Asking for help is hard
Asking for help can be surprisingly hard for us to do.
Why? Well, there seems to be something about the modern human ego that is reluctant to not be self-sufficient and independent. In her article on CNN.com, Cory Stieg writes that asking for help requires us to relinquish control. She also mentions that the risk of being seen as needy can make asking for help a little frightening.
A practice of contemplation reveals that control is but an illusion
A contemplative practice such as yoga can help tremendously with the first two obstacles. Whether you are moving and breathing on a mat or sitting down to meditate, there is nothing like a daily practice to reveal that control is an illusion.
When you show up to do the same thing day after day, it very quickly becomes clear that you have absolutely no control over whether your practice goes well or not. On a yoga mat, your body can seem to have a mind of its own – stiff one day, limber the next; strong and energetic one day, exhausted for no apparent reason the next.
We learn a similar lesson on a meditation cushion. One day we’re focused and peaceful, the next six days our thoughts feel like an impassable asteroid field keeping us from the quiet, centered place we know is “in there” somewhere.
The more we practice, the more comfortable we get with the truth that all we can control is whether or not we show up. The rest is out of our hands. We learn that a “bad” practice isn’t bad at all because we’ve practiced. We learn to receive the “good” practices as the gifts that they are.
Contemplative practices make inauthenticity uncomfortable
Another gift of a regular contemplative practice is that we become increasingly uncomfortable with inauthenticity. The more intimately we get to know and understand ourselves, the more we want to live as the person we are discovering within. Not to do so is to dishonor and disrespect the wonderful individual we are unearthing. Doing so feels almost painful. Lessons like these take the wind out of the sails of any fear we might have of being seen as needy.
A big project mushrooms and help is needed
It is good to understand why you may not be inclined to ask for help, but it’s even better to get a glimpse of the beauty that can result when you do. A friend and I had the brilliant (if we do say so ourselves) idea of lighting the Christmas Market we created for our church with simple, inexpensive luminaries made from white paper bags, a scoop of sand and a votive candle. We needed 1500 of these lanterns to light all the walkways.
In August our response to this quantity was an optimistic, energetic “No problemo.” By mid-November, after scooping sand into most of the bags, we began to get twitchy as we realized there was absolutely a “problemo” – there was no way the two of us were going to have time to get all 1500 candles into their bags and lit on market day. We needed help and we needed it badly.
When we were unable to find that help in our church community, our twitchiness ramped up to near panic. Not only had we invested in the supplies, but the twinkling luminaries were a key decorative feature of the event. Then my friend had another stroke of genius. She remembered her niece, a high school senior and member of the National Honor Society, mentioning that she needed community service hours. So, we asked for help one more time.
Two hours before the Market opened, over 80 members of the National Honor Society flooded onto our church grounds. In less than an hour, every luminary was set and lit. Watching those young people reach out and help when we so desperately needed it was for me and my friend, the feel-good moment of the event. They created beauty in more than one way that afternoon. While the luminaries burned out days ago, the light created by our willingness to ask for help and their willingness to give it has not dimmed.
Interdependence feels 1,000,000 times better than independence
My friend and I learned over and over while working on our huge project that self-sufficiency and independence are exhausting and lonely. When we ask for help in small and big ways, we choose interdependence and that feels very, very good.
We humans, hardwired as we are, often forget that we are part of an infinitely huge whole. The word yoga comes from the Sanskrit root yuj, which means to yoke. Yoga invites us to yoke ourselves to something greater than ourselves. I often teach that this “something greater” is the whole of which we are each infinitesimal parts.
This whole is filled with incomprehensible possibilities. Asking for help is a way to tap into the potential of the whole. By doing so, we allow the power of the whole to infuse everything we are doing with more creativity, energy and light than we could ever provide on our own.
But the very best part of asking for help is the feeling of standing shoulder to shoulder – yoked, you might say – with a team of others, feeling the warmth, support, and strength that come from embracing our interdependence. That’s a beautiful experience that I wish for every single one of us.
It can seem ironic that contemplative practices that seem so solitary are immeasurably enriched when practiced in community. Joining one of Yoga With Spirit’s spirituality, philosophy, or yoga classes is a great way to connect with like-minded practitioners.