Recently, I taught yoga on “leap day,” so I decided to theme the class around leaps of faith. I asked the students to picture an obstacle that has stopped them from doing something. I then gave them pose by pose meditations on facing that barrier. For example, when we folded forward into Uttanasana (fancy word for a forward bend), I had them imagine they were diving headlong into the obstacle. When we lifted half-way for Ardha Uttanasana, I asked them to visualize meeting the obstacle’s gaze followed by bowing deeply again, honoring the obstacle as we refolded into Uttanasana. I won’t give you a full play-by-play, but eventually I asked them to see themselves moving past it, rising up out of it for Tadasana (mountain pose), standing tall in their victory.
It was a good class. A strong class, full of strong warriors. I could tell they really did the work. Their energy shifted before my very eyes. I, however, was so focused on leading them through this meditation that I didn’t do the work myself. As a new teacher this is a skill that I’m still developing…to be fully present in each class and not worry about what I’m going to do next. I’m assured by my more seasoned sisters and brothers that this is completely normal. I’ve decided to believe them.
That class got me thinking about leaps of faith and why we see more blocks than bridges related to doing something different or new. After all, the path always has both stopping points and signs that point the way. Why do we stare so long at the stop signs? Heaven knows we barely acknowledge them in the real world.
At any given time we all have something we’re procrastinating on or avoiding. (i’m doing it right now) Strangely enough, it’s usually something we know we will enjoy or at least we know it will benefit us in some way. So, why is it so hard?
A few days ago the person who moderates the Rumi Facebook page (sorry folks, not Rumi himself as it turns out) had posted about fear and uncertainty. This part of the post succinctly captures, in two lines, the essence of why we procrastinate and stagnate:
“What is fear…?
Non acceptance of uncertainty…”
Simply stated and profoundly true. No surprise there for any of us. We all know that it’s what might go wrong that keeps us from taking the leap. We know it’s the possibility of failure, the fact that we can’t be sure we will succeed, that we stay stuck. I think we can all agree on this. (hey, that’s something!)
That said, I’d like to unpack this a little more. What if it’s not actually the uncertainty that stops us? After all, we’ve done uncertain things before. Nothing is ever guaranteed.
If one is not careful, it’s easy to assume that Rumi is pinpointing uncertainty. Uncertainty is so big, and so scary, that we roll right past the real issue: non-acceptance. Some might say “same difference” and maybe they’re right. For me, there is a difference. We lock onto the uncertainty, willing it to change or just go away. Our lack of acceptance escapes our attention so we never look at the fact that we just won’t face the facts. Nonetheless, this reality of uncertainty is real, with or without our consent. Reality is super stubborn like that.
The truth is there is no way to turn uncertainty into certainty. It’s impossible. By its very nature the attempt will likely lead to increased anxiety. This sort of flawed thinking is at the very heart of obsessive-compulsive behaviors. (so I’ve heard) We can drive ourselves and everyone around us crazy in the pursuit of certainty.
The only way forward is to accept the not-knowingness, no matter what. High risk, low risk. Big reward, small reward. In the living room or in Las Vegas.
Before we get too crazy with it though, I am not talking about taking leaps we don’t want to take but someone else wants us to take them. Absolutely not. Never, never, never. I’m also not talking about doing things just because they might look “cool” to others. We never look as cool as we think we do anyway. I’m talking about those whispers from our soul, those nudges from our heart that give us a surge of energy when they grace us with their presence. You know those feelings. The steps leading to them may trigger some nerves, but not the whispers themselves. They’re full of grace and peace, not anxiety.
That sense of serenity is how you know that particular idea has wings, which is the closest thing you’re going to get to certainty. The full knowledge that once you leap, you will either land where you want or you will learn to fly. Perhaps both.
I ran across a great video by Danielle LaPorte the other day where she handed me a very wise tool for my toolbox. I use it each time I am about to face a challenge:
“I’ll figure it out.”
Because I will. I’m tenacious, to a fault sometimes. One way or another, I will figure it out. So will you.
It’s time to trust myself. I welcome the fresh energy of change through my actions and my will to evolve. I don’t want chaos anymore than the next person, but change is not chaos. We have to unmarry these two in our minds. Instead of “fear of change,” we must think “fear and change.” They are unrelated even though they are often seen together. Since they appear to get along so well, maybe we can choose to be inspired by that.
This opens the door to lightheartedness. I tell my yoga students all the time to “play” with new poses or old poses that stump them in some way. I know I’ve done a good job when I hear laughter during a very challenging sequence. (my favorite sound!)
Where can we be more playful in our approach to uncertainty? Where can we accept this force of not-knowingness in our lives? It’s going to be with us for the rest of our days. Perhaps it’s time to make a friend of it.
In case you’re wondering, yes I did recently take a leap of my own. Several, in fact. I can’t say I’ve landed yet, but a net has already appeared. (so grateful!) I’m learning to fly and I will land when the time is right.
“…if we accept that uncertainty, it becomes adventure!” -You Know Who
Love and light,
Photo Credit: Shutterstock/je-fotodesign