Start Now

For the most part, I love my life. Sure, I go back and forth on what could have been or what might be. But incessant worrying about past decisions can lead to feelings of hopelessness and depression, and excess worry about the future can cause havoc. Psychologists have shown that indecision causes anxiety which can lead to depression.

Science tells us that if one’s basic needs—food, water, clothing, shelter, and companionship—are met, then contentment, as evidenced by brain activity, is present. Anything extra, they say, doesn’t increase happiness (that is, the brain activity doesn’t change much). The search for happiness/contentment is ancient.

For me, though, a morning sit of 10 minutes and a bit of asana have a profound effect on my day. Time spent in nature looking at beauty and listening to ambient sounds is also therapeutic. I also love to ask myself the questions “What am I passionate about? What do I like to do? Am I doing it?”  No rush, but a few adjustments may need to be made.

The bottom line is, if we practice something that prevents us from obsessing over the “what ifs,” then we’ll get better at it. We get good at what we practice. How many times do we need to hear this?! Roshi Joan Halifax says, “Now is the time. Appreciate your life.” Even if you didn’t one minute ago, now is the time. (She adds that being kind and helping others in some sweet way is part of a surefire way to be happy.)

Life is so short. We have FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) because we think something else may make us happy. But missing out on what is right in front of us is actually a shortcut to discontent. If we are loved and give love, if we work hard and have fun, then whatever it is that we have chosen is the perfect thing to be doing.

Here’s a recipe for contentment:

  1. Practice asana without judgement and force.
  2. Sit for a set time each day, and just listen and feel.
  3. Become familiar with the yamas and niyamas.
  4. Do good work.
  5. Help others.

This recipe yields space that has been log-jammed by physical or mental agitation, including agitation caused by worrying about the past or the future. It also reveals the answers to the questions “Am I happy?” “How did I get here?” and “What choice should I make?”

I try to live by the words of Nkosi Johnson, an activist from South Africa who was born HIV positive and died at age 12, “Do all you can with what you have, in the time you have, in the place you are.”

Life is What Happens to You While You’re Busy Making Other Plans

John Lennon Said It Best; “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”

I did my first teacher training at Yoga Shanti fifteen years ago. That was back when the studio was on Main Street next to Kites of the Harbor. If you’ve been around long enough, you’ll remember that space—womb-like as it was—all of us packed in there. We didn’t even have a computer system then. I would sign people in using index cards. You can only imagine what it was like during the summer when people were certain they hadn’t used as many classes as I communicated they had! Those were the days.

Much has changed since then—with me, the studio, the world. My teacher training was the first-ever at Yoga Shanti: a long year spent together at Padma’s old space in Wainscott. That’s no longer there either.

I had no intention of becoming a yoga teacher—but my grandmother was dying, and I was living with her in Southampton while taking care of her, and I became the manager at Yoga Shanti. My yoga practice really helped me through that time. When our teacher training ended, I was encouraged by Colleen to start teaching, and so I did. So much of my life has been that way—thrust into opportunities that I wasn’t quite sure I wanted to have…and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

The most magical experiences I’ve had in my life weren’t planned. They happened as a result of being willing to go exactly where I was led. I had never intended to teach yoga, but that path has offered me so much success, taken me to many amazing places, and connected me with so many incredible people.

I am not just grateful for the triumphs. I’ve been in a lot of accidents out here on the East End and they have taught me a lot of lessons that I needed to learn. I got smacked in the face by my surfboard, after nearly colliding with another surfer. I got in a car accident on Route 114 that would have killed me, except for the fact that my ‘87 soft-top Cabriolet convertible ricocheted off the trunk of one tree and landed squarely upside-down, balancing perfectly between two trees so I wasn’t crushed under the weight of the car. There were others too. And what about the countless decisions I’ve made over the years, that I might have chosen differently if I had the experience I do now? But isn’t that always the case?

I have been so many places these last fifteen years. But as I look back from where I sit now, I can see most of those places have come to me.

Ten years ago, when I was on a retreat in Northern California, I stumbled upon a spiritual teacher who helped me connect the dots of what seemed like all unplanned happenstances in my life. He revealed to me a path that required courage, willingness, and determination. I started to see myself as a hero—and saw that in order to discover more of the story I was meant to tell, I had to follow the clues…and recognize all the beliefs I held that interfered with that authentic expression. As a result, I have become more and more willing to follow the path that appears, despite my best-laid plans.

