Sun, Sand and Shifts
Last week we held our annual winter yoga retreat in Tulum, Mexico. Tulum is a beautiful town about 90 minutes south of Cancun known for its friendly and eclectic vibe, white sandy beaches and amazing food and margaritas. It is my favorite place in Mexico and I was super excited to get out of the frigid weather in Indiana for a few days and enjoy the warm weather. I shared a room right on the beach with my dear friend Michele. It was a gorgeous room with an ocean view. But, despite the view, things didn’t turn out exactly how we had planned. Our room was without electricity for 24 hours. And then the rainstorms rolled in…. See, there was a gorgeous tree that weaved its way through the thatched roof of our room. It was very cool. However, when it rained, water poured into our room through a hole in the roof created by the tree. On Saturday night, a torrential thunderstorm moved through the area and water flooded our room and onto my belongings. We were able to clean up the water with a pile of towels and a bucket and then decided to call it a night. As I laid in my bed, I listened to the water drip from the ceiling. Drip. Drip. Drip. Unfortunately- I barely slept a wink.
On Sunday morning I woke up in a very bad mood. I was tired and frustrated about the situation with our room. I began feeling sorry for myself and went into victim mode. I started wondering, “Why is this happening to me? I mean seriously, I was the person who spent months organizing the retreat and this is what I get? I was looking forward to this trip so much and now this happens?? C’mon- where is the justice in that?” But the reality is, life isn’t fair.
I didn’t feel like going to yoga class that morning but I rolled myself out of bed and trudged over to the yoga pavilion to join the rest of the group. I was still muttering (okay- maybe it was swearing) under my breath as I started to move on my mat. I was determined to resist my yoga practice in every possible way—body, mind and spirit. I was angry, frustrated and tired and I wasn’t ready to let it go. I wanted to be right! I wanted justice. But slowly and surely, as I started to move on my mat, I could feel the release of the tension in my body and I was starting to feel a little lighter and more relaxed. By the end of class, I had fully surrendered into savasana and allowed the situation to be what it was, not what I expected it to be. The rest of Sunday was a lovely day spent on the beach catching some rays and bonding with the group.
We carry these expectations in life that everything has to line up just right all of the time in order for us to be happy. Once we get things arranged just the way we like it, whether it is our family, our job, our home or our vacation, we will finally be happy and can relax. However, obstacles often arise that keep things from being perfect in our mind and ultimately finding our happiness. We believe that once the undesired obstacle finally disappears, we will be happy and have what we want. But life doesn’t work that way. Once the obstacle to your presumed happiness is removed or disappears, another obstacle comes into play. Have you ever noticed that? Just when you think you have finally figured everything out, another problem comes up. Our focus on these obstacles and our belief that we must remove them in order to be “happy” causes us to feel a sense of constant yearning for something more. Ultimately, we feel unfulfilled. Rather than feeling joy or gratitude for the situation as it is, we continue our quest for happiness by trying to achieve more in order to meet the expectations we have established for ourselves. At the end of the day, we find ourselves in a loop where we are constantly measuring, but always end up not being enough.
My yoga practice didn’t “fix” my problems that day. The reality is that we had another thunderstorm on Sunday night and the roof leaked again, but this time we were better prepared for it. Yoga gives us the opportunity to get familiar with ourselves, our minds, our habits, including all of the ways that we habitually create discontent. Yoga helped me witness what was going on in the moment and showed me how I was getting hooked into my old story line. I was able to see that I was reverting back to the “whoa is me” story that I use when things don’t go according to my plan. I witnessed myself acting ungrateful and entitled in the moment. I couldn’t be happy with just being in Mexico in the warm weather, my experience had to meet the unreasonably high expectations that I had set in my mind. I had created my own discontent. As I began to slow down my breath and move through my vinyasa flow my thoughts shifted from ungrateful and entitled to how lucky I was to be doing yoga in warm, sunny Mexico with amazing and fun people. My mood lifted and I started to focus on all of the good things that were happening on the trip!
S**t happens. That’s life. In those moments when things don’t go as planned, how can we step back and witness our thoughts and feelings so we can better understand our habits and patterns so that we can consciously make the shift from a habit to a conscious choice? Our goal is to shift our thoughts and feelings from s**t to joy and change our experience in that moment.