I recently woke up to what it means to admit to being older. It wasn’t like a pop up in bed and jump out stretching with glee over a new day kind of feeling. It was more like an emergence from muddy projections on younger people around me until I somehow surfaced to see the grime dripping from my budding lotus of new understanding.
Indeed, that first surfacing moment was a bit ghastly—the smell of putrid water and dirt that had settled just a little too long, but which had created just the perfect contrast to catapult me past my delusion.
One day, this stuff consciously hit me. I felt like a bear that had been hanging out in someone’s kitchen a little too long. The things that brought me joy a few years ago, like jars strewn hither-tither, were empty. No matter how many ways I tried to approach them … even if I swiped my fur against the glass, nothing stuck, nothing nourished, nothing left to do.
Time to go!
Yoga is indeed a mirror
I’m 42. My body was the first to let me know about how dogmatic I had become in my reasons to stick with my rigid Astanga routine. It was like “hey, you know, this is not really doing it for me at the moment … in fact, may I ask, why are we doing this?”
“What?” my mind pretended to ask before pretending to change up the routine. But my body was like “hey, this is still the same thing we were doing yesterday only you just played different music …” or “hey, this actually doesn’t feel good.”
This little tango went on for quite a few months. Then one day my body was like “you know what?!!!” Tight, bound-up psoas, intense but dull back pain, a seemingly-endless flu … all of these collided in a spectacular grand finale to close a decade and a half of practicing on someone else’s terms. It was time to find out what my terms were.
So I recently decided on a whim to just stop doing everything I was doing out of force. Just stop. Just get some perspective through distance and space—recharge. Whatever. Not grasp at labels. Just be. I always labeled that approach “wrong,” or “lazy.” But at this point I barely had a choice. So what happened?
Wow. Waves of fear came first. Who am I now if not for the things I’ve been engaged in so sincerely, fearfully, forcefully, for a decade and a half??? Yeah, I’ve made a few tweaks over the years, mostly in the form of progress and additions, but a subtraction? A deletion? A limit? What the hell is going on!!!
My grandma always said, and I agree—when one door closes, another is opening. It’s just that crazy meantime that trips us up. It’s not very long except the insta-culture we live in makes it even more precarious to grasp. And yet, how else are we to make it through big changes in our lives with any semblance of grace if not for this level of faith?
The benefits of telling yourself the truth
I think the first gift in getting older is that the degree to which you are encouraged to give less of a sh8t about what everyone else thinks. Indeed, you get more comfortable with your own personal truths, journey, strengths, weaknesses and process. In the end, I’m not “old,” and I’m not saying that. Even if I was, I’d be grateful for the fact that I made it so far with a lovely, velvet-lined chest full of experience and the wisdom that brings!
What I’m saying is that I’m being asked by the universe to shift in a way that puts me in a place so deeply in charge of my life that there’s almost nothing to hold onto except my inner compass.
It’s disorienting at first, but the benefits are starting to emerge. First of all, I feel like, when I practice asana, I’m operating at a pace that is more integrated than ever. By that, I mean, I don’t feel external pressure to do what I am doing. I simply do and feel and adjust myself. Even if commands are coming from the outside—I simply have nothing to prove anymore, even to myself. It’s now more about exploration, joy, wonder, sharing, and expanding, than proof.
In fact, that beautiful notion has been at the heart of this stage of maturation: “You are alive. It’s your birthright to experience life itself. To face consequences of your own actions, take responsibility for all choices, feel how everything feels and go in the direction of what feels best. It’s time to do what you do for your own reasons and by your own impulses. You’re old enough. You’re experienced enough. Keep going. Keep open.”
My body is gradually starting to trust the rest of me again. I still unroll a mat at least five times a week (except cycle days) and practice asana, but it’s very different and very much about exploring, deep conversations with joints and tissues and the recognition and releasing of many thought patterns and feelings. Sometimes it’s a few modified sun salutations followed by a long meditative sit. I am better at listening to my body now. It’s nice.
Even the dogmatic idea that I have to do something for other people has fallen away, because if I listen to my heart, and feel my feelings, I know that sharing, giving, enjoying time with others, helping others see another POV, charity, all of these things are among my favorite experiences in life! Why would I not want to do these things more and more? They feel so darn good! Doing things for others is, in essence, the same as doing things for myself.
Yes, I’m getting older. And it’s like there’s this new part of me now that is always smiling and rubbing its hands together, asking softly and sometimes with a laugh “so, darling, what’s on the experience menu for today; what’s next?!”