Arts & Crafts Magazine

Living Beautifully with Uncertainty and Change

By Laharris1

Living Beautifully with Uncertainty and Change
September is National Yoga Month.
It’s hard to believe it’s been almost a year since I went through the 200 hour Yoga Teacher Training Program—-- although not a day goes by without me feeling the effects of this experience on my life.
 I realize now. It wasn’t only the yoga program itself that felt transformative, it was larger than that.
As a result of tackling something that felt profoundly scary and new to me—and completing it, I had ventured outside my fixed idea about myself.
Pema Chodron, the Buddhist nun and author, says we all scramble for security and we do this by clinging hard to fixed views on everything--- especially ourselves--because to let go brings discomfort.
Letting go of our cemented roles, our intense emotions about situations, and our unconscious story line means dealing with change and uncertainty. Even when we think we want change in our lives---it’s still stressful letting go of our comforting illusion that everything is under our control and happily static.
The truth is life is fluid and always changing.We can face this honestly and learn how to let go or we can be in denial and resist it. As the Buddhists say, it's not life's cyclical changes that causes us pain, it's our resistance to it. When we cling to our youth, to our kids, to the way things 'used to be' that's what causes our suffering.
It's an interesting thought isn't it?
Years ago when I used to interview potential eating disorder patients, I would actively look for entrances and exits that had recently happened in their lives.
This was how I got a picture of their current stress level.
Births and deaths, marriage, separation, divorce, job loss or job change, relocation, leaving home for the first time. Becoming an empty nester.
These are all transitions that create a feeling of groundlessness in our lives; instead of that comfy, safe feeling we like, it feels like things are shifting underneath our feet and we feel vulnerable. This instability is stressful, whether the change is positive or negative, and I think it’s important to recognize this.
This is a way we can find compassion for ourselves when life feels overwhelming and we're longing for stability.

Chodron has a name for our dilemma; she calls this the fundamental ambiguity of being human.

As human beings, we’re all in the same boat. We crave stability in a world that is constantly changing. And some of us are better than others at adapting and tolerating newness in our lives, although generally the more uncomfortable we are with change, the more we will latch on to 'sameness.'
The more we need to feel in control.
So if you’re like me—a person who likes to feel in control and knowledgeable, signing up for a teacher training program as a beginner yogi with a fifty-six year old body and a bad back, well, are you getting the full picture here?
It’s a prescription for unpredictability and stress.
I still remember that first day sitting on the floor of the mirrored yoga studio. I had just recovered from a back sprain and I was gazing around the circle at my fellow students wondering what the heck I had got myself into---I was clearly the oldest person in the class---and as I listened to the introductions, I began to feel more out of place than ever.
 Little did I know how much my body--and my mind-- would change as a result of this decision. 
So today --in honor of this sentimental anniversary-I thought I would share a few things I learned from jumping head first into a commitment that made me deal with these three issues:
1.  On not being ready
   (“How can I do this?...It feels too soon”)

What I learned:
When I think of ‘readiness,’ I remember a conversation that happened when I was a graduate student. I remember it because it taught me a truth about life that I didn’t yet understand. I was always the good little student in school who did things in order. At that point I needed pieces of paper—diplomas, professional titles—to make me feel secure and confident. But one of the first tasks I had after I landed my dream job on an Eating Disorder Unit at a LA hospital, was to give a welcome speech and tour to a reception of prominent clinicians from around the area.
As a graduate student, I was terrified. These were all seasoned professionals in the field I aspired to---and I felt like an utter imposter. I was aware of being the only one in the room without a Master’s degree and this made me feel totally inadequate. The medical director—a gifted psychoanalyst- took me to lunch and listened to my fears explode all over our food, and then he quietly smiled and told me I’d be fine.
“Just pretend as if,” he instructed.
What? I was flabbergasted. But that’s not how I feel inside, I thought.
Wasn’t this being fake?
(Yes, I was that naïve and sincere)
It wasn’t until years later that I understood his advice; I now know there are times when you simply don’t feel ready for what you need to do. And so you do your best. I also know that too much trepidation can lead to “analysis-paralysis” and missed opportunities.
Is there some dream or goal you’re thinking about doing? My advice is that once you’ve done your proper homework, you might have to accept that emotionally you may never feel ‘perfectly’ ready. But there are times when the act of choosing Motion changes Emotion.
2. On being too intimidated
   (“Oh no—I can’t do this—it’s totally outside my comfort level”)

This is what I’ve learned:
I am not a seeker of scary experiences. Let me be clear about that. 
There’s no one that likes a comfy routine more than me. But one thing I’ve learned from relocating cites and selling our family home (2 years ago) in my fifties, is that big changes inject your life with a newfound energy. All of sudden you’re looking around with a pair of new eyes. You find yourself growing in unexpected ways simply because you’re outside your comfort zone and everything feels terribly new. Suddenly anything seems possible.
But no, you don't have to move and be totally uprooted to have a similar feeling. I've found that change in baby steps is manageable.
Here’s one way to feel good about yourself. Introduce something new and positive to your life, but make it small. Just do it every day for a set period of time. Even a week is good. And finish it. 
The next thing you know, you’re walking around with a feeling of accomplishment about this one positive thing you’ve done. And suddenly, you’re seeing yourself differently and who knows what's next?
It's this openness to new experiences that keeps us growing.
3. On being too old
   (“This is a younger person’s world, I’m too old to do this”)

This is what I learned:
When I was sitting in that class on the first day of training I was excruciatingly aware of my age.  Although some of it is simple reality.

When I walk into a hot yoga class on any given day, I tend to be surrounded by mostly younger women. Some men too. Looking back now, I realize so much of my struggle during my teacher training period was clearly related to being the oldest person in the room--and how it made me feel. This was new to me. Adding to my self-consciousness was my lack of yoga experience and my recent injury which left me with a sore back and a cautiousness about certain poses.
Do you want to feel instantly old? Try walking around with bad back.Oh--and then be totally clueless about the topic.
Pema Chodron writes about the way we erect labels and credentials around our self-image to feel secure:  it's like our armor. It helps us put solid ground under our feet in an ever shifting world. And when things start to fall apart, she tells us to look around. It’s usually when our fixed idea of “This is Me” is challenged.
 I felt this happen to me in each class as I fumbled with memorizing and forgetting material that was foreign to me; suddenly I became aware of how my self-worth was tied up in my image of being good at something. Of feeling educated and knowledgeable. Here I was, a total beginner at something. And it didn't feel good.
So I learned a little more about being humbled.
But here’s something else I took away from the experience.
Living Beautifully with Uncertainty and Change
I recently turned 57 years old and I’m proud of it.
I feel blessed to have a strong body and a curious mind. Even thought I'm still reading Chodron's book, I know that this idea of living beautifully with uncertainty is not a pretty Pinterest worthy image. In fact it’s downright messy and uncomfortable and even painful at times.
It means dealing with loss. It means we have to accept that nothing stays the same which can be scary, and it means we must learn how to let go gracefully when it’s time.
Whether it’s our image of our self as a young, wrinkle-free woman that we need to adjust, or an image of our self with a certain job title, or whether it's stepping away from our adult kid and letting them struggle.

I'm still learning about letting go. But I really believe we get closer to discovering the essence of our inner beauty when we’re willing to shed our armor. 

What do you think?
Living Beautifully with Uncertainty and Change

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