In Yoga Thoughts

“All in.” To be totally committed to something. – Urban Dictionary

You wouldn’t think a commitment would be a visible thing, but when someone (or something) is “all in,” you can actually see it.

While I see the difference between students who are “all in” and students who aren’t in yoga postures all the time, today life gifted me with an even more powerful illustration of the power, beauty and joy that manifest when someone (or something) is totally committed to what they are doing.

I just came in from taking my dogs for their daily sprint through the woods near our home. They are a sight to behold dashing gracefully through undergrowth, around trees, up hills and down, and (most awesome for me) across the creek. The dogs run without reservation. They run with total abandon. They run with joy. They run with a brazen confidence that I would love to share. When the ground drops away into a gully, they leap without hesitation and land at full tilt to continue their dash. While, for me, a fallen tree across the trail means I have to slow down to figure out a way over. For them, though they cannot see to the other side, that same tree is not an obstacle at all, but an occasion for a gorgeous, wild leap.

The creek presents the most challenging obstacle in the woods for me. My usual fast clip slows to a crawl. Actually, it sometimes slows to a dead stop when I’m crossing the water. Not my dogs, though. Whether they are bounding into or out of the creek, they in no way resemble me cautiously picking my way from rock to rock. They are full of confidence and faith that something will be there (a rock, a log, a spot of mud) for their foot to land on when they need it.

Now, I know most of you haven’t crossed a creek with my speed-loving dogs, but I suspect you’ve all witnessed this raw grace of being “all in.” Think of the squirrels in the trees in your local park. The way they dash madly along the thinnest of branches takes the breath away. In a feat of pure faith, as they reach the very end of the branch they’re on, without pausing, they leap into the air and land on another tiny branch still running at full speed. Or think of monkeys swinging from limb to limb at the zoo.

Do the carefree flights of my dogs, those squirrels and monkeys always end in an easy-peasy landing? No. My dogs take a tumble every now and then, but it barely slows them down. I’ve seen squirrels miss the next branch, and grapple ferociously for a grip on whatever they can grab as they hurtle through the air. While that moment of free fall would certainly leave me breathless, if not paralyzed with panic, I’ve never seen a squirrel pause gratefully once it lands on its Plan B branch. Instead, they keep right on zipping along.

It is true that I have never witnessed a swinging monkey miss a branch, but I actually have watched a mother monkey coaxing her baby to let go and swing to the next branch. This must mean that monkeys (at least the baby ones) are plagued with at least a little of the “common sense” that slows me down. The difference between me and the monkeys (at least one difference) is that, for them, a slip up does not translate into a reason to hold back, to exercise a little caution or to slam on the brakes next time. Like my dogs, they are “all in“ again immediately, swinging from branch to branch with abandon.

What is it that holds me back? It’s my brain. My body freezes up as it revs up into spirals of strategizing. Until today, I thought all of my plotting and planning revealed what a smart human I am. Today, as I watched my dogs careen gleefully through the woods, the thought crossed my mind that thinking was inhibiting some of my joy. The planning I do to stay safe is preventing me from being “all in.”

There’s a country song (No Such Thing As A Broken Heart by Old Dominion) that I like that speaks to this.

“You gotta treat your life like you’re jumping off a rope swing maybe, ’cause the whole thing is really just a shot in the dark. You gotta love like there’s no such thing as a broken heart.”

We’re all going to stumble and have near misses. We’re all going to get hurt. This is simply a part of life. While not pleasant, these missteps do leave us wiser (if at times a little wetter). They can also leave us with more faith in ourselves and our abilities. They can also leave us with more faith in life in general – in other words, faith that one bad ending of a fun thing doesn’t mean the fun thing will always end badly.

What does guarantee a bad ending (or at least a sloppy one) is not being “all in.” Let’s return the visual of me picking my way glacially from rock to rock across the creek. At this pace, I’m not “all in” with regards to my goal of reaching the other side. What I’m “all in” to is not slipping off each rock. Do you see? That’s why I’m so often stuck on a rock in the middle of a creek!

To borrow from Old Dominion, I’ve “gotta cross like there’s no such thing as a wet sneaker!” I’ve gotta cross that creek the way squirrels and monkeys leap from branch to branch. I’ve gotta learn to cross that creek the way my dogs do – with joyful abandon, not thinking for an instant that I won’t be happily zipping along on the other side. So today I tried speed. And I learned that hopping from rock to rock across a creek is easier and way more fun when I move quickly and without hesitation. (I also learned that I can happily zip along on the other side even when one sneaker is a tiny bit wet.)

Take a look around your life (or even around your yoga mat). Notice a time when you’re not “all in.” In other words, when you’re holding back. Without giving it too much thought, see how it feels to change gears and pour yourself into what you’re doing 100%. I’m pretty sure this is the way we’re meant to feel all the time. Enjoy!

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