All of the sudden, everyone is moving. To Philly. To San Fran. To Boulder. To Washington. To Santa Fe. Back to Boston. Within the last few weeks, I've heard both expected and surprise announcements along this line more than I think I ever have in my entire life. I wonder -- is this an astrological phenomenon? What is making everyone suddenly throw lives into boxes and jettison across state lines? Most people are making these geographical changes for work-related reasons (or their significant other's work-related reason). But whatever the cause, all this wanderlust has stirred a bit of that within me, too -- where would I go if I were to go? Where would I want to go -- and do I want to go? I've lived in Somerville, Massachusetts for almost thirteen years and am deeply in love with this place and the people and events that have shaped my life over this decade-plus. But could I love somewhere else -- is it worth considering?
The answer is, of course, yes. I could love many other places, people, and things. Other horizons will always beckon with the promise of valuable life lessons and opportunities to deepen my own sense of purpose on the planet. And some day I will likely leave this place to find out more about what this life has to offer me -- and me it. But what strikes me even more profoundly in this exact moment is how simple switches in my current life could be more significant than saying sayonara to Union Square hailing a cab for Timbuktu.
I have been practicing yoga regularly (almost daily) since the beginning of 2008. There have been, of course, exceptions to this rule -- periods of time when my practice wasn't as regular, the longest stretch being maybe four or five months at the start of 2011 when my work and social life prevented me from making it to my favorite studio's class times. During this woeful era, I was also dealing with the fallout of the worst breakup I've ever experienced as well as a difficult living situation and I truly felt like everything was unravelling. It was actually because of an especially passive-aggressive trick played by my extremely immature roommate that I found my way out of the fog -- instead of getting mad at him for what he did, I felt, instead, that it would be more productive for me to wish him well than perpetuate his angry cycle. "I'm not a religious person, but I'll pray for you," I thought. It's not a huge surprise that shortly before this realization, I had thrown the emergency brake on my life and set some hard and fast rules for myself: yoga at least three days a week, no exceptions. This change also allowed me to find some forgiveness in my heart to heal the breakup wounds and even reconnect with that individual, rebuilding our friendship one brick at a time. I didn't need to change my geography to get a fresh start -- I needed to change my thinking, my approach to familiar problems, and I needed to stick to this new plan of action with both kind and serious intention. The result was I emerged from that very dark time in my life triumphant, returned to love, returned to writing, returned to my yoga practice. And the next twelve months proved to be the most transformative of my entire life: I self-published my first of many books, I did yoga teacher training, and I accidentally fell right into the perfect job. The pieces of myself that I'd lost came back stronger than ever. And the only change I'd made was a mental one.
Three years later, I am still gleaning lessons from that time in my life, that time that proved that if you're going through hell, you really should just keep going. But the part Winston Churchill left out of that famous quotation is that you get out of hell by breaking the cycle, taking a different path, changing direction. As corny as it may sound, thinking positive thoughts instead of negative ones saved my life and restored my sense of self. I live my life with as much honesty and integrity as I can muster because I know first hand how short life can be and how much it matters to be good to the people you love.
That said, I still have a lot to learn and am constantly listening to the lessons of the universe. There is so much out there -- how can one lifetime be enough even to dream of learning it all? The one thing I know for sure, though, is big change can happen with small gestures -- it doesn't have to be anything dramatic or huge -- your entire life doesn't need to be packed up in order for you to get the closure or renewal or surge of strength you desire. Everything has a root and you can only effect real change when you find that source. It's probably right under your nose. I bet you barely need to leave your house to uncover it. All you really need to do is be open, focused, and willing to listen. Oh, and breathe. Always breathe. You may be surprised how tangible the solution is. Maybe it's as simple as getting on your yoga mat or laying in the grass for ten minutes. Maybe it's writing a letter or looking that significant someone in the eyes. Maybe you just need to string together a few nights of decent sleep. Definitely default to honesty and the rest will take care of itself.
And in case you were wondering, no, I am not such an enlightened being that my life is now perfect because I re-dedicated myself to yoga. Far from it. But the point is I learned the importance of being places where I was safe, loved, happy, calm, and respected. I learned what that feels like and how to achieve it and how not to settle for any less. So even now when I run into dead ends or hard times, I am equipped to move ahead steadily and with intention, sure that even if it doesn't turn out exactly as I hope, it will turn out exactly as it should. I've learned what questions to ask out loud and to myself and how to determine what the acceptable answers might be -- and what to do if they're not to my standards. And I've learned to be flexible with my standards and kind to myself and others, to see others in as many dimensions as they'll allow. I try. That's the best any of us can really do.
But, seriously, do yoga at least three days a week. OK? OK.