Ruminate on this quote, then read on.
“You cannot run away from a weakness;
you must sometimes fight it out or perish;
and if that be so, why not now, and where you stand.”
-Robert Louis Stevenson
In yoga, balancing poses present a great challenge for many students. If you aren’t present in your body because your mind is racing all over the course of your day, week or year, you will find it nearly impossible to be grounded and find stability. Balancing poses have a tendency to bring feelings of weakness and frustration to the surface. I just can’t do this. What is wrong with me today? The truth is that if we stop fighting ourselves, if we let ourselves fall out, we then have the empowering choice to come right back into it. We always have the option to try again and ultimately find balance right where we stand.
If it seems I’m being a little abstract, don’t get me wrong: it’s no easy task to be present. Despite my best efforts I’m often getting way ahead of myself, pre-stressing about things that are out of my hands. And like many people, I’m not immune to letting something or someone from my past tangle and trip me. Hard as it may be, life is best lived somewhere between the reach toward our future and the pull from our past. When we find that balance where these opposing forces neutralize, we begin to feel truly grounded.
Suffice to say, if we were always in this neutral place our lives would be incredibly boring. And sometimes it can be terrifying to face the present–let’s be honest, we all have bad days. Whatever you do, don’t run away. Sit with the struggle. Get uncomfortable. Because letting yourself be thrown off balance can be your greatest teacher. A completely graceless fall or even the slightest wobble reminds us to come back to where we are at that very moment, cultivating our awareness. That is balance. It takes work. And if you begin to think of that effort as a beautiful struggle, you might be amazed at how long you can stay in that space, keeping push and pull in equilibrium.
Next time you’re in a yoga class and you–or perhaps more metaphorically, your life–send one foot off the ground, you will be faced with a practically imperceptible split decision of fight or flight. Breathe. Root down through the other foot (you know, the one that’s still standing its ground) and embrace the challenge of being whole-heartedly present.