We each have a destiny that is singular and unique. Uncovering and expressing it is the most noble act we can take in our lifetimes. All this and more, I’ve learned on my journey—by saying yes to opportunities that I probably wouldn’t have even considered, if life didn’t take me there at its urging.

So now, I urge you: may you be brave in your own exploration and go where no one dares to go—into the heart of your own humanity. May you not be afraid of what’s right in front of you, and may you pause long enough to let life interrupt your plans. I don’t know exactly where I’ll be fifteen years from now, but there’s much I hope to accomplish: mostly discovering more of who I already am, and letting go of that which I am not. We are all a part of the great whole, consciousness itself…but to have that awareness, I know I have to stop and listen to those urging clues, and have the willingness to go wherever they may lead.

This is true heroism. And true heroism takes courage. It means that we must live without fear and judgement, and that we must take complete responsibility for the experiences we create for ourselves and others. Imagine what the planet would be like if we all did that.

Found and Lost

I hate losing things. I still mourn the loss of a white sundress that went missing on my honeymoon, and a pair of pink Gucci sunglasses that the ocean swallowed one Fourth of July weekend.

Two months ago, I was at a pharmacy on the upper east side picking up medication. I remember feeling anxious and unsettled, like I’d had way too much coffee or was about to take an important exam that I wasn’t prepared for. It was only 7:45 a.m., but I’d already been to the doctor and battled my way across town to get to the one pharmacy on the island of Manhattan that had what I needed. I left the pharmacy clutching my paper bag of drugs, and I was walking toward the subway when I realized my sunglasses—my favorite Ray-Bans—were missing. The case was empty. I checked the little side pouch of my bag where I sometimes hastily throw them, but they weren’t there. I turned around and raced back to the pharmacy.

“Hi,” I said breathlessly to the woman behind the counter. “I left my sunglasses here.”

“No, Miss…” she began, but I cut her off.

“I’m sure they’re here. I know I just had them, and I must’ve put them on the counter or something while I was paying, because they’re not in my bag or…“

“No, Miss, they’re…”

“They have to be here!” I said. “I know I was wearing them when I came in, and I haven’t been anywhere else and…”

“Miss,” she said sternly, silencing me. “They’re on your head.”

“Oh,” I said. My face got red hot. I reached my hands up to pat my head, and, sure enough, there were my sunglasses. “I’m sorry,” I whispered, and skulked out the door.

There’s a phrase in Sanskrit, praaptasya praapti, which means, “acquiring that which is already acquired.” The woman at the pharmacy didn’t give me anything—she didn’t have my sunglasses—but she guided me to the realization that nothing was lost.

So what does all of this have to do with yoga?

The yogis say that our true nature is limitless joy. Not that we have joy, but that we are joy. Can you even imagine?

It’s a tough idea for our limited little egos to grasp. Also, our daily experience belies this concept of unconditional happiness and peace. We’re so used to conditional happiness: I will be happy when I have a healthy, happy baby; I will be happy once I make more money; I will be happy when I lose 10 pounds; I will be happy when I can hold handstand in the middle of the room. I don’t know about you, but just looking for parking on Main Street on a Saturday in summer is enough to make me feel agitated and stressed out. So much for being eternally at peace.

Some yoga texts explain that the reason we feel unrest or anxious is because we’ve forgotten who we are. We wrongly believe we’re separate from one another and feel isolated in the human experience.  We carry around shame, disappointment, guilt, and resentment, and those things are heavy—it’s no wonder we’re exhausted all the time! We’ve lost our connection to our deeper Self, that part of us that’s always joyful and divine.

Patanjali tells us that even when we’re in darkness, or working through tremendous grief, our true Selves are limitless, eternal, content, happy, and peaceful. But what good is all this happiness and peace if we can’t feel it? Why have we forgotten? How can we remember again? How do we recover what’s lost?

Last year, at Ramanand Patel’s suggestion, I started studying Vedanta remotely with a teacher named Vijay Kapoor. Kapoor says that 80% of the Bhagavad Gita, that seminal Hindu scripture, is sadhana. I’d always thought sadhana meant “practice,” or even “an ego-transcending practice,” but Kapoor defines it as “positioning yourself”—positioning your life and your mind so that you can better understand your true nature.

Sounds easy enough, but finding your true Self takes sustained practice, hard work, and continuous study. It’s not an easy veil to lift, but the Gita gives us clues that it has to do with alignment.

How are you setting yourself up? Are you positioning your life in a way that allows you to access joy, or do you keep banging your head against the same brick wall and then wonder why you can’t find peace? As a head banger myself, I’ve been questioning my own alignment lately. Why do I continue to reinforce patterns that deplete me? Why am I reluctant to shed habits that make me anxious? Why am I still my biggest obstacle to experiencing lasting contentment? Why is it so hard for us to live our best lives?

