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“We have more possibilities available in each moment than we realize.” – Thich Nhat Hahn
The woods in springtime hold treasure for me the same way beaches do. I walk them, serenaded by the babbling creek rather than rolling waves, at the same careful pace – gazing mostly down and stopping with surprising frequency to lovingly inspect a “find.” Because my woodland discoveries are alive – in fact, just stretching into their new lives – I gather my treasure in photos on my phone rather than in sandy pockets and bedraggled plastic bags.
This spring has yielded a surprisingly rich trove – a type of spotted yellow lily I’d never noticed before growing at the base of several trees, many wild herbs and an entire swath of delicate Trillium that was really hard to find only five years ago. Yet, I have found myself kneeling down over and over again to smile at a very familiar sight – the fiddlehead.
Something about the tightly coiled fronds of baby ferns (which grow like mad along the creek) pulls me in day after day. The beginning of a children’s book is percolating in my mind. It tells the story of a perplexed baby fern who simply cannot fit in. It is impossible for her to hold the “fiddlehead” shape so popular amongst her peers. The other baby ferns along the creek tease her mercilessly for not blending in – her long, straight stem waving in the breeze. While I haven’t worked out the entire plot, I know how the story ends. In no time, the crowd realizes that her unconventional appearance is the height of fern fashion. In fact, the taller the better! I suppose it’s a bit like the story of the ugly duckling.
When I told my husband about my fascination with fiddleheads, he said, “They’re exactly like you!” (No, he wasn’t referring to the fact that my height makes me stick out of nearly every crowd.) It’s that there was absolutely no way I ever could have predicted the course of my life. Two degrees in the economics of third world development were not “supposed” to lead me to work in corporate communications and marketing at a publishing house. That decade of experience certainly wasn’t “meant to” lead to my current work teaching yoga and philosophy (with a healthy amount of anatomy thrown in).
My current reality would never have cropped up on the list of possibilities being considered by any of my younger “selves.” Yet here I am.
My life experience has made me much more patient and curious about the paths my own children are walking. The wild and surprising twists and turns of my path make it impossible for me to imagine that anyone can precisely plan their own journey. The key (in my humble opinion) seems to be to follow the pulls of your heart – what interests you, what you’re good at, what you love – and to seize whatever opportunities life hands you as you do. And to never, ever ignore the (sometimes) invisible possibilities of each moment.
My yoga practice over the years has bolstered my certainty in the uncertainty of life. There is simply no way to plan your progress through the postures. There is no way to know when tight muscles will (ever!) loosen. There is clearly no way to predict injury or illness. There is no way to foresee if you’ll ever master an elusive pose until you do. (You can trust me on that. Time and again I have found myself in a posture I swore – often publicly – would never be a possibility for me.) Yoga teaches us to show up and give it 100% – over and over again. The journey on a yoga mat is a tiny metaphor for the surprising, possibility filled journey that life has in store for you.
Like the fiddlehead, we all start out in one shape and then stretch and grow into others. Unlike the fiddlehead, for us, the possibilities are endless – limited only by our own dreams and desires.
So, be you with all your heart. Stand tall even if the rest of the crowd is curled into adorable little spirals. Make crazy choices if they feel right to you. Commit 100% to whatever you’re doing now. Give it your all, but stay open to the glimmer of all the possibilities of this life – even (especially) the ones so farfetched that they seem impossible.