Do It Anyway

By Rachel Saidman, July, 2016

“We have to do our best and at the same time give up all hope of fruition. One piece of advice that Don Juan gave to Carlos Castaneda was to do everything as if it were the only thing in the world that mattered, while all the time knowing that it doesn’t matter at all.” — Pema Chodron

This quote by Pema Chodron is analogous to Mother Teresa saying, “What you spend years building could be destroyed in a day — build anyway.” Or when Buddhist monks spend weeks creating beautiful mandalas only to destroy them as an offering. At any moment, someone or something can take away your credibility or undermine all your hard work, but that shouldn’t stop you from doing it anyway. If there’s something you’re passionate about — something you believe in wholeheartedly — you must do it, even if in a second it could be gone.

And if what you love goes away, be able to honestly and gracefully let it go, and begin again. Impermanence is a part of life, and if we don’t practice accepting it, it will consume us. If we spend our lives afraid to pursue anything because of the fear of failure, condemnation, or upheaval, we’ll become stagnant. This is one thing yoga aims to prevent — stagnation. Yoga liquidates the stagnant places in the body and mind.

Pursuing what matters to you — whether it be a love, a career, a cause, or a journey — is as yogic as practicing headstand every day, knowing that one day no matter how great you are at headstand, you may fall and break your leg. (If you fall and break your leg you won’t be able to practice headstand for a while, but when you recover, you’ll get up and start again.) This perseverance in the face of impermanence is a training of both the mind and body, but most of all it’s a training in resilience. It will train you to react to the world in a way that is realistic but hopeful and impactful. By living this way, you might not know it, but people will notice, and they’ll see that they too are capable. By trying to do our best and accepting the successes and failures, we are telling those around us, “You are enough.” (As my mother and Jason Isbell would say.)

As some of you know, I’ve begun following in my mother and Rodney’s footsteps, and it’s terrifying for me. For a long time, I didn’t teach for fear of being weighed against (and weighing myself against) their success. Eventually I realized that this story I’d been telling myself wasn’t completely true — yes, it’s true, I will never be my mom or Rodney; and, yes, I don’t know half the things they do about the human body. But I’m only 20 — if I let the fear of my ignorance keep me from learning, I’ll stay ignorant. So I’m working hard at learning all I can about the human body (and the human condition) in order to help my peers as best I can.

I love yoga, I love people, and I want to help people love themselves. I’ll be able to do that in ways that my mom and stepdad can’t because I have a different perspective on the next generation — because, hey, I am the next generation. Even if I don’t succeed as a yoga teacher, I’ll be happy if I bring one person a little bit more peace. I’m taking the destination out of the equation to focus on the path.

Last fall a studio opened in Isla Vista, California, where I go to school, and I took it as an opportunity to start my own teaching practice. This gave me a little space from my parents’ reign to explore how I feel about teaching. Turns out, I really enjoy it. I realized that I miss having a yoga community when I’m not involved in one.

I’m still terrified. Every time I get up to teach or answer a question in teacher training I have voices in my head saying, “You have to do this correctly; you know who your parents are.” But the truth is, it’s all in my head — nobody else expects as much from me as I do. This will subside as I become more confident in my teaching and my knowledge. The harder I work and the more honest I am with myself and my students (so weird that I have students now), the more all of us get out of the experience. Yoga and life is teaching me this. I’m petrified of failing, but that’s exactly why I’ll succeed.

Maybe I won’t continue on this path of teaching (in which case, I’ll do something worthwhile, and I’ll do a great job). The acknowledgement of the impermanence of everything allows for resilience. Fear is impermanent, joy is impermanent, success is impermanent, and failure is impermanent. I find the resilience to continue to do anything — even brushing my teeth when all I want to do is fall asleep — by remembering that whatever I feel right now will pass.

I picked this teaching by Pema because it reminds me to let go of my story and follow passion with as little hesitation as possible. It’s a reminder to enjoy the beautiful balance of hard work and no agenda because, even if nothing comes to fruition, the work was inherently beneficial to your human situation and the situation of those around you. Just by living your truth, you inspire others to do the same.

Rachel Saidman

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