One week ago we toasted to the New Year, and boy! What a year 2015 will be for me. My ten-year high school reunion is this year. My closest college friend is getting married. I’m graduating with a Master’s degree. And yet, once the champagne fizzled and the sun rose, there were still bills to pay, stresses to worry over, and work to be done.
Without even worrying with New Year’s Resolutions, I woke up Thursday morning the same boring person I was on Wednesday night. This past week has been the usual whirlwind: Get up. Do five things at once all day. Remember to eat. Crash. Repeat. And guess what? I’m happy about it!
Cliché though it may sound, I spent New Year’s Day in a yoga workshop at my favorite studio, Tough Love Yoga, that focused on the consuming and fueling power of fire. Yet it was not the asana practice or intention-setting meditation which caught in my mind that afternoon. Instead, it was a simple truth of the practice that our fantastic instructor Neda reminded us near the end of the class: There is a lot of set-up involved before the sweet surrender into a pose.
Her simple statement struck me like a match, igniting a flame within my mind that consumed so many worries of the previous year. As a graduate student, research assistant, writer, sister, daughter, friend – as with every other busy human being – I had begun to see each day as an overflowing bucket of obligations and burdens. I’d wake up and put on the same worn-in pair of loafers purchased second-hand years before. “Same shoes, different day” had become my own personal nightmare in an ultimately suffocating way.
Yet this simple idea, this ordinary way of examining the same motions and poses we do in yoga classes all the time, suddenly became a revelation to my New Year.
“I spent my youth in the fire so I could spend my old age in the ash of truth.”
-Ma Jaya Sati Bhagavati
Neda had posted this quote from her beloved teacher in the Facebook event for the workshop, and yet its own truth did not touch me until Neda’s words during the class. It takes a great deal of set-up before you can relax and surrender to a pose. So much of our lives is spent focused on the endgame. On the finish line. On the mountaintop. Especially in this age of hand-held technology and convenience, we so often forget the race itself, and the arduous mountain climb.
In yoga, we learn that each stretch, each twist and bend and push-up, brings you one tiny step closer to an intricate pose or a difficult arm balance. While one particular pose may be immediately easy, it can take months or even years to attain another. There is a keen sense of accomplishment felt and self-respect gained in each class and with every pose.
Much like in yoga, there is beauty and respect to be acknowledged in every day of our lives, even when nothing new has occurred. A difficult goal may be years away, but that does not mean that each monotonous day spent stretching toward your goal is not just as beautiful and worthy of deep respect and appreciation. Your bucket may be overflowing and overwhelming, but if you keep sorting through it, you will keep finding new accomplishments. Your shoes may be worn-in and outmoded, but they’re still ready each morning to take you on your daily adventure. In them, you will keep reaching new goals, fighting new fires, and building new hopes.
After all, that’s the beauty of life: the ability to wake up every morning and keep living, keep growing, keep stretching.
May your bucket never be empty, your shoes always be ready, and your fire always be burning! Happy New Year!