No two ways around it: life is crazy right now.
The past few weeks, I’ve been spending full weekends up at the Luminary Farm assisting Just Be Yoga’s teacher training, going to school full-time, maintaining a weekly teaching schedule in Santa Cruz, and going on a semi-tour with the film. I’ve spent a lot of time on the road, in the air, and hitting the ground running.
Just a few years go, the mere idea of taking on this much would have sent me into a downward spiral. Leaving school in the middle of the week to fly to Canada for one day? No way in hell would I have said “yes” to what seems like such a crazy idea. And yet, just last week, there I was: sitting on a plane on a Tuesday night, flying out to Canada because I knew I’d regret it forever if I didn’t make this trip happen.
I was in Vancouver thanks to an incredibly warm invitation from lululemon to join them at their head office on World Mental Health Day. I taught a class, screened the film, fielded questions on a Q&A panel, and got to meet more incredible people than I previously thought was possible in a 24-hour window. There was definitely a moment, however, where I sat in front of a sea of thoughtful lululemons (is that what they’re called, or are they just lemons?) and thought to myself, “Is it hypocritical to be up here talking about mental health when you’re running around nonstop without any breaks?”
And yet, when I looked inside, I found that I actually felt…really good? A little tired, sure, but sitting on planes will do that to a person. But I felt rooted, grounded, and even present: something that has always been a challenge for me and my anxieties. It was a surprisingly sweet moment where I was able to recognize that over the past few years, I’ve really learned how to take care of myself.
One day this fall at a yoga event, before my schedule started picking up, we were playing around with some ice breakers with a partner. I was teamed up with one of my teachers, Jessica. The question posed to us was simple: when do you feel most taken care of?
I went with some nice gestures I appreciate from loved ones, things like my boyfriend surprising me with a coffee in the morning or my dad backing my car into the garage for me when I’m home. And yet, with her inimitable wit and wisdom, Jessica replied:
I feel most taken care of when I take care of myself.
Of course, I thought, Of course she would say that.
Because, as usual, the lessons we most need tend to reach us right when we need them. I knew going into these wild months that I would need to be my biggest advocate. It would be up to me to ensure that I was nourished and rested in order to show up powerfully for what was being asked of me.
Here’s the thing: I know none of this is sustainable. There’s just no way I could be a full-time college student, assist teacher training, and travel around on tour with the film forever. I’d crumble right into the ground, and I wouldn’t even make good concrete. I’ve never deluded myself into thinking that this was something I’d be doing forever.
But I did know that every opportunity I was saying “yes” to felt like it was aligned with my highest and best. Through all the difficult travel schedules, throughout all the planning, throughout all the emails to professors explaining an unexplainable set of circumstances, I’ve felt nothing but trust. And trust, I’ve found, is the biggest clue that you are aligning with your true purpose.
Every single day, I try to make little deposits into what I like to call my “self-care savings account.” Things like setting aside five minutes in the morning to drink my coffee and journal, making time to get on my yoga mat throughout the week, and prioritizing time in nature are all examples of deposits I regularly make for myself. Not every deposit has to necessarily feel a little luxurious, either: sometimes my deposit for the day is getting ahead on work or responding to the emails I’ve been putting off to take a few things off my to-do list for the busy days ahead.
Through this practice, I’ve been able to stay steady in the storms of busier seasons. All the nourishment I’ve poured into myself and into my savings account comes into play when I don’t have quite as much time for acts of self care (a.k.a, the times when I’m more in self-preservation mode). Of course, on the road I still keep the big acts in my line of vision: getting food in my body, sleeping when I can, and breathing when times get tough. But I’m also able to tap into my savings account and trust that I’ve nourished myself enough to take on the world.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve bumped into some moments that were…challenging, to say the least. My flight home from Vancouver got cancelled, and I had an 8am class the next day. My car got hit and totaled, at night in the rain. They weren’t little obstacles, they were things that felt real and big and scary.
And while they certainly bothered me, they somehow didn’t break me.
Not too long ago, they would have. I would have seen them as evidence that I shouldn’t be out here, trying to do the things that bring me joy (no matter how stressful the planning of them can be at times). I would have taken all of it as a reason to say “no,” to shy away from the “yes’s” that still feel like bravery each and every time.
I kept waiting for the tipping point to come, the moment where I’d hit one more obstacle and just give up. But somehow, that moment never came. I realized that all that yoga stuff, all the work on my mat talking about facing difficulties with breath, all the things I preach every day about your mat being the practice for how you want to show up in life…well, it’s all very, very real.
Baron Baptiste talks about the idea of “being in the flow,” finding a graceful ebb and flow to life where you are unwaveringly steady in the face of adversity. Athletes call it “being in the zone,” the space where you are steadily focused on your purpose. I used to think “being in the flow” meant nothing would go wrong: that you would be so purposeful, so intentional, that it would be steady and smooth sailing throughout.
What I’m coming to find is that the real yoga, the real “being in the flow,” isn’t about perfection. It’s not about being such a masterful planner that you see and control the future. It’s not even about handling every obstacle that crosses your path perfectly. It’s about finding the courage to take a breath and step back into the flow, time and time again until you become a part of it.
These past few weeks have proven to me how the yoga has settled into my fibers. I haven’t gotten to the point where I can say I take full use of them every single time (I think that practice may take a lifetime), but I have the tools I need and I know when to use them. I am stronger now, but I now know that being stronger doesn’t mean more in control: it means surrendering to what is and showing up powerfully for all that can be.