“Perhaps everything terrible is in its deepest being something helpless that wants help from us.” – Rainer Maria Rilke
A few days ago, I looked outside our bedroom window and gasped, “No!” You would think that something really horrible happened, but I just noticed that the leaves on one of the trees had begun to turn to yellow. Maybe it’s a product of growing up in Arkansas’ unpredictable weather, but I’ve never been attached to any particular time of the year. You never really get stuck in one season for too long. I’ve witnessed snow on Spring Break. I’ve had heat exhaustion in September. I’m sure a cold front came through the next day, and we had to break out the sweaters. It could be that the winters in New England are much longer, darker, and colder. Maybe it’s that I thought I would have gotten more accomplished in my free time this summer. It could be that my husband is finishing graduate school, and we might be moving again by the end of this year. Judging by the clench in my throat that last sentence gave me…yeah, we’ll go with that.
I have all these feelings of lack of control, powerlessness, and helplessness. The truth is, he and I have a lot of options. We actually probably have too many options, if that’s even possible. I wish that “you are young and free and have the ability to do whatever you want” inspired me rather than make me want to hide. Wide open should feel liberating, but it feels more like seeing 1,000 different ways to screw something up. My go-to coping mechanism is to start making plans, but since there are so many options, there are too many plans. The thing that was supposed to make me feel better by manufacturing an illusion of control has just pulled me into an anxiety vortex. I honestly feel frozen and scared.
It amazes me that I have all of THAT baggage about needing have control, but I still love Savasana (corpse pose), a pose that requires you to do absolutely nothing. The moment I hit the floor at the end of practice, relief washes over me. There’s no expectations of me. I can just be meat on the floor. Yesterday, while in Savasana, I began scanning my body for any places I might still be holding tension, and allowing them to soften. I let my involuntary breath response take over and noticed my shoulders become heavy and loose. I had the thought that, “Why don’t I do this more when I am NOT in yoga?” I don’t mean that I need to lie down more. I need to practice softening when I want to grab the reins of my life. I have to pause when I want to force a decision, any decision, just so I don’t have to feel the agony and dread of not knowing.
I’m probably just like that dang yellow leaf hanging onto a tree in late August. It isn’t time to move yet. I can spend my time planning my leafy descent: when it will happen, how it will look, and what will happen when I arrive at the ground. Or, I could accept that the wind and time will take me somewhere or sometime without consulting me or my plans. All we can do is enjoy hanging on while we can. We can choose to soften when we want to force. We can give up our own demands and expand our attention to what life demands of us.