“Water does not resist. Water flows. When you plunge your hand into it, all you feel is a caress. Water is not a solid wall, it will not stop you. But water always goes where it wants to go, and nothing in the end can stand against it. Water is patient. Dripping water wears away a stone. Remember that, my child. Remember you are half water. If you can’t go through an obstacle, go around it. Water does.” ― Margaret Atwood
It’s been raining forever, in a way I don’t remember. Everything smells of petrichor and damp and snails crunch underfoot and my curls wind up tighter and the air is moist like undercooked cake or when you flip the Spanish tortilla two minutes too soon. It’s green and the sky is pink and pillowy and angry and frightening and fresh and alive. Thunder and lightning shoot off nightly fireworks and this isn’t even Disneyland. The streets run with debris from mangled metal and plastic and the city detritus and nature’s trash, swept up and swallowed or discarded when it becomes too heavy to be bothered with. It’s our endless spring, drenching the sick, dead soil of this water starved land. It’s glorious, and I wish the sun would come out sometimes.
A few weeks ago, likely when the sun was shining and I was feeling optimistic, I woke up and felt like I used to. Before. But somehow smarter. Like maybe I learned something I needed to inside the broken heart time. I had strung together quite a stretch where I was walking five or six or more miles every day, I was feeling ready for more of a challenge.
My body told me I need to trade talk therapy for yoga. So I did.
Yin yoga is typically done at a very slow pace where you remain in each pose for 3-5 minutes or more. For me, it’s like a moving meditation, and it is absolutely a practice that is about patience. It’s slow, but it is deeply intense. There are a lot of opening poses – heart, hips, thighs, shoulders… A battle is being waged inside your mind, and your only weapons are breath and gravity and surrender. I have had several sessions where upon arriving back to my car, I have collapsed into tears, just weeping from the overwhelming emotional release that this class provides. My instructor is a beautiful human who makes me feel so comfortable and safe. It’s like having your own muse whispering to you while you try to just be, no matter how much you want to fidget and move and adjust. I practice patience. I practice being still when it is deeply uncomfortable. I practice letting the thoughts and feelings I experience come into my mind and go out without me following. I practice staying in the present. I practice letting go of magical thinking. It’s one of the only times in my life where I am absolutely disconnected from everything except myself. It is very, very hard. But it is healing me.
The thing I love about yoga is that it is always there when you need it. And you can always come back or begin again or for the first time. Always. Yoga does not judge or expect. Yoga is patient. Yoga is meditation with movement and breath.
In my 30s, I have finally, finally started to figure it out. Love and happiness isn’t about giving everything you have to someone else. It’s not about sacrificing your own safety and well being for others. It’s not about waiting for someone to give you what you think you want or need. We already have everything we need right now. True peace, love, and contentment come from holding your own star, and caring for yourself in the best ways you can, so that you can be a better partner, lover, friend, colleague, and human. True happiness is being content and in love with yourself. It’s a cliche for a reason. Because it’s true.
If I had known how long it would take me to reach each new level where I feel a profound sense of spiritual and personal growth, I don’t know if I would have kept going. It’s much easier to remain stagnant and ignorant and blissful in our negative habits and behaviors. I mean, no one has to change. It really hurts. You can live your entire life being miserable and living in fear and constant disappointment and regret. We can be bad to each other and to ourselves and keep hurting. I think most of the time we don’t really know how bad it is because we’re trapped inside it. That’s hard. But change is possible. Always.
We each get to choose.
Life has never stopped showing me that I have more to learn, and that I am only able to learn at nature’s pace. Time passes like water. Patience is just like yin yoga. It may appear that you are waiting, still, doing nothing, but patience is active. It takes courage and persistence and effort. It can exhaust your body and mind, which is why your best tool is surrender. Acceptance. Climbing into the demon’s mouth. As soon as you do that, everything reveals itself to you. When you put kindness, compassion, and care into yourself, positive things unfold before you. We have to trust time, and trust ourselves more. Be less afraid. Be more courageous. Love more. Trust that the right things will happen with the right people when they are supposed to. Trust that when you don’t get the things you want, it’s because something else is coming for you.
As Eleanor Roosevelt so eloquently says, “You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”