Change has an elastic nature. Day by day, things feel the same. Until suddenly, they aren’t. For instance, the ancient creatures living alongside the Colorado River as it flowed within its banks day after day couldn’t have had any idea of the canyon that was forming. Yet, day by day the quietly flowing waters of the river along which they ate, drank and played dug the earth away to form a magnificent, 277 miles long, 18 miles wide and one mile deep canyon.
Living with an adolescent can at times feel a little like this. Day after day you spend time living alongside your child – helping with homework, laughing at jokes, sharing meals, detangling hair and tucking them into bed. You get pretty confident in the status quo or existing state of affairs. Then, one day as you’re impatiently waiting for your daughter, you hear footsteps clomping down the stairs and think “Finally! We’re going to be late!” (again status quo). You look up to find yourself speechless as you gape at a long-legged, breathtaking vision that cannot possibly be your daughter.
The gigantic change you’re witnessing feels sudden – though it’s been going on her whole life. She may not be one of the seven wonders of the world to anyone but you, but to you, it feels like it must have felt when the first person stumbled upon the Grand Canyon. You freeze in your tracks. You just want to look. Even when you’re functioning again – getting your keys, finding your flip flops, corralling the dog – you keep sneaking peeks to make sure she’s real.
Change is not only surprising when we witness it in the world or people around us. Change has a way of creeping up on us even when it is we who are changing. Who hasn’t had a moment when they realize they are suddenly all grown up? The first time this happened to me, I heard myself say, “Mom, I have to hang up. I have a meeting in a minute.” As the words left my lips, I thought, “How did I get old enough to be going to meetings?” I also recall happily laughing and chatting with a babysitter about shared college experiences — until it dawned on me that the story I was telling happened the year she was born. For heaven’s sake!
A yoga practice offers many chances to be surprised by sudden change. I vividly remember not being able to touch the floor in a forward fold without bending my knees – for years. That said, I also vividly remember the day I folded forward and easily palmed the floor. It was a moment of quiet ecstasy (I was in a yoga class and could only allow myself a tiny squeak of joy). But I don’t have any clear memories of the tiny, day to day changes that led to this moment. My newfound ability felt rather abrupt, actually.
I know that, despite the seeming suddenness of my forward fold, it was practice – day after day, steady, persistent and patient – that led to the change. It was showing up and trying. The days that I couldn’t reach the floor were as much a part of my journey as the days when I could. It wasn’t will power or force that allowed my body to eventually open to an easy forward fold. In fact, those could have left me sore and even stiffer than I started out.
The change we witness and experience on our yoga mats teaches us to honor and respect the process. Practicing yoga teaches us to trust the inexorable – albeit sometimes invisible – process of change. Yoga teaches us that even when we think things will never change, they already are changing. Yoga gives us the confidence to know that someday things will be different. That someday we will be different.
The confidence we develop in the process of change makes us patient. It makes us patient with ourselves and patient with others. Even when we can’t see it, we know that growth and change are happening. So rather than getting frustrated at whatever posture I currently can’t do, practice has taught me to keep showing up and to continue to try. Every attempt is a step closer to success – even the ones that feel like four steps backward.
This works off the mat as well. Rather than getting frustrated at my daughter’s latest lost belonging or forgotten chore or bizarre priority, I can recall my experiences with change. I have a choice. I can get impatient, which has never in the history of time sped up change. Or I can take a breath and remember that – even when it doesn’t seem like it – she is changing. I can remember that, soon enough, I’ll look up and my long-legged vision will have morphed again into the next iteration of the young woman she is continually becoming.
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