Growing

I was once on a surfing course with a kindly, warm, plump, 60-something year old grandmother called Barbara.  The youngest person on the course that day was in his late teens; Barbara was the oldest.  She'd been surfing before and loved it - she was the only person to stand up on her board that day.  She did it over and over again, riding the surf into the shore with a big grin on her face.

In the Land Rover on the way home at the end of the day someone congratulated Barbara on her surfing skills.  She told us that her interest in surfing had begun when she'd brought her grandsons to the beach and watched them body-boarding.  She thought it looked fun and wanted to join them, but she couldn't swim and was afraid of the water.  Watching her grandsons that day, she realised she was missing out.  They inspired her.  The following Monday she found a swimming course and booked herself onto it; 9 months later she could swim, so she booked herself onto her first surfing course; 6 months after that she was merrily telling a truck full of wannabe surfers how to do it!

Obviously this is inspiring stuff and we all hope to stay as open-minded and courageous as Barbara.  It's great to think that we'll continue to embrace new challenges, put ourselves in new and potentially uncomfortable situations and keep on pushing the boundaries of who we think we are and what we think we are able to achieve. 

What Barbara taught me is that the joy of anything is in the doing of it.  She didn't want to be a world-champion surfer, she just wanted to have a go at something that looked like fun; something that made her feel vibrant and alive.  Nor did she hold herself back with self-restricting thoughts, along the lines of "Grannies don't surf", or "I'll never be able to do it", or "Old dogs can't learn new tricks". 

Barbara didn't get stuck.  And through not getting stuck she found that she had the capacity to continue to grow and to learn, and the courage to embrace new and fulfilling experiences.

Every week when I teach yoga, I see people come up against their own ideas about the things that they can't do.  The faces that express fear, surprise or doubt when a certain pose is mentioned.  And I regularly get to see the joy people experience when they find that they can do it.  The joy is not in the performance of a perfect magazine-shoot yoga pose, but in the realisation that you can attempt poses that you thought were beyond you, and learn something from them, and gain something from them, and even do them, if you approach them with confidence, humility and commitment.  It doesn't mean that it's easy - it can take hard work to achieve something new.  It doesn't mean that it's without risk - Barbara will have fallen off her board a lot of times before she was able to stand up on it.  But I bet that each time she pulled herself up from the seabed, with sand in her hair and water in her eyes, there was a big grin on her face.

Yoga helps us to keep our idea of what our lives can encompass as broad and positive as possible.  We confront the self-limiting ideas we have about ourselves every time we come to our mat...  by attempting yoga poses that we thought were for other people; and by meditating on the myriad ways in which we hold ourselves back and then tell ourselves it's for the best.

We tend to find it perfectly ordinary for those in their late teens and early twenties to be experimenting with who they are and finding out what it is in life that invigorates them; there is really no reason why this should ever stop. 

"Happiness is neither virtue nor pleasure, nor this thing nor that, but simply growth.
We are happy when we are growing."
WB Yeats


  1. The only person who puts limits on what you do is...yourself. Vanessa.


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