"What does it mean to change your life?"
Bindu Wiles asked that in her post earlier today and that's something I've been trying to figure out ever since I graduated from college. I've been making lots of changes during this past year: there's now green in my diet that is NOT food coloring; I've participated in and help set-up two pujas (a year ago, I didn't even KNOW what a puja was); I practice yoga with a passion equal to or greater than I did with running; I went on my very first vacation BY MYSELF; I've been more open about my life with people than I EVER have before; I cry a little more (which is actually a huge accomplishment for me) and I laugh a little easier; I got my very first passport (which BEGGING to be used); I drove in Boston for the first time while driving a U-Haul for the very first time--without maiming or killing anyone AND without destroying any property! I made an almost spontaneous decision to move out of a perfectly reasonable and good apartment to a fairly small but comfortable room with 2 complete strangers, I'm now sharing my writing with an entire WORLD of strangers when I used to get nervous whenever my teachers read my papers.
I also realized something during my yoga practice today as my forehead and hands reached my foot in a variation of Hanumanasana (a.k.a "splits pose") where your front leg is straight, your back leg is bent up and then you reach your hands and (maybe) your head back to your foot: my body has come a long way during this last year. My "runner's" body probably would not have been able to do a pose like that because my quads and many other areas were always super tight. That pose felt phenomenal! A perfect balance between "strength and surrender." And, after feeling how great it felt, the first thought that came to my mind, that I felt, was "I don't want to leave this place." "Place" having several meanings. The physical location: it was in one of my favorite studios and I was practicing next to a couple of the wonderful new friends that I've made through yoga. The shape my body was in, mainly the back bend. I've been loving back bends lately because they just make me feel so free. But also the strength and flexibility that my body has gained through the practice of yoga. Some areas might not be as physically strong as they were during different times of my life, but it feels different...more integrated? Kind of like the entire body feels strong and not just a few select areas? I'm still figuring out how to put words to that experience. "Place" also meant my state of mind at that moment...so open, free, happy and alive. That's definitely one good word to describe the difference in my body now, it feels alive. Every part of it, and that's hard to understand myself sometimes, let alone try to explain it to other people. Bindu had posted a reply from another person doing the 21-5-800 project: "Don't ask what the world needs, ask what makes you come alive. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive." I have never felt more alive than I do when I practice yoga. I can't explain it, but that's the best way to describe it.
But I also feel like it's been slipping from me as I keep getting more and more frustrated with the one area of my life that has seen NO movement or change ever since I realized that it needed it: my job. I know I have some days where I actually feel like I'm doing good there but more often than not, it feels like a giant area of stagnation and on my really bad days there, it feels like my "spirit" is dying. Melodramatic? Possibly. Though there have been many days where I look at the door to work and think, "I can't spend another minute in that place." I also can't figure out how to make a change. It's that question I was contemplating a few days ago: is it the place and the job that need to change? Or just me? "What does it mean to change your life?" What kind of change do I need in that area of my life? And the answer is always the same: I don't know. Obviously positive and genuine interaction is important for me. As is physical movement. One of my favorite past jobs was working as a beach attendant, where I hauled around luggage, bags of ice and canopies outside in the sun and lake air for 5 days a week. And I loved it....until it got quiet and there was no work to do. My mind craves work, stimulation, a challenge...whatever. In other words, it needs to be used AS WELL AS my body. In that view, my last career objective should have been ideal: law enforcement. Definitely a challenging job on all fronts. Except that working on the very fringe of it felt like it was going against my nature and it was changing my personality in ways that I didn't like. I want a challenge, yes, but not unending stress that leaves your heart and spirit depleted of trust and a sense of peace and of goodness in people. I know that many people are able to do that job without coming to that result, but simply being on the fringe of the law enforcement field was having that effect on me. On top of that, it felt too restraining physically. I've had itchy travel feet for the last 2-3 years.
That is another thing that makes me feel alive: TRAVEL. There is something so freeing about it. Getting to see and experience how other people live without being attached to anything about it. It's as though because you don't live there and you aren't a part of that community, you get to experience all the good things about it. I'm not sure why, it's just a feeling I get. That's what I see when I travel to new places, I see all the beauty and amazing things that are there. I can obviously see some negative aspects of it (gravity and "homeless" people being the easiest to see) but it's like all the "good" parts overshadow it. As though, "yes, there is this 'bad' thing, but there is also this wonderful thing and this is worth remembering, because it is exists despite all the 'bad' things going on around it." Reminds me of how excited I get whenever I see random acts of kindness in a bigger city like Boston. A homeless person sharing his food with the pigeons, people giving up their seats on the subway or bus for someone else, someone pausing for a moment to hold a door open for someone they don't know, a group of skateboarders patiently taking turns practicing their tricks on the steps of the public library but stopping to let people walk by....there are so many. It feels like it is so much easier to see the negative side of things, why is that? I'm far from perfect and I definitely have days where I don't see that. But when I travel, it feels like it's easier to see the beauty in places and things. I feel "unburdened," by my own problems, and by the rules and norms of society because I don't live in the place I'm traveling to. I still respect the customs of wherever I am, but when you are a traveler, it's kind of expected and accepted that you'll slip up because you don't know how you're supposed to act. And it's ok not to fit in completely because you're not actually a part of that community. You're free, "boundless."
Learning also makes me feel "alive." You gain more knowledge, insight and skills and it feels like it's easier to see a bigger picture of the world around you; and to see how more things connect to each other. Nature, being outside in it and interacting with it also makes me feel very "alive." So does talking with people: listening to their stories, maybe even being able to help them in some way. Then there is also physical movement. I've been an active person for as long as I can remember and actually being able to use my body definitely makes me feel more alive: yoga, martial arts, running, kayaking, hiking, swimming...Again, I have no problem thinking about and figuring out all the things that make me feel "alive," or passionate, or happy. I just can't figure out where to go from here or what to do next. I feel like I keep chasing around the same ideas without any actual thoughts on what to purse or how to do it. It kind of feels like I'm beating my head against a wall, or the proverbial "dog chasing its tail." And it always leads me to the same conclusion: "I don't know." Quickly followed by, "I'm tired." :-) What does it mean to change your life? The recurring themes seem to be movement, deeper connections, knowledge and growth. And it feels like I'm seriously lacking in all these areas in my current job. So what needs to change? Me? The job? Both? Sri K Pattabhi Jois has said, "Practice, and all is coming." I sure hope so.