“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.” ― Elisabeth Kübler-Ross
Recently I have come to realize that it is not really Yoga I have been discontented with, but many things that I observe in society as a whole. The lengths that we go to in order to avoid our own suffering is frightening. When I was young, this discontent fostered rate, which prompted action on my behalf to make the world a better place. At that point, I had yet to learn the teachings of Gandhi to “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” Instead, I built a wall of indifference against the heartbreak and simply complained that someone, anyone, should make things better. I hoped for change, yet was paralyzed by my own lack of understanding, or intention, to create it.
When I began to look deeper into the root of this discontent, it became clear that it was ME who I was vexed with. I had treated myself with indifference for many years, with high expectations and harsh criticism to achieve my unrelenting standards. To be fair, however, I set equally high standards of society, as a whole, as I had for myself. And for the better part of my life, I gained quite a bit of success by living up to those standards. The problem was that I never considered a “Plan B”, if and when Plan A failed. In my perception, failure was never an option. Rather, in American Society, we are not taught that failure is EVER an option. Our leaders today cannot admit when they have made mistakes, they continually cover them up with blame and aversion. We, in turn, tend to tell our children whopper lies that they can be or do anything they set their mind to. We glaze over their mistakes and make sure “no child is left behind.” We have failed to teach our children to act with grace.
I equal this with how we are taught inversions in a yoga class. Hopefully, we begin with the basic foundation and proper mechanics of pose (assuming your teacher knows what the hell they are doing, that is). They may even take time to discuss a few options for how to achieve the posture, but how many teachers are willing to share with you how to fall? Yet it is that falling, the perception of failure, that keeps many of us from ever venturing to try something so new and unpredictable. Granted, there will always be those brazen few who kick up into a headstand, yet I would say that by not learning the proper tools, those few risk an even bigger failure when they don’t protect their neck. Going into something with your eyes wide shut, or avoiding reality, presents just as great of a possibility for failure as never trying something new at all. Now, if we do learn how to fall in a yoga class, why do we not teach our children how to fail in life? Why do we not teach them to consider failure and then to develop a “Plan B”?
It has taken me years to understand and appreciate this motto I learned from a former employer of mine (one who is a well-respected, upstanding leader in the community aka she doesn’t own a chain of yoga studios)….”Fail. Forward. Faster.” In fact, it has only been after I experienced a great number of failures within the past year, that I was in no way prepared to handle, that I began to see the beauty in those three words. My whole life was flipped upside down, and because I had no other plan, I fell into the pit of depression. Clinical depression. The kind of depression that cries, hurts, wails, aches, wallows, tears you apart, and kills you slowly day-by-day. Interestingly, it was in the midst of this profound sorrow that I was prompted to take action. The idea that I could or would feel this way forever helped me see that I need to do the work necessary to find my way back into the world again.
In order to get to where I wanted to be, I first had to see things as they really were. For nearly two years prior to that fateful afternoon just one year ago to this day, I was stuck in an oppressive work situation and relationship that compelled me to try to please people who were undeserving of my time or effort. (For the record: anyone who constantly tells you aren’t good enough, because they are too insecure to love you for who you are, is not worth your time or effort.) Losing a job where I fed a machine of negativity and condoned harmful actions towards others was not my failure. My true failure happened long before that, when I didn’t honor my values, respect my integrity, or listen to my intuition – when I didn’t stick up for or care for myself. Now that I had seen where the epic fail had occurred, I was able to create a platform for growth to move forward from.
During the past year I have come to appreciate these failures were grand gifts of liberation and freedom from the bleak reality my life had become. If things had not failed, I may still be working for an Evil Empire. Or possibly be in a relationship with a hopelessly unfaithful, narcissistic asshole (since he is a whole ASS, I am not censoring it, so there). Had I remained in either situation for much longer, I may not have lived long enough to go on the adventure of a lifetime (figuratively and literally). If not forced out of that spot, I may not have been prompted to ask the difficult questions and look deep within, nor had the chance to see the world open up in ways I never knew possible, or become my own best friend. I have worked my whole life to achieve success in my career, in relationships, and in my life – always feeling like I was just not good enough. Yet, it took me only a year to find that place of contentment in my heart, but I first had to lose it all.