At 10:59 on Saturday morning, in a studio off of Union Square, my yoga teacher was settling into her mat, as students put blocks under their bottoms, folded their legs, kissed palms, and took a deep breath in, to power up a ringing oooooommmmm.
At 10:59 on the same Saturday morning, I was sitting in my yoga pants and my tshirt and my sports bra (if this was a different type of site, I would be writing whole posts about the bra-ing of pregnant breasts), frozen in traffic twenty miles outside of the city.
I was pissed. I had been buoyed all morning with a sense of righteousness and pride that I WAS going to make it to yoga that morning. I had pushed past the relentless desire for ten more minutes, just ten more minutes, now ten more minutes of delicious weekend sleep, done what needed to be done, gotten into the car fifteen minutes earlier than I even needed to, and then, god lachting at my trachting* , found myself in middle of paralyzed gridlock.
My teeth were clenched. My hands gripped the steering wheel. My ankle tensed, ready to jump to gas. I was so freaking annoyed. For about 40 minutes.
I didn’t make it to yoga on Saturday. But, I did make it to the yoga studio on Sunday, for a workshop on yoga for pregnancy, childbirth and beyond. One of the things we talked about, that resounded deeply for me, was the basic Buddhist idea that suffering is often caused by a lack of acceptance or an aversion to reality. We hold on to our expectations so tightly, and when reality doesn’t match them (and when, really, does it?), we refuse to adjust or accept this or deal with this, instead, like me sitting furious in my car that day before, our blood pressure rises, our muscles tense up and we suffer.
To eliminate my Saturday morning suffering, once I realized there was a bigger chance of a snowball freezing in hell than me making it to yoga, I should have accepted that reality, and begun figuring out how I was going to deal with that. Should I go home? Should I go to the afternoon class? Should I go to Barnes and Noble, etc…, instead of sitting, stewing and resisting the reality.
It’s a tiny example of a much more profound idea.
It’s particularly resonant for me, as someone who always planned to be a part of the religious community, to marry at eighteen, and a have gigantic family. It took a very long time to accept that wasn’t going to happen, to stop resisting the reality of where I found myself in actuality. I spent a good few years relinquishing my power to self-direct my life, because I was too busy obsessing over how it wasn’t what I thought it should be.
Acceptance isn’t the same as approval. It’s just a first step, an honest admission of what actually is, that, almost paradoxically, can then free us to move forward in the direction of where we want to go.
* Mentch tracht uhn Gott lacht – Yiddish ‘man plans, god laughs’
What about you? How does your general reality match up to your expectations? If the present isn’t what you thought it would be, is it easy or hard to accept that?