The Way Ahead
One of my students came up with a brilliant analogy yesterday for how life presents us with choices, options out of left field, changes that we want/don’t want/don’t know if we want.
She said that those moments in life are like coming to a fork in the road, you know that the road you have been travelling is not working for you on some level and in some often undefinable way and so you know you need to choose something new; the new path. This might be a new job, or a new hobby, or retraining for something new or choosing to find time for charity work, it might be to do with rearranging your domestic arrangements, or the way you have been living, or routines of personal behaviour that no longer serve your well-being or the well-being of those around you… whatever, there are lots of paths and lots of choices and the one thing we can be certain of in life is that nothing ever stays the same.
She went on to muse that some people stop at that fork in the road and put up a tent there. This might be a valid move, poised on the brink of something new, nervous of letting go of the old, we wait in the hiatus for something within us to shift, for something that seems obfuscated to become clear, or for some courage to arise within us to help us make a necessary move.
Or it might be a tactic: 'I’ll build my little tent here and then I won’t have to move at all. If I decorate it with enough beautiful things then I can make it into a lovely place to hide away while I am not making my decision to change and when it’s beautiful I might be able to use that beauty and comfort to pretend to myself that nothing actually needs to change at all. I might be happy enough in my comfortable little tent for a very long time and I won’t then have to make any new moves or change anything or find the courage to choose either of those new paths.'
She went on… Some people stand by their lovely tent with all of its home comforts and the outside appearance of everything being ok and they might look the other way. That fork in the road, that choice to be made lies behind them while they steadfastly face the other direction, telling themselves that the other path isn’t even there. There is nothing wrong here, there is no other road.
Still others might wait in that little tent for someone else to arrive in their car: the car pulls up and the friend calls, ‘Hop in, I’ll take you’ and so you get into the car and they drive you somewhere of their choosing and they drop you off on a new road; you build a new tent; perhaps another person comes along and gives you another ride to another new spot and drops you off again. You end up on someone else’s road, in someone else’s town and you might stand in the street and wonder, ‘How did I get here and where am I? How did I get so far away from myself and who am I anyway? Where am I supposed to be?’
Or perhaps you have a party in your tent and you surround yourself with things and people and fun and all of that, you hope, will distract you from the road that remains there, just waiting for you to set foot upon it. Perhaps you spend too much, or drink too much, or eat too much (or too little) in your efforts to hide away from the choice that awaits you.
Here’s where your yoga practice feeds into this: when you practise yoga, you sit cross-legged at every fork in the road and you get very quiet. You don’t go filling your life with distractions, you don’t go asking other people to bring you a solution. If you have built a tent, you acknowledge it, forgive yourself for it and give yourself the time and shelter that you need for as long as you need it. But you know that you can’t hide in there forever and that you will at some point have to move forward, because without the distraction of other people telling you what to do, or the party of life, or the home-comforts of a five star tent to stay in, there is just you and your soul-heart and it wants what it wants and all you have to do is learn how to listen.
The only way to travel is to find your own way. Moreover, the reason why you are here, in this manifestation, is to do just that: to find your path and to follow it with courage and faith.
Perhaps that strikes you as a little lonely? But we are lucky aren’t we, for we are loved, we are cared for and we are supported by the people around us. And the flipside of this coin is that everything is connected, we are all the same in spirit, so we are never alone.
With apologies to male readers (I am sure she would include you in the sentiment), Maya Angelou wrote: “Stepping onto a new path is difficult, but not more difficult than remaining in a situation which is not nurturing to the whole woman.”
If we seek to be happy so that we can share that happiness with others; if we work to be settled and content, so that we can give that security and steadiness to those who need it; and if we look to find love and compassion for everyone, including ourselves, then truly we become everything we can be and we cease to hold ourselves back from living boldly and moving confidently through life. Mistakes are how we learn and wrong-steps are how we come to understand our own humanity; say to yourself that you will not stay put for fear of those things. It is from a position of wholeness that you have the most to give, so search for your own wholeness. The world needs you to be complete, not to spend your time solving other people’s problems, but to find and establish yourself in your own brave and open-hearted self. That’s how you help. That’s what you can give.
"We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes
it has gone through to achieve that beauty."