A few years back I came to an uncomfortable realization. In many ways, my life had congealed into a predictable pattern of mundane activities. As a kid growing up I avowed my life wouldn’t be governed by routine. I loved trying, doing and exploring things I’d never done before. Many summers of my childhood were spent working on the family farm steeped in the magic of the southern Missouri wilderness. We regularly played host to large groups of city-dwellers seeking to leave the familiar patterns of their lives behind in exchange for exotic adventure. They’d only stay a few days, but while at our place we’d lead them on horseback rides, woodland scouting expeditions, float trips, spelunking hikes, hayrides and many other activities that were anything but ordinary in comparison to the lifestyle they were accustomed. It was amazing to witness the dramatic change that would sometimes occur in peoples’ demeanor during their stay. I recall how sad I’d feel for them when their stay was over, having to leave the enchantment of our world to return back to whence they came.
Here, decades later though – about 5 years ago, I realized that I’d become one of those people my younger self felt sorry for way back then. Life had gotten pretty stagnant, repetitive and dull. I’d been living in Kansas City over twenty years, been working at my current employer for ten, nothing really much exciting was looming on the horizon.
The voice of discontent can be a great motivator. In my experience though, I’ve learned it’s important to tread cautiously through these times. It’s easy to fall into the trap of initiating some immediate, life stirring change in the hopes it’ll fix things. The purchase of a new boat or car might do the trick. Or perhaps I should quit my job, move to the ocean and live on the beach in a tent. Having done things like that before and come up just as empty after the big shake up, I’ve learned to be more patient with the process. So this time I did something different. What I did was… nothing, which is sometimes the best course of action to take. I’ve acted impulsively in the past – only to look back with regret on what I’d done. So I started going about my days looking for the joy, making note of the many things I had to be grateful for and taking positive little steps towards figuring out what the Universe was trying to show me. In order to do this, I had to turn down the volume of my rational mind that was telling me to just keep doing what I was doing and take comfort in how good I had it. I started relying on intuition more to guide some of my behavior, which immediately got me doing things and talking to people I otherwise wouldn’t have paid attention to. One thing I began to notice was that yoga was going on all around me. It seemed for a couple weeks straight in there somewhere I heard about yoga every day from some angle or another – people talking about it at work, articles in magazines I happened to pick up, or through social media.
Then one day I was at the coffee shop and a girl walked in who seemed very affable. She was very pretty and much younger than me. Rational mind immediately drummed up a hundred reasons why I shouldn’t reach out and talk to her. Oddly enough though, my intuition was saying the exact opposite. She’d already sat at the counter with her drink and I was admiring her t-shirt that was from Oregon, another thing I’d been hearing an awful lot about lately. There was such a pull towards talking to her it’s really hard to describe, but I didn’t have the courage to just go up and introduce myself – the whole beautiful girl thing, not to mention the big age difference. So I literally threw out to the Universe… ‘Okay, if I’m supposed to meet this person, if there’s some reason for it, she’ll come sit down at the table next to me.’ Well, less than one minute later she got up, looked my way, walked over, sat down! The hour plus conversation that ensued somehow ended up on the topic of yoga, not surprising given how much I’d been hearing about it from other sources lately. When we parted, she left me a card with a strong recommendation of a particular studio to try that had good beginner classes. In that moment, there was no doubt in my mind why our paths had crossed. Within the week I’d gone to my first yoga class and I haven’t looked back; even though my rational mind continues to tell me I’m too old for this activity, too sore, too male and a hundred other excuses to retreat back into my former comfort zone.
So there I was earlier in the week, looking over the photos I’d recently taken at the latest yoga event I attended. Something about this one caught my eye, even though it’s not that ‘artistically’ pleasing to me. Looking at it closer, the reason for its appeal became clearer. In a lot of ways it captures the struggle I was going through when I landed on the doorstep of yoga. The old, rigid structure of my life in the background – the building, concrete and metal sculpture, gives way to the more flexible elements in the foreground. It gave me pause to reflect on how it came to be that I was sitting there looking at this picture, grateful that I decided to change course a bit, pursue some new activities and reinvigorate my life by embracing new experiences. Om shanti, friends.