Pema Chodron says, “You are the sky. Everything else is just the weather.” The habits that diminish us are the clouds passing through. Sometimes they congregate into violent hurricanes, thunderstorms, or blizzards, but the sky remains the sky: vast, open, blue, radiant. I sometimes think I have more fun identifying with the storms, because they’re powerful and dramatic. They can shake the very ground beneath me and send bolts of fire from the heavens to the earth. They’re beautiful and awe-inspiring and exciting and badass. But I’m no more the storms than the waves are the ocean. I know this, but I also forget it. I lose it.

How do we find our way back to our true selves?

I think it’s different for everyone. I’m learning that for me it’s a combination of rigorous exercise, sitting quietly, being near the ocean, chanting, spending time with my son and my mom, rolling out my mat, reading Mary Oliver, traveling, walking in the woods, and narrowing my to-do list. Then I find myself again.

Then I lose myself again.

So the bad news is, you’re the problem. The good news is, you’re the solution. You’re both the disease and the cure. The poison and the tonic. You’re the only one who can start paying attention to how you can better align yourself so you have access to the well of joy and peace that you already are.  You find a way to acquire that which you’ve already acquired. Your favorite sunglasses that you fear you’ve lost are right there… on top of your head.

Align, Flow, and Inquire

Yoga Shanti’s aim is “to offer the perfect combination of alignment, flow, and Inquiry.” In the spirit of inquiry, I often find myself reconsidering what this phrase means.

I can best speak to “flow.” For me, a good flow class is poetry. It’s as enjoyable as reading Shakespeare or Keats. It’s the rhythm, the timing, the repetition, the musicality, and the humanity that brings enjoyment.

This analogy occurred to me the other night after reading Dr. Seuss to my little guy. If my son stops and says, “Why?” after every line in The Sneeches, he misses out on the humor and joy of the story. Yet if he never asks, then he may miss out on the deeper meanings of prejudice that the tale is really about. So both his inquiry and his ability to sit back and go with the flow of the story are important to his overall development in the arts of language and humanity.

Likewise, if you go to see a performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, you may not understand every quip, but you go with the flow, and the story reveals itself to you. The mysterious parts you don’t entirely understand intrigue you, as you are carried along by the rhythm and rhyme of the story. What puzzles you makes you think. The more it puzzles you, the more curious you become, and the more you may begin to wonder, “But, why? But, how?”

So you dig deeper. You pick up the play to read. You find an essay about iambic pentameter. You take a course. You study with teachers and other students who are unpacking the play. In other words, you dive into the alignment, the bones, the anatomy of the play.

But, you don’t stop going to the performances. No! Now you can enjoy them even more. After slowing the passages down and consulting the OED, you go to see A Midsummer Night’s Dream in the park, and you follow along more fluidly. Now the subtleties speak directly to you.

This is all to say that I believe alignment and flow go hand-in-hand. To be growing, evolving, healing, learning, and caring, we must pause, ask why, dig deeper, seek, inquire, align our minds with knowledge and our bodies with our minds, and then keep flowing with the tremendous river that is life.

What I’ve realized is that offering “the perfect combination of alignment, flow, and inquiry” can be a group effort, led by all of our teachers collectively. In this way, the burden doesn’t fall on any one teacher to strike this perfect combination for their students in every class. The students who tap into the breadth of our offerings are really enjoying and benefiting from the various ways of wrestling with the mysteries of life and unlocking the rubik’s cube that is yoga.

Healing Comes From Letting There Be Room

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.

Reflections of Winter

Winter is a time when nature loses its fall colors and exposes the bones and highlights the roots. It is a time for hibernation and deep sleep and a different use of energy. The sun rises late and sets early. We are part of this great cycle of seasons and change and for us to deny it puts us in a state of isolation, confusion, and exhaustion. Consider the world before electric lights – as humans we had time before sleep that was filled with reflection, quiet time, intimate family and village interactions, and listening to our inner voices and our breath and body. These relationships within our inner realms substantiated an orientation and a foundation.

What serves this role in our present day lives? Does our cell phone and all of its communication apps serve as our new earth?  My five senses desire full usage and with the present technology my senses feel starved and much of my connectivity is shut down.

In comes Modern Yoga to save the day? Take off your shoes. Let the body take on every possible shape. Revitalize your sense of touch. Become aware of your breathing and be conscious of smelling the nuances of the moment. Eyes, ears, and even tongue wake up when the mind is honed to return to the present.  Being this awake and vital relies on training the mind in meditation and on resting and balancing the body through asana.

As winter reminds us every year to change our focus to our inner world, let’s take note and get to our mats for restorative poses, pranayama, and sitting meditation. Set up for a different season. Take out those winter jackets and the snow boots but also get a new book, dust off your meditation cushion, and set up your props for your favorite restorative pose.

Om Shanti,


Once upon a time, I went to a party. There were a lot of other yogis in attendance, and after a good amount of apple cider and vegan carrot cake, merriment was at a high point. Someone asked, “What’s the hardest pose?,” and the challenge was on: One by one, the yogis proceeded to demonstrate their definitive answers, showing off really hard stuff — visvamitrasana, vatayasana, and mukta hasta sirsanana. (Look, Ma! No hands!)

Biding my time, I waited until the shenanigans had peaked, and then made my move. Ceremoniously, I lay down, feet a little apart, arms a few inches from my sides with my palms upturned, chin gently regarding my chest, ears equidistant to each other. Within me, I beheld my breath, and let my muscles fall away from my bones. As a finale, I disappeared completely. Well, so to speak. Recognizing a slam-dunk, the enlightened company at once exclaimed, “Savasana! Of course! The hardest pose of them all!” I rest my case.

As I write this, I am in England with my family. Too soon to coin it “recently,” my father passed away on October 11th. Safe to say, he has reached his final rest.

Today I wandered out on the Downs and lay in the grass. I arranged myself as comfortably as I could, including all of the asymmetry in my body, my mind, and my heart. I scanned from head to toe, looking for something other than the natural lop-sidedness of things. I was searching for a sense of evenness, or sama — a Sanskrit word that essentially means “same,” or “equal.” Since everything is marked by impermanence, and moment-to-moment the world spins, what is it that remains the same?

Savasana offers us a glimpse of an unperturbed place — in Rumi’s words, “Out beyond ideas of wrong-doing and right-doing” — where we may subtly perceive the deep mystery of our being. We realize the miracle of our existence — a state of grace, actually. Lying on the earth under the sky, nothing added, nothing taken away. There is no more practice, no one to practice. You have arrived. You are the practice.

Still lying in savasana, I opened my eyes. Just above, a swarm of late-fall fruit flies circled my head, vying with each other for my attention. I pursed my lips and blew a long, reluctant exhale toward them. My breath, becoming one with the wind, dispersed the flies. I had a vision of being dead, and coming back to life.

Savasana, or mrtasana (mrt meaning “death”), also known as “corpse pose,” ultimately presents us with a chance to rehearse for our last curtain call, only without the drama. I think of words by the poet Shi Te, “Not going, not coming, rooted, deep and still.”  This equanimity is savasana.

So savasana has everything to do with preparing us for death, yet it’s equally a powerful prescription for life. The pose promotes relaxation for mind and body, helps to alleviate anxiety, depression, and stress, and cultivates peace and calm, or, at the very least, acceptance. While the pose can help reduce fatigue and insomnia, it has nothing to do with taking a nap or zoning out after an exhilarating asana practice. If you do fall asleep, no need to berate yourself, just try to have an early night. But so you don’t miss the whole show, resolve to roll your mat out again in the morning.

Savasana occurs in that gap between coming and going. Richard Freeman says this gap is where “observed content is released and dropped.” In Buddhist terms, it’s shunyata — the awareness that all things are intrinsically empty. It’s reached when one is not attending to any themes. The paradox is that savasana, for many, is anything but empty; instead it’s filled with a sense of what B.K.S. Iyengar described as “illuminated emancipation, freedom, unalloyed and untainted bliss.” There’s room for it all in savasana.

But what if you aren’t one of the lucky ones who just plop themselves down in savasana and feel instantly at home? Trust me, I know where you’re coming from: I witnessed the catastrophic events of 9/11 firsthand while standing in the WTC Plaza with my infant daughter in a stroller. I was shaken and stirred to my core. But I continued to get on my mat — continued to lean in and take a closer look. For an entire year post-9/11, I practiced savasana with my eyes open. Sometimes I had to just sit up. An unexamined life, it is said, is not worth living.  Sometimes that examination takes place with gritted teeth and blurred vision. Rumi, again: “When the soul lies down in that grass, the world is too full to talk about.”

