I attended a yoga class several weeks ago, the day after a relationship ended as suddenly as it had begun. That morning in class, the teacher spoke of the unpredictability of life. I don't remember much else from that class – not what poses we did, what music she played, or even what more she said in particular, just that word: unpredictability. It has rung in my ears since that morning.
Life is just that: unpredictable. If we had any question as to that, we have seen it confirmed recently with hurricanes, floods, and earthquakes. Irma seemed set to hit us directly, but the winds changed, and the storm just grazed the Charlotte area. The good news is, unpredictable doesn’t always mean negative – it could be the surprise of a new baby, the wonder of a new relationship, or the excitement of a new job! The point is - events come and go with a complete lack of regard to our previously laid out plans.
The difference between pain or joy isn’t determined only by the nature of the change itself. Even negative events can have long term positive results! The biggest factor in determining the ultimate outcome of a change is in how we react to it. Do we fight it, refusing to acknowledge that reality has shifted? Or do we surrender to it, and allow events to unfold, trusting that balance will return so long as we keep an open mind?
Imagine a river, perhaps much like the Catawba. Some days it flows faster than others, depending upon the recent weather, water levels, dam procedures, etc. The difference between allowing unpredictability to drown us in bitterness or bring us to new realizations is like the difference between trying to fight upstream with our bare hands in an innertube, or simply pulling our feet up and letting the tube float us to an area of calmer water. Floating down the river until we have a better understanding of the land around us, where the rapids are, and where a calmer space is coming isn’t giving up or being lazy. It’s being wise, surrendering to the energy flowing around us, while remaining vigilant and ready to act when appropriate.
Our yoga practice helps us cultivate this skill. Poses challenge our physical abilities, and make us question our limits. I mean, just how long is it humanly possible to hold chair pose? How can I make the transition from side angle to side plank with one hand in the air and not lose my balance? What do you mean, dear yoga teacher, KEEP BREATHING AND SMILE? What we do on the mat – take a deep breath and push past the shaky legs – is no different from what we do off the mat. Maybe we do fall the first time we attempt that transition, but we try again.
Over the past month, I've added three new words to accompany unpredictability as it continues to rattle around in my head. The words come from the serenity prayer, and they've become a daily mantra. These three words beautifully summarize how to embrace the unpredictability of life and meet it with grace and peace. Serenity. Courage. Wisdom.
Breathe in serenity
Breathe out worry
Breathe in courage
Breathe out fear
Breathe in wisdom
Breath out resistance
Breathe in unpredictability
Breathe out... and step gracefully forward
By Pam Johnson