I was taking an Avita Yoga class with Jeff Bailey the other day. One of the things I’ve come to appreciate about Jeff, is how skillful he is at creating a safe container for my practice. A container that feels not only physically safe, but also emotionally, and spiritually safe. Avita Yoga is a slow and subtle practice, meant to help ease the aging process, while keeping the body healthy and pain-free as long as possible. If you suffer from chronic pain, hold trauma in your body, or have experienced any recent physical injuries, this practice will gently remove any and all obstacles which stand in the way of your bodies full and unimpaired mobility. The goal of the practice is FREEDOM.
I’ve known Jeff for years, but only recently started practicing with him on a consistent basis. Because the pace of Avita Yoga is so slow, slower even than Yin or Restorative Yoga, there is a rare opportunity to drop deeply both into your body and your mind. As you move intentionally through each subtle progression, you learn what it feels like to come up against points of physical and emotional resistance. You become powerfully intimate with your body. This practice is an exercise in edgework (coming to your own edge of what feels safe vs. what feels dangerous). You learn when to push, when to pull back, and when to surrender and allow gravity to do the work for you. In the process, you are forced to come face-to-face with your own EGO.
For me, this has been at once, difficult, scary, and invaluable. Having to see and confront all the ways my attachment to my own ego has created roadblocks and resistance to all the things I truly want in life. How my ego has kept me from the oneness and wholeness I seek. How my ego has stood in the way of my fully knowing myself, and ultimately knowing God. Hard stuff…
Sometimes life throws so much at us, so much grief, anger, pain, despair…we stop living altogether, and instead allow life to happen to us.
It can feel like you’re lost at sea, being tossed and turned by the waves of the storm. In the midst of the storm, it can be hard to believe you’ll ever reach the shore, or find solid ground again. But trust me, you will. I did.
If you’re in that storm now, I wanted to offer you a life jacket or personal floatation device, by way of 6 Life Lessons to put you back in the driver’s seat of your life.
LESSON ONE: THE QUIETER YOU BECOME, THE MORE YOU CAN HEAR
If you’ve ever been caught in a storm while at sea, you know you really only have one choice, go as deep as you can (whether that’s the cabin or ducking down on the deck) and ride it out. It’s all about getting as close to “ground” as possible. If you can still steer the boat, you want to try to steer into the low side or clean side of the storm where you’ll find the shallowest waves and lowest winds.
What you don’t want to do, is fight the storm. What we resist, persists.
The same is true with our own bodies, hearts, and minds. If you want to hear that small quiet voice within, you have to steer to that place inside of you where the water is calm, and give the wind a moment to die down.
You have to give yourself space from the world, if only for a moment, to get your bearings again, find your true North, drop an anchor, and wait for the sun to come out again. A moment to remember, “You are the sky. Everything else is just the weather.”
Meditation might be the best way I know to do this. But, I also recommend journaling, reading books on spirituality, walking in nature, and, of course, prayer.
Don’t worry about anything, but pray about everything.Philippians 4:6
LESSON TWO: GET OUT OF YOUR HEAD, AND INTO YOUR BODY
I recently made a commitment to get back on my mat, often times with the added bonus of taking classes with friends. #YogaEveryDamnDay. And while I love the changes taking place in my body, I know the benefits of my practice far outweigh the physical improvements. In reconnecting with my body, I have also reconnected with my patience, my kindness, my creativity, my joy, my mission and sense of purpose, my ability to see the world and those around me with clarity – and to offer them and myself grace. Every time I step onto my mat, I feel alive again.
I remember, in the wise words of Van Wilder, “Worrying is like a rocking chair. It gives you something to do, but doesn’t get you anywhere”.
And while I’m showing up to my mat every day, I’m also stretching and growing and pushing my body to new limits in other ways as well. I’m taking new classes, working out with a personal trainer, spending as much time as possible on trail, participating in weekly group runs (inspired by a friend), lifting heavy shit, and dancing. Because I know, the more time I spend in my body, the less time I’m trapped in the analysis/paralysis of my own mind. Let’s face it, sometimes, we all need a break from thinking so hard.
And starting today, I’m back to daily red light therapy, spending time in the VersaSpa, and relaxing with a post-workout hydromassage session.
I do these things, because my body is important to me. Because I know, my body is the shape I live in…and it also shapes the way I live.
Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body.1 Corinthians 6:19-20
LESSON THREE: UNDERSTAND THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN CAN’T vs WON’T – #NOEXCUSES
I’m working on eliminating a lot of words and phrases from my vocabulary, things like “perhaps”, “just”, “I’m sorry”, “but”, “maybe”, etc. At the top of that list, is the word “can’t”.
Let me explain, and I want to preface this by saying, “yes…there are things that happen to us which we have no control over AND we are still only ever victims of our own choices”. All the same, when we use the word “can’t” – what we really mean is “won’t” or “I don’t want to”.
Example: I can’t work on that project right now, because I’m feeling tired, overwhelmed, uninspired, ________________.
Translation: I don’t want to do what is necessary to get myself in the proper state, to do the the work I know I need to do.
Example: I can’t forgive him for what he’s done.
Translation: I don’t want to put in the effort to understand his side, or to put anymore work into this relationship, so I’m choosing to give up altogether, or to respond as a victim from a place of powerlessness.
Example: I can’t afford it.
Translation: I don’t want to work that hard, or make the necessary sacrifices to be able to afford this “item, experience, event, etc”, so I’m not going to even try to figure out how to make it possible.
The other day, I made a list of the 20 excuses I use most frequently. Excuses like:
- I don’t feel like doing that right now.
- I don’t have the time.
- I feel too fat.
- I am overwhelmed and feel paralyzed.
- I don’t know how.
Then, a funny thought occurred to me. I was once deeply in love with an addict. For better or worse, one of the things I admired about him, was how he ALWAYS found a way to get his fix. That’s one good thing you can say about addicts, when they really want something, they find a way to get it.
It’s been hard to see how the biggest thing standing between me, and what I really want, are my own excuses. This is true of all of us. If something is important enough to you, you’ll make a way – otherwise, you’ll make an excuse.
I imagine my realizing this, likely made God chuckle, since he is, after all, the ultimate Waymaker.
Obviously, the law applies to those to whom it was given, for its purpose is to keep people from having excuses, and to show that the entire world is guilty before God.Romans 3:19
LESSON FOUR: RECOGNIZE WHAT IS WITHIN YOUR CONTROL
Things not in your control:
- Your partner.
- Your kids.
- The weather.
- The ability to buy toilet paper at Costco during a pandemic.
- What other people think of you.
- Pretty much everything…everything is outside of your control…with a couple exceptions…
Things in your control:
- Your attitude and reactions.
Let me offer you some advice, STAY IN YOUR OWN LANE. Concentrate on what is within your control, and let everything else be.
Look, I know this isn’t easy. I know most of the relationships we have with others break down over struggles involving power and control. Still, it’s important to remember, ultimately, God is the only one with any real control.
“Do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?”Luke 12:22-26
LESSON FIVE: CHOOSE YOURSELF
Once you master staying in your own lane, choosing yourself gets a whole lot easier. The best analogy I know for this is how on a plane, we’re told to put our own oxygen mask on first. Consistently choosing yourself is the only way you can be of benefit to others. If you’re constantly gasping for breath, how do you expect to ever have the energy to help anyone else?
There is a difference between choosing yourself from a place of kindness, love, practicality, or serving the greatest good, vs choosing yourself from a place of resentment, selfishness, fear, or vindictiveness. Learn to distinguish between the two.
When we choose ourselves first as a result of wisdom or right-action, we do so from a place of humbleness and service. We do so, because we seek to be of benefit to others in the best and most consistent way possible, for the longest duration possible.
Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves.Philippians 2:3
LESSON SIX: CHOOSE GOD
If you want to please God, choose him. Recently, I was shown how I had fallen unintentionally into idolatry. How I had mistakenly, forsaken God – falling into ignorance. You see, I was no longer putting God at the center of my life, and as a result, there was an unraveling of something which was once good, and blessed, and full of promise.
And while it may have been a costly lesson, in the end, I found my way back to God.
But if you refuse to serve the Lord, then choose today whom you will serve. Would you prefer the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates? Or will it be the gods of the Amorites in whose land you now live? But as for me and my family, we will serve the Lord.Joshua 24:15
So let’s recap, 6 Life Lessons to put you back in the driver’s seat of your life…which if you were paying attention…were really about putting God back in the driver’s seat of your life.
- Get Quiet
- Ground Yourself in Your Body
- Stop Making Excuses
- Stay In Your Own Lane
- Put On Your Own Mask First
- Remember, God is in Control
Life will never be easy. Storms will come and go, our only job is to take the next right step, to continue under all circumstances, and to serve God in all we do.