Can I sail through the changing ocean tides?
Can I handle the seasons of my life?
For a couple of years, I walked nearly every morning. I got up early, when the house was still quiet, put on my sneakers and headed out for the same two-mile trek through my neighborhood. Even in winter, I managed to walk on the coldest days, bundling up and finding the dry patches of sidewalk, feeling my body warm up the further I went. It became a special routine, a chance to welcome the day, to work through all of the wanderings of my mind and get energy to tackle the challenges.
When I started doing yoga every day last year, I pretty much gave up my walks. I still went out sometimes, maybe at lunch or in the afternoon, when I was feeling tired and needed a boost. But most often, I got up in the morning and went up to the attic, put on some music, and started my yoga practice. It helped me do the same thing—get some quiet time in the morning to sort through my emotions and welcome the day, though obviously the details were different. Instead of feeling energized and excited after a yoga practice, I felt relaxed and more in tune with something greater. Instead of spending the morning looking around at neighborhood houses and nature, observing all the nuances of change, I became a symbol of nature and change itself, as I positioned my body into tree pose, pyramid, triangle, pigeon.
In June, when I got a virus that impacted my vestibular system, I couldn’t walk quickly at all. I missed my walks, but I was glad to still have yoga postures, which didn’t make me dizzy. Of course, at a certain point, I began to miss feeling connected to the nature outside, and I wondered if I should try to find a way to walk daily and do yoga postures. (See, even if you don’t have a full time job and the kids are in school, you find a way to try to busy your days with to-do lists and chores.) A quiet voice inside me said, Don’t worry. There are different times for different things. And it comforted me. And I believed it.
Last fall, I saw the writer Elizabeth Gilbert speak at the Free Library of Philadelphia. She talked about how much fun she had writing her latest novel, The Signature of All Things. When she answered a question about writing, she said she doesn’t force herself to do it every day. She believes there are different seasons to our lives. Maybe at one point, we focus on fiction, at another poetry. Another time, yoga. In my life, I’ve had a few seasons of working arduously outside the house, and then others of new motherhood.
It really comforts me to think of life in terms of seasons, instead of a linear flow, a race that has to be won.
Now that I’m pregnant with our third child, I’ve started to walk again. The dizziness has subsided, and I can’t practice yoga postures with the intensity I used to (although a gentler, shorter practice of yoga still definitely helps). My body is different, and it wants different things, and I have to accept that, get in line with it and flow rather than try to resist the changes. For a while I felt like I was failing, because I couldn’t do the same things I did months ago. I couldn’t find the same calm, be as in touch with a deep inner voice of nurturing. But over time, through many quiet (and too-cold) winter days, I’ve come to realize that the most important thing I can do is be kind and gentle and honor myself wherever I am. This is the one of the biggest messages of yoga philosophy, and I don’t even have to be on a mat or have an hour alone to practice it.
These days, I’m trying to see my life in seasons, rather than looking at it as a list of accomplishments. The thing that’s beautiful about nature—a flower, a tree, a river, a cloud—is that it doesn’t try to be anything different than what it already is. It is perfect because of its imperfections. It allows itself simply to be, without the mind getting in the way. This is what I’m trying to do, too.
Image: “DSC_0425” by Susannah via Flickr.