I have a love/hate relationship with growth. On the one hand, it is growth. It evokes imagery of greenery and opening buds and fresh-faced children. It seems like such a beautiful, embraceable thing. On the other hand, whenever there is growth, there is that whole change thing.
I am not talking about change, as in change your socks. I am talking about Change, as in Change your habits, Change your lifestyle. Scary Change. I struggle with Change, even when I know it is for the best. For example, I know my self talk is totally out of control, but I still fight changing it. After all, it is my self talk. It is like an old shoe, stretched out in all the right places, and breaking in a new shoe would be harder than leaving things the way they are. Noticing this pattern has suggested to me that I don't really want to grow, I want to have grown. I want the benefits of being in that better place, but I fight the difficult process of getting myself there.
About a year ago, I decided to take a yoga class. I had never done yoga before, but I liked the idea of getting fit without a lot of jumping around. I also liked photos of people doing yoga. Yoga photos always seem to feature someone who looks like someone I want to be, with outfits that I want to have. So, devoid of any admirable reasons to want to learn yoga, and falling completely for the marketing, I signed up for a beginner's class.
If you have ever done yoga, you may be able to guess what came next. At that first class, I was disappointed to learn that yoga is not as easy as it looks. There was a lot to learn, and a lot of training involved. I had to concentrate to learn the names of the poses, and how to hold my body in them. In some poses, keeping my balance was difficult, and my body was shaking. I did not feel filled with inner peace after my first class, and my legs were sore the next day.
In the last year, I have gone to three rounds of yoga classes, and engaged in a home practice off and on. I had hoped that yoga would give me a little more fitness and an excuse to buy some cute yoga pants, but I have gotten more than I bargained for. Yoga has introduced me to an approach that is different from most. From where I sit, most of the advice in the world can be boiled down to a "You just need to..." statement. You just need to do such and such, and then you will have arrived. Just exercise more. Just listen more than you talk. Just eat better. Just clean your house regularly. If only you would make this Change, or that Change, you wouldn't have your problem(s).
Yoga does not teach that you could be different if only you tried harder. You can set an intention to try hard if you want to, but it isn't for any specific gain. "Trying hard" in yoga is not better than taking your time, and being gentle with yourself. What is important is that wherever you are, you observe yourself without judgment. Just observe, see, notice. And then stretch.
Stretching is like Change, only slower. It does not depend on trying harder. Think about a forward bend. You stretch your muscles forward and down, reaching towards the floor. After weeks of stretching, you may find that the stretching gets easier, and that you can go further than before. No amount of effort would have gotten you to that same place on the first day of stretching. The key is not effort, but regularity, repetition, and time.
Stretching has helped me to understand more about growth. Growth also happens slowly. The change that comes with growth is not flashy, but quiet and gradual. We never really see anything grow. We can only conclude that is has grown when we compare the ways things are now with the way they were before. Stretching has suggested to me that growth occurs not because of one dramatic shift, but because of a thousand little choices.
I am choosing to breathe now when my anxiety tempts me to hold my breath. I am choosing to stretch my hamstrings in downward-facing dog and staff pose, even though they ache when I do. I am choosing to engage in my own yoga practice a few times a week. I may not practice for very long, or try very hard. But I am trying to practice with regularity, with repetition, over time.
When I started doing a yoga a year ago, I couldn't stand in tree pose. Now I can, at least on my left leg. That may not be Change. But it is growth.
Maybe it is not so scary after all...