I began gymnastics when I was 5 years old. It was an immediate love affair with moving and stretching and making beauty, or at least attempting to, with my body. I continued through high school, competing on my intermediate and high school gymnastics teams, even going to the state championships one year. I was never that great; one year I won the “Most Improved” award, but I loved the discipline of the practice and some of my teammates were really amazing, one having studied with Béla Károlyi, and it was a privilege to watch them practice and compete up close.
So it was a natural transition in college to take up yoga. There is a similar discipline of the physical body as well as the mind. My first yoga teacher was actually a meditation teacher first and foremost and I then had a new obsession.
Both meditation and yoga have served me well over the years, providing a firm grounding in self-care and a basis from which to live fully, and now that it is 2020, I am reaching a landmark birthday this summer. Dare I say it? 5-0. Yikes. It is causing me to be a bit more reflective at the start of this new year.
Each year I like to choose a word that represents my intention for the year to come; past words have included “ease” and “curiosity,” and this year, I choose “forgive.” To me forgiveness represents a way to allow things to just be, as they are, without me trying to change them. Forgiveness goes along with “allowing.” Allowing things to unfold as nature would have it, and “welcome,” creating a sense of welcome within your own body and mind so that you can inhabit yourself with love and kindness.
At a certain point in life, you realize you have to live with the choices you’ve made. You are no longer making choices about career, house, children, or partner, for examples, and you are living with those choices. Some things can still be changed, for sure, but many times it is the art of living with your choices where the real depth of life, feeling, and emotion occurs.
My teacher Douglas Brooks says, if you choose to love, you will grieve. So, we must accept that, allow that, and when the time comes, even welcome grief as an inevitable part of living fully. This welcoming of grief is in the recognition that we have loved and do still love fully.
I find that yoga has taught me how to exist with all of the rasas, all of the flavors of life. It is not simply a bondage to liberation model of yoga where you meditate long enough and hard enough and eventually become liberated from this world, free of the fetters of life itself to experience eternal bliss. This seems the way for the storied yogis who remove themselves from society and go live in the caves of the Himalayas to reach enlightenment.
I once sat in Ramana Maharishi’s cave (in Arunachalam, Tamil Nadu) and found my own unique experience. However, most of us have a daily life of responsibilities. The 10, 30, or 60 minutes of meditation and 10, 30, or 60 minutes of yoga practice daily builds a rhythm of deeper understanding and insight that allows me to recognize that everything is okay, just as it is. I want to live in this world, I choose to have friends and a community that is meaningful to me. This is how I define “living a full life.”
And the great thing about forgiveness is that enlightenment standard I may be reaching for occurs everyday in the simple relationships between family, friends, community, yoga students. In that recognition, I am truly free.
50? Bring it on.