Why I decided to stop passing by the swingset, and finally jumped on a swing and said “to hell with it!”
I am not too old and definitely not too mature to swing on the monkey bars, dance like a fool, or hula hoop.
My entire life I have had a voice of insecurity that keeps me from doing what my heart desires. Sometimes I can overcome this self-doubt and self-limitation, and the outcome is always positive, but for so many years, I let this little voice keep me from expressing myself fully, and more importantly, living more passionately.
I recently got back from a month-long intensive yoga therapy training at Kripalu Yoga Center in Massachusetts. I chose this program to learn how to help others utilize yoga as a healing modality for specific conditions. One of the interesting things about yoga trainings is that to be a good teacher, you have to deal with your own issues first, and intensive trainings bring anything that may have been stifled within to the surface quite quickly. So imagine my surprise when I started having flashbacks of mean girls in middle school and debilitating self-consciousness and constant worry about whether I was “likeable.”
After a few weeks of silent judgment, comparison and negative self-talk, I had a breakthrough. I wandered into a yoga dance class, something I had been avoiding like the plague because it was too “out there, silly, ridiculous, etc.” What happened next was profoundly humbling and freeing. The group of people that had gathered for yoga dance were of all ages and backgrounds. No one seemed to care what anyone else was doing. The entire experience was so out of my comfort zone that I reached my edge. I could feel my heart rate increase, my face flush red with embarrassment and my mind race. Compared to my very controlled, predictable, individual yoga practice, this experience was the complete opposite! It was freeform, spontaneous and participatory. I had two options: run away and cry, or embrace this awkwardness and give it my all. I threw all my cares to the wind and let myself be goofy, ridiculous, bizarre, and most of all, vulnerable. From that moment on, I could not get enough of this feeling of freedom! Every thought that crossed my mind that I would have ignored before, I embraced.
I stopped to smell the flowers, I ran through the field, I hula hooped and played the bongo drums. Because…why not??
I started imagining what my life would look like if I stopped doing what I thought I “should” do or what I was “supposed” to do.
Like anything, this way of thinking is a practice, a muscle that must be utilized and strengthened, and certainly a skill that is much easier to foster in the safe yogi-minded community at Kripalu. I returned home totally thrilled to start living from this place of pure intuition and bliss, but then life happened, and my little bubble burst and I needed a reminder to not take myself so seriously.
Today I was walking around the lake and I thought how fun it would be to sit in the sand and then swing on the swingset. My self-doubt and insecurity immediately activated. I thought how “stupid, dumb, and immature, etc” it would be to act like a kid. What if people look at me and think…you fill in the blank. I recognized this limiting behavior of my past and ran without a care to the beach. It is so liberating to stop caring what others think. The instantaneous result is joy because you finally get to do what you have been eyeing up for years! Every time I pass a swingset, I want to play on it, but I hold myself back and do the “mature thing.” Screw that.
Today I sat in the sand forever and then meandered over to the swings and squealed with delight. I doubt anyone cared, and if they did, what does it matter?
“Carpe diem” has become a ubiquitous term in our society, but what does living fully and taking life by the horns really look like? It will be different for each individual, but I think the essence of living fully is releasing the thoughts and behaviors that hold us back, therefore making more room for our intuition to bubble up and guide us toward our passions. Oh, and don’t forget to swing from the monkey bars :)