I am always looking for a new mantra. A touchstone or belief to return to and repeat to myself to center my mind and move me forward in my life. And lately, I have felt adrift, surging forward without feeling like I had a mantra that resonated within or grounded me. Then one day in a hot and sweaty mess it hit me, and I knew I was ready to take on the world.
In my weekly yoga class, I have a teacher that in lieu of directions has wonderful prompts like, "if it serves you", "once you're ready", and "when it feels right" that she puts before a posture or pose. Instead of "do this", and "do that", she has a beautiful way of suggesting what comes next. It really is the most welcoming environment for self-discovery and reflection.
At the beginning of class this Sunday, she asked us to focus on the thing we needed more of in our life. I've been so unsettled I couldn't settle on a mantra or inner focus for the class. Peace? Joy? Love? None of my normal mantras felt right. Instead, I settled on a broader idea of what I was searching for. What I wanted were signs or acknowledgment of all I'd accomplished by returning to my mat over and over again. I needed proof of change, of growth.
You see, since I moved to Canada 7 months ago I've been putting a lot of effort into my routine. Into finding things to return to each day, week, and month that make me feel better. To find some sort of grounding effect after such a big change. Essentially I've been rebuilding my life.
Honestly, after the initial physical move to a new country, the changes tapered off and I felt like I was in a rut. Going through the motions, hoping for movement forward, but not feeling it. I pushed on anyway. Weekly yoga and Zumba classes. Tracking my habits each week in my bullet journal. Trying to make time each day for reading, journaling, and meditation. Small actions each day, week, and month that I knew would eventually lead me somewhere.
But where? Where was I trying to go? What was my goal? I've lived a life of self-improvement for so long to help manage my depression, that I didn't even really have a goal for a long time other than to not feel bad all the time. Eventually, I didn't feel bad all the time. But I continued my self-care and routine which faithfully propelled me forward.
So that is what I gave my practice over to on Sunday: exploring the strength I've gained, the endurance I've built, the flexibility that's opened, and the calm I've cultivated. Instead of returning to a word or feeling as my mantra, I returned over and over again to this: "Show me how I've changed from coming back again and again."
It was a surprisingly peaceful practice. Strong, yes, but I also had a sense of ease that flowed through it. As a note, this is a hot yoga class. We practice and sweat in a 90 degree (33 celsius) room that literally opens your pores and body to change. So ease is not something I normally find in this class, even when I'm focusing on it.
Even at the end of the class, I hadn't found what I was looking for. I didn't even know what I was looking for, but I knew it was still out of reach. It's felt like it was just out of grasp for weeks now like I could brush my fingers up against it, but never getting a hold of it. So I sunk into Savasana and melted into calm and peace.
Savasana, the final resting pose for yoga classes, is my favorite pose. It's where I can feel the full effects of my physical yoga practice and find space and quiet in my mind. This day was like many others, where I stayed lying in stillness after class had officially ended and slowly blinked my eyes open after many a classmate had already bolted from the heat. And I knew I wasn't done yet.
A few weeks back, after months of rebuilding my practice after my broken wrist a year ago, I realized I was getting stronger than I thought. Which meant that I was ready to bring more advanced postures back into my practice. Years ago I could do headstand, but hadn't even attempted it in well over a year.
If you practice yoga, you'll understand what it means to have more advanced postures as a part of your practice. It means you actively do these poses. As your yoga practice ebbs and flows, the level of postures you are capable of flows as well. Think of it as marathon running. You're training. If you're not getting your daily runs in, then you're not going to be making personal bests.
I had lost my headstand practice and hadn't thought about bringing it back in for awhile, until all of a sudden it was right there in front of me, asking to be tried. To return to the marathon example, imagine a runner who broke their leg. When they start running again they may not have a marathon in mind, but just want to run again. To feel the breeze in their hair and the burn in their lungs. But after running daily without a goal, they are suddenly asked to sign up for a half-marathon. And they realize they might be able to do it. They might be ready. That was me with my headstand, I realized I might be ready.
I'd practice headstand against the wall last week and was surprised when my feet glided up into the air and I found the connection to my core I'd thought was gone. But I needed the wall. I need the security of it as I teetered and fell against it. This week was different though. I started against the wall and played and brought the calm and strength I'd found during class to the wall with me. Then I thought, "Why not try it away from the wall?" So I scooted a few feet away from the wall, set my head on the ground and tried.
Suddenly I was filled with fear. Scared that I would fall. But there was something else there, too. Courage. Confidence in the possibility. Hesitantly I lifted my feet towards the ceiling. With fear and joy and calm and strength, I stood on my head without a wall to catch me.
That was when loud and clear I heard it. "I'm ready." It wasn't God, it was me. Well, I guess there are some people who wouldn't differentiate between the two. Either way, I felt the clarity of those words hit me and I knew it was true. I am ready.
I'm ready to do hard things. I'm ready to use the strength I've cultivated. I'm ready to do things I'm scared of. I'm ready to step away from the wall. I'm ready to share my thoughts. I'm ready to take my hobbies seriously. I'm ready to bare my soul. I'm ready to take the next leap of faith. I'm ready for it all.
As I brought my feet back down to earth, it was like I'd gotten the message I'd been patiently waiting for. As if I was finally able to accept that the hard work that I'd been putting in, the hot classes, the late nights, the routine and the repetition were bearing fruit. That I was no longer going through the motions to feel better or searching for a mantra, but it was time to finally push forward into the unknown, and that I was, in fact, ready to take on the world.