Typically, you're either walking on the trail or, as I like to put it, you're off-roading. My first foray into yoga was, for me, off-roading. I didn't know much about the practice (or the whole culture around it, for that matter). I had people in my life who didn't know anything about it and saw it as a "hippy, crunchy thing to do." It was foreign -- and in many ways, unpopular -- territory. During my first class in which the teacher walked around pounding a hand drum, encouraging us to chant Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu, the thought "We're not in Kansas anymore, Toto" ran through my head.
Nope, I wasn't in Kansas, and I wasn't on the trail either. Not even close. Still, I managed to find comfort in the discomfort. Fast forward 10 years and I was back to being in a comfortable, cushy spot. Yes, I was practicing yoga. I was meditating. I was going on retreats and eating differently and chanting and doing all sorts of things that I had never done prior to my first step off the trail. Yet I had boxed myself in once again. It was a more "spiritual" box for sure, but it was a box nonetheless.
Then I did something that felt pretty darned radical to me -- I dropped out of a yoga teacher training program. Quitting isn't my thing, so I was semi-appalled by the choice. Add in the fact that this training was one that I had wanted to take so very badly. The teachers were amazing. Their breadth of knowledge was incredible and the lineage in which they taught was one that I had admired for years. My mind loved it all -- it loved the philosophical discussions, the Sanskrit chants, the breaking down of each sutra word by word, the designing of asana practices, the sheer volume of information. My heart, on the other hand, felt differently. Staying in the training actually began to feel like a betrayal of my soul (I know, I know -- it sounds dramatic, but that's the best way to describe it).
Unfortunately, I was familiar with betrayal, for I had sold myself out on many occasions prior. My hands were firmly on the wheel but I didn't know where the hell I was driving to. I was just following the signs that someone else had laid out, convincing myself that the journey was mine. Leaving that training shook something loose in me. After that, there was no looking back. The next few years I would leave many things, as well as people. It's funny how when you start listening to your heart how the things/people/places that don't align with it start to fall away.
I didn't plan to write about this, exactly, but like the majority of my posts, they start with a seed of an idea and unfold organically. In other words, I get out of the way and let my posts write themselves. I suppose that's why I've been blogging for so long -- because it feels rather fun and effortless. I suppose this post has taken this direction because I'm feeling nostalgic today. A year ago, I made a conscious decision to get out of my own way. I walked off the path and went off-roading. And I can honestly say that I never would have thought that I would have ended up here, where I am right now.
I almost did it again at the beginning of the year -- I almost sold myself out. Fear can be quite persuasive when it's masquerading as your heart's longing. Luckily I heard the truth before I made the wrong choice yet again. And today I find myself on the unmarked path. I have no idea where the heck I'm going -- I'm just making it all up as I go along. I step with faith that I'm not going to trip over a root and go sprawling. It's a living meditation -- I keep coming back to the present, and back to the present, and back to the present. It's been quite an adventure. Whenever I thought about off-roading like this in the past, I would feel a fissure of unease about it all. Yet, the reality is something entirely different. There's a happiness and a joy of adventure and a feeling of bigness that I've never quite felt before. Defining the path myself has proven to be a whole heck of a lot of fun and it's shown me how, at times, I was living small and denying myself the possibilities and unexpected surprises that life has to offer. And I have no idea how it's going to turn out...and I like that.
So I think back to those safe days when I had a plan and I had a certain belief about my yoga practice and I had a whole bunch of ideas about how things should be and I laugh. I no longer have a plan. My yoga practice looks like something entirely different than what it did when I started practicing 14 years ago. And my life looks nothing like what it "should." It's a relief, actually. It feels easy to simply surrender to life and take it moment by moment. It feels like, after all of these years, that I'm finally starting to live my yoga. And my heart likes that.
When one is filled with love and joy and gratitude, she wants others to experience the same. So, I ask you -- how are you getting in your own way? What would letting go of the wheel look like for you? Could you let yourself off-road for even just a little while? Can you choose to ignore the fear and stay in the moment, going wherever it leads you with an open heart?
I speak from experience -- off-roading is exhilarating and it breaks you open like nothing else. Anyone wanna join me?