Anyway, you begin to see why savasana might be the hardest pose, don’t you? I mean, who in their right mind is going to voluntarily lie down on the ground, belly-up, heart exposed, eyes closed, in a room full of strangers, and hang out with absolutely everything and nothing? The physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual challenge of savasana is immense. As a yoga teacher, watching my students in savasana is humbling. It’s an honor to witness the human condition — vulnerability and valor side-by-side.

Savasana is generally suitable for everyone, though one size doesn’t fit all. Practice according to time, place, and circumstance. Try to position your body so that it feels balanced, neutral. Let the earth hold your weight, and simply notice that you’re breathing. No need to reach for anything, or push anything aside. Let the tongue rest on the bottom of your mouth, as though it, too, were in savasana. Relinquish the desire to speak, to see, to hear. Let your hands serve the sky, and your feet serve the earth. Relinquish the energy of your arms and legs. (You can place a bolster on the tops of your thighs to help with this, or under your knees, if you experience any discomfort in your back.) If you’re pregnant, elevate your head and torso. If you’re sad, keep your eyes open and your gaze gentle. If you’re scared, make sure you’re covered with a blanket, or near a wall.

Whatever you do, remember to practice for all sentient beings. Don’t be afraid to let anything that’s holding you back from truly living, die. Realize that (in Rumi’s words) “ideas, language, even the phrase each other, doesn’t make any sense.”

It’s Hard To Be A Beginner

My two-year-old son, John Michael, was overwhelmed yesterday, during his first day of school. I kept looking around at the environment and seeing so many things that he loves — trucks! A sandbox! paint! a water table! I wanted him to get involved and have fun, but he wouldn’t leave my lap. He spent the first twenty minutes crying that he just wanted to “go home and see Dada.”

So in the spirit of trying new things, I took a class at Body by Simone today. I had never been to the studio, and had no idea what it was all about. To be perfectly honest, I found out about it from Taylor Swift’s Instagram: I saw a picture of her standing on a street corner a block from my apartment, and her comment was about how Body By Simone had kicked her ass! So I signed up for a “Tramp Cardio” class at noon.

I can’t remember the last time I felt so spastic and uncoordinated.

I haven’t been on a trampoline in a long time. Even so, I remember that my childhood trampoline impulse was to jump UP. But to help me keep up with the class and the beat of the music, the instructor kept yelling at me to jump DOWN. Wait — WHAT?? I couldn’t do it for the life of me. I was several moves behind the whole time, and I fell off the trampoline twice. I didn’t hurt myself, and I tried to laugh about it, but it was embarrassing. I didn’t even feel like I was getting a workout — I was just trying not to break my ankle and look like a total lame-o.

It’s hard to be a beginner! It’s scary, embarrassing, overwhelming, and intimidating to try new things. The experience gave me more compassion for my son, and insight into how he must have felt to be in a new environment, a new room, surrounded by new kids, new teachers, and not know the lay of the land. It also made me so proud of him and all the students who come to Yoga Shanti and yoga in general for the first time. It takes courage to walk into a new place where you don’t know the culture or any of the people. It takes guts to roll out your mat for the first time.

We Ride on the Backs of Giants

T.K.V. Desikachar died on Monday, the 8th of August, 2016. He was one of the great influencers of Yoga in the 20th century.  Desikachar was the son (and student) of the great yoga master T. Krishnamacharya.  Krishnamacharya was also the teacher of Patabois Jois, B.K.S. Iyengar, and Indira Devi.  Desikachar completed a lineage that is largely responsible for how we practice yoga today in the 21st century.

One of the indicators of the extensiveness of T. Krishnamacharya’s Yoga knowledge is the diversity and profundity of his four main students. Any person who has had the honor and privilege to study with one of his students realized that there was no cookie-cutter methodology. Each one of these four had the thread of devotion and refined inquiry, but much to T. Krishnamacharya’s credit, they each expressed it in radically different teachings and styles. Each one of these masters showed us a different facet of the practice and let the wisdom and light shine through the window of different personalities and perspectives.

How will YOU express the teachings as you ride this river of Yoga? Your special and unique boat is important and is not duplicated by anyone else.  We are trained and influenced by our teachers, colleagues, students and by the world at large but from where you float or swim in the river is a perspective that is occupied only by you. The ability to relax significantly into who we are and yet feel and listen to the whole is a magnificent gift of Yoga.

The story of the five blind people describing an elephant as they touch different parts (one on the trunk, one on the leg, etc.) is a way to remember that one’s truth may be relative to one’s perspective and that we must loosen our own point of view enough to listen and truly inquire about the whole.

Do It Anyway

“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.