(or) Does the Universe Care if We Have Longer Hamstrings?
I was trying to get deeper, and I was pushing as hard as I could. I held my breath and gritted my teeth. Don’t release until she says it’s time. Push harder, I said to myself. Give it all you’ve got. Every sports cliché in the world was running through my mind when this beautiful woman finally spoke. With my hamstrings cramping, her words stopped me in my tracks.
“The universe doesn’t need more people with longer hamstrings.”
Head out of the gutter; this happened in yoga class.
Her words seemed innocuous enough at the time. Yoga teachers cajole us to be compassionate with ourselves. They tell us to be in the moment and to forget about results. Yet for many athletes/yogis, myself included, we are there to improve. We want to get somewhere—to a certain weight or to a certain degree of flexibility. And since many of us are running “no pain no gain” software, that means we’re there to push ourselves. We measure success with results.
My plan was to launch my blog with a column about how I lost 60 pounds. In a world where it seems like everyