Healing Comes From Letting There Be Room
By Lindsay Tyson, April, 2017
People who know me and love me and view me with kind eyes would call me a control freak. I like things the way that I like things. When those things go awry, I lose my yoga cool, and I lose it fast. Perhaps because of this, years ago a beloved teacher recommended that I read When Things Fall Apart: Heartfelt Advice for Hard Times. Just a few pages into the book, Pema Chödrön had me hooked with the following:
“We think that the point is to pass the test or overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again. It’s just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.”
When I read these words, I exhaled. I underlined, highlighted, and circled for emphasis. I wrote, “Yes!!!” in the margin. I dog-eared the page for good measure. Over the years, I have come back to this paragraph again and again.
The truth is that almost every hour of every day, I find myself in a situation where I’m thinking that the point really is to pass the test or overcome the problem—that if I could just become A, B, or C and then fix X, Y, and Z, everything will fall into place. And occasionally there are moments where it feels as if I have aced every test with flying colors and solved all of the problems with grace and wit and humility (ha!).
Sometimes these little glimmering moments of balance and joy are enough to convince us that we have the ability and wherewithal to stay in the phases of life in which things only come together and then remain perfectly balanced. We begin to grasp desperately at whatever has brought us joy while simultaneously worrying about what will happen when it’s gone. And just like that, these shiny spaces where things come together are lost. It’s nearly impossible to relish life’s sweet moments if we’re holding on to them for dear life.
Asana practice is a space where I’ve found that I can play with putting Chödrön’s words into action. As soon as I step onto my mat and begin to move, I can feel that my practice is informed by study and previous practice and the words and wisdom of many teachers. The control freak in me is ready to shine—to have a practice that is perfect and graceful and joyful. But sooner or later, reality sets in. My body feels tired or my heart feels heavy or my mind is all over the place or I can’t balance on one foot even though I did yesterday, and the day before, or the teacher is teaching that pose that I hate. In other words, things fall apart.
When things fall apart in the context of an asana practice, the stakes feel manageable. We know that each asana is temporary, and we begin to notice that unease in our hearts or heads or bodies is also temporary. We can practice relaxing any amount in poses and places that feel uncomfortable, scary, or even impossible. Within the context of the asana practice, we also witness how quickly things can come together—a song on a playlist becomes a game-changer, we get a moment of suspension in an arm balance, we find a moment of clarity in savasana, or a great insight arises in meditation.
Through watching the dance of things coming together and falling apart within just one practice, there’s an opportunity to become comfortable with a similar undoing and redoing in life off the yoga mat. The more we’re able to rehearse life’s ups and downs through asana, the easier it may be to take a step back and witness, without worrying about passing the test or solving the problem, the beautiful and inevitable fluctuation that is life itself.
May we make room for all of it to happen.