I recently hit a few big life mile markers- turning 30 and getting engaged- and while most people hit these moments with every extreme emotion under the sun, I mostly felt curiosity (and curiosity about feeling curious). It is the emotion I have been bringing into more and more moments of my life: curiosity. As I turned 30, it occurred to me all of the things that I perceived 30 would mean, these assumptions were largely adapted since childhood of seeing my "elders" turn thirty before me. Over the last few months it has become clear to me what a joke life is, I mean that we should be laughing at life, not panicking about where we are versus where we thought we should be. Life happens, each day unfolds and as the unfolding happens we make certain choices, these choices lead us into tomorrow. What matters most is whether or not these choices honor who we are and the greatness we are seeking. I believe far more issues are created when the choices made as a result of what it is presumed that a 18, 20, 25, 30, etc year old should be doing. We make such grand expectations over how life should be, but experience tells us time and time again that it is foolish to expect anything, rather enjoy every day as a blank slate.
Although I believe most of us know this, we still can't break free from the mold that society has put us in. Just think about all of the things we "think" we should do (and when) such as getting married, career choices, earned income, children, the list goes on and on and on. All I ask is why? The week leading up to my 30th birthday this was all I could think of. I was laughing regularly at many different pictures I held in my mind of what 30 would look and feel like, yet there I was, still me, feeling not too far away from the day I turned 10 and for that I was extremely grateful. Age matters little, the experiences of the ages matter a lot. Regardless of being married or not I have learned so much about what it means to interact with another human being. Regardless of having my finances in perfect order I am able to pay my bills and I love the work that brings me that income. Regardless of having the house that I imagined would be perfect, I have come to love each place that I lay my head regardless of the walls around me. It seemed so silly to stress about the number instead of making the most of the time we do have. I don't want to wait until I'm 60 to begin contemplating the fullness of my life, I might not make it that far.
This isn't to say that you shouldn't have goals or intentions, this is more to address the broad spectrum parameters that we put on our lives without even realizing it. Maybe I will have children, maybe I won't. Maybe I will make lots of money, maybe I won't. Maybe I'll spend the rest of my life in one town, maybe I'll move every few years to a new state. What difference does it actually make? And why are we assuming that one is better than the other? It is amazing how many times in life I have gotten myself into a situation I always said that I never would get into and ya know what happened? Nothing. I lived just as well as I did every other day of my life. Rock bottom can come in many shapes and sizes and it is only as awful as we in our minds make it out to be. Ultimately rock bottom is just another place, another day, just like the top of the mountain is just another day. Even as a child I hated when people would refer to moments as the "best of your life"- i.e. the college years, your wedding day, the early stages of a relationship. How awful of a mindset is that? You mean to tell me that it's all be downhill from here? This obviously isn't true but when we build these beliefs into our consciousness they become true. These beliefs simply do not give our lives the credit they deserve. Yes, college is a great time and I'm sure my wedding day is going to be magical, but today is pretty damn amazing too because I get to do the work I love, spend some time out in the sunny day and eventually enjoy a homemade meal with my sweetheart. How lucky am I? How lucky are we?
As mentioned previously, we all know that we shouldn't place so much expectation on life- shit happens on the regular. So, why do we do it then? We can tell ourselves all day every day to break the expectations but it'll only begin to happen when we become more present. I am supremely grateful to my Yoga practice and my Akashic record work for helping me to fully grasp both presence and the awareness of our ever-living and evolving Soul. One of the main points behind the Yoga tradition is to support mental presence as a way to live a better, higher life. My study of both Buddhism and Yoga remind me that the goal is to experience life with as little attachment as possible- passing through each day freely so that I make take it all in to the fullest, learn and move forward without excess thoughts and emotions clinging on to me.
How does this translate onto the mat? Well we are intended to use our physical practice (what westerners consider "yoga" to be- the poses/asanas) as a way to overcome our minds desire to latch on. Each pose challenges the body to stretch, hold and strengthen in a variety of ways- these challenges are less than comfortable. When we put our bodies into situations of discomfort our mind begins to tailspin through thoughts and emotions that fight the discomfort and attempt to find a way out of it- our nervous system goes into overdrive. The goal in the asana practice is to use our breath to become present, connect deeply with this discomfort and move beyond it. On a physical level the breath relaxes the nervous system which in turn enables the body to relax and submit to the process you are putting it through. This is life- we experience lots of discomfort, we must learn to walk through it not run from it. If discomfort is inevitable, when why can't we approach it with the same attitudes that we bring to every other "inevitable" in our lives? One of my absolute favorite quotes from the Dalai Lama I believe explains it best, “Our attitude towards suffering becomes very important because it can affect how we cope with suffering.”** So we practice and this practice begins with the breath, in the mind. We put ourselves into difficult poses, we breath, we slow down enough to let the mind know that there is greater power in joy than there is in fear. When the pose becomes more than we would like to bear but we are required to carry on for another minute we can welcome in a whole new conversation in our minds: one of patience, amusement, curiosity. I often laugh when practicing, that is my go-to response in my least favorite poses. I am laughing at how miserable the pose turned out to me, despite my prior expectations. This practice forces us to build trust in ourselves and our path- yes this pose is no fun, but we know that we can make it through. Similarly: yes this point in our lives is no fun, but we know that we can make it through. This is neither better nor worse that our favorite poses (or moments in life) because both are leading us forward to the next.
The more I have practiced Yoga the more easily I can connect with the moment- recognizing equal value in the good as well as the uncomfortable. These lessons have enabled me to bring a greater degree of curiosity, rather than expectation, to each and every day of my life. Although I do have many plans for myself, I am continuously practicing presence so that I won't get too caught up in the picture I have painted in my mind... And when I do realize that I have done just that (painted the picture then become disappointed) I also laugh, because even as I speak of what is best I can appreciate my own failures in meeting the expectations of what is best. The more I am able to be free of constraints, the more I am able to openly enter into each moment and allow for the opportunities to be presented to me. The less I look for the perfect moment, the more I can find appreciation this moment.
**Don't get caught up on the term suffering- it can be used to describe any uncomfortable, less-than-ideal situation we have gotten into
Chelsea M Latham
Chelsea I a student of the Akashic Records, daily practitioner of Yoga and general lover of life. Her work honors her studies, teaching clients to be their own masters of Life.
Chelsea M Latham
When I was a kid my mom would occasionally refer to me as a Reverend, because I had the need to speak so passionately about just about everything. Little did she know that some day I would build a business upon sharing the wisdom that I am so passionate about. So here you go, here are some bits and bobs of thoughts strung together for your enjoyment.