Beyond suffering lies struggling. And beyond struggles lies strength. I discovered this at yoga, but it seems to be a pattern across many aspects of life.
At first Bikram was a hot-room of torture. 90 minutes of trying not to pass out, give up or walk out. 90 minutes of wondering if I'd make it, or why it matters, or if it could ever feel better. Then collapsing in the changeroom, long cold showers trying to regain equilibrium, melting into the bench trying to summon the energy to put on clothes and limp down the hall into the cold world. I knew there was something here that my body and soul needed, but couldn't see it through the sweat.
Then one day I decided to stop suffering. Didn't let myself wonder if I could make it through a pose, chose energy instead of depletion in the changeroom. I am physically and mentally strong enough, and yoga does give energy, not take it.
This re-assertion that I am in charge of my reactions ended the suffering, but didn't make the poses any easier. Now I entered a period of struggle. Forcing and grunting my body to go deeper, hold longer, stick truer to the proper form. I wanted to get better, to get the most possible out of this discipline, and (I must admit) to be the best in the room. I may not have chosen the label "suffering", but still experienced physical exhaustion and strain in the pursuit of excellence.
Then somehow yesterday I transcended both suffering and struggling, and instead found strength. Instead of pushing myself to go deeper, I just went there. Rather than hope or resolve or push to hold a long endurance pose, I just held it. I wasn't watching or measuring, wasn't comparing myself to others in the room or to me on other days or to what the instructor was calling. I was just doing it, and finding new strength and endurance and flow. My body knew just what to do, once my mind got out of the way.
Parallels can be brought to other parts of my life that feel like they're flowing well these days. As per my new year's reflection, I feel socially like I'm moving past feeling hurt or left-out, and also past trying too hard to be included or make things happen, and just enjoying the security and strength of a good community. As a parent I'm dwelling less in the pain of my children's hard times, spending less energy struggling to make playdates, and just enjoying and nurturing the inherent goodness of my beautiful boys and trusting that it will shine and call out to the world in its own ways and times. Even as a so-called "Radical Homemaker" my energy is less in global despair or impossible lists of things to do about it, and more in just doing what calls me most and taking one project at a time.
I'm still not sure what led to this unexpected and unintentional shift in the yoga studio. A very sore body allowed me to give myself permission to not push too far. The fact that I hadn't planned on going to yoga that day made it feel like anything I did was a bonus, so again no need to struggle. This particular instructor has a gentler approach. We got there 15 minutes early, allowing lots of time to relax into the heat and feel prepared.
But beyond those immediate factors is perhaps a wider-view reason that I've paid my dues. Have been in the hot room on and off for 5 years, and consistently since last summer. Have worked hard to develop core strength, flexibility, endurance, technical sills, and mental discipline. I really don't know if a more evolved and physically skilled person than myself could enter an experience already at this epiphany level that I only experienced after five years (and who knows, may not again next time).
The same applies to the other examples I gave above. It's much easier to feel social security after having built up a good network of friends than when we first arrived as strangers. Parenting is flowing better partly as a result of our children having become established in their own circles and in themselves. We've worked hard enough on our homestead and lifestyle that we can more easily reap the benefits now. We've gone through the spiritual trials and sill-building that now allows us to move on to a more centred place.
So what I'm left wondering is... are suffering and struggling necessary steps on the road to strength?
Write to Renew - One of our previous graduates, the talented Jay Nahani, is leading us in a Write to Renew workshop June 14th. For writers and non-writers alike, this one-d...