I recently attended a free beach yoga class. Beautiful, right? Yes. Who knew I’d walk away with poignant life lessons?
8:00 in the morning on a glorious day, a herd of men, women, and a few pubescents gathered for a free beach yoga class. We were an eclectic group of soccer moms, military servicemen, corporate cubicle-dwellers, retirees, yoga enthusiasts, significant others dragged unwillingly to participate, and school age girls joining Mom for a morning stretch. Our skill levels clearly varied.
As we settled onto our mats, the instructor said, “Do not compare yourself to your neighbor. You may look to one another for inspiration, but never judge yourself or each other. Your bodies, experiences, and circumstances are completely different. Look to others for inspiration only.” Can I get an AMEN? If only that could be written on every school entryway, every social media login screen, every magazine cover!
So often I find myself pointlessly comparing myself to others. I know it’s an inaccurate comparison. I realize it’s fruitless if not self-defeating. It still happens. I see that fit mom confidently strutting her toned physique, that former schoolmate who always has it together and is forever strikingly beautiful, that mom who does it all with boundless patience, the friend with an immaculate home, the neighbor with a pristine yard, the waitress with an impeccable gift for remembering names and faces, the woman with the seemingly ideal work-life balance, the outwardly perfect family … I see all of them — and so many more — and instead of mentally praising their gifts I feel a twinge of envy. “How does she do it?” I wonder. “What am I doing wrong?” Nothing. The answer is nothing.
They are gifted and beautiful with strengths and flaws like everyone. Like me! I know just part of their story. We are on different journeys with different circumstances and experiences. Our lives cannot be compared for competition, just glanced upon for inspiration.
The instructor lead us through yogic breathing as we laid on our mats. Walking amongst our deep-breathing bodies, she asked if any of us had watched the recent rocket launch, then laughed when she realized she had been the only one willing to awake at 4AM to do so.
“The launch was inspirational for me,” she said. “11 separate times they had attempted to launch this rocket but each time there was something that stood in the way. Still, the team persisted. They knew when to hold back, when the environment and circumstances were not appropriate for a successful launch. They knew when to surrender.” She paused before continuing, “It is much like in yoga, that knowledge of surrender. We need to be in tune with our bodies. We learn just how hard to push and when to relent. It is not a ‘white flag’ surrender, but more of an acceptance that ‘today is not the day.’ Surrender for now. It is not defeat. It’s simply for another day.” That note struck me.
My littlest had just celebrated his second birthday. As he blew out his candles, my life’s babyhood chapter extinguished. Internally, I rejoiced at all I’d accomplished and survived, how I’d changed and grown in the last nearly-6 years. I lamented the end of a beautiful chapter filled with countless treasured memories. I looked forward to all we could do now that our herd was growing older; the trips and experiences we could share with our maturing children. But I couldn’t help but feel lost… uncertain. Wondering what my next chapter would hold.
While pregnant with my littlest, I was laid off from my corporate job. I took that opportunity to complete the initial coursework to become an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant. However, the remaining courses were time-sensitive (they expired after a few years, so I would have to pay to retake them if I couldn’t fulfill all of my certification requirements in a timely manner) and the credits would ideally be completed while conducting significant in-hospital patient hours. With a newborn, 2-year-old, and 4-year-old, I was not at a point in my life at which I could undertake such responsibilities. Even though I knew my choice was right, I felt defeated. Embarrassed.
Still, two years later, I am not at the appropriate life stage to fulfill my goal. Like the rocket launch team, I am aware of my environment and circumstances, and know I must delay to achieve success. I must surrender to the elements. Whether I like it or not. Today is not the day. My goal is for another day. My surrender is not defeat.
And so I walked away from the beach yoga class a bit calmer, a bit more limber, and a bit wiser. Secure in myself and my present surrender. What a gift!