As we make the graduation party circuit celebrating with long-time friends, I’ve noticed that my mood (and that of the graduates) can go in either of two directions. Sometimes, I feel like I’m part of a group high five for an amazing job done in high school, for bright futures and for exciting new adventures just over the horizon. At other times, I feel tender and wistful as I look back at sweet friendships that will no longer be a day to day constant for my daughter and her imminent departure from the safe and (mostly) happy haven of her high school. Whew! These parties can throw you off balance.
So can graduation itself. Perhaps for the first time in their lives, these young men and women are truly experiencing the truth in the maxim that every ending is also a new beginning. This ending is enormous (monumental even) and this new beginning is just as significant. It’s important that both are fully experienced. These kids need to both celebrate and mourn. It’s critical that they leap for joy in anticipation of their chosen paths beyond high school and also that they hold each other close in this tender time before they part ways.
In short, they must perform the balancing act that life asks of us all. None of us get to experience only happy times. In fact, a little extra time on the planet has proved that sad times make the happy ones that much sweeter. We don’t get to only say “hello.” Good-byes are a fact of life. Life is a delicate balance, but not an impossible one. And 18 seems like a great age to begin practicing. At 18 you have just enough self-awareness to reflect on your mixed feelings and mountains of resiliency to regain your footing when you lose your balance and sink into gloominess or sail off into euphoria.
Note I said that 18 is a good age to begin practicing. There are two super important words in there – begin and practice. The balancing act that life asks of us never goes away, though our balance can ebb and flow dramatically at times. Once we begin, we continue practicing forever. The good news is that there is no need to aim for perfection. Even in mid-life, I’ve been known to drop off into gloominess or sail away into euphoria. I’ve had enough of these “slip ups” to know that they are simply chances to try again to regain my peaceful, centered place.
A yoga practice provides loads of experience with balancing acts. Each posture is a balance of rooting down and lifting up. Each posture asks you to work hard and also to surrender. Each posture requires a balance of strength and suppleness. In a single hour on your mat, you will experience confidence and cowardice. You will experience success and failure. You will experience the familiar and the new. Best yet, you will lose your balance. Over and over again you will teeter in postures and be asked to regain your balance. Once in a blue moon, you will actually fall over and be asked to pick yourself up and try again.
More important than all of this, however, is that you get to witness your emotional and intellectual responses to all of this. You develop a better understanding of your emotional habits. You begin to see patterns of thought. You get to know yourself intimately. In a fascinating twist, it is all of this self-understanding that allows you to begin the lifelong process of growth and change. The fact that you get to practice all of this in the safe haven of your yoga mat is a gift. Because of your practice, when (not if) you lose your balance in life, you will automatically rely on the skills and techniques you have developed in your yoga practice as you try to regain your balance.
Whether you’re embarking on an exciting new beginning or mourning the close of one of life’s chapters, remember, you’ve got this. Whether you’re teetering or feeling as steady and solid as can be, remember, you know how to do this. Even if you’ve fallen smack on your rear end, remember, it’s OK. It’s only practice. There is no need to be perfect. You know how to take a deep breath, smile at yourself and get back up. Life is a delicate balance, but not an impossible one.
You’ve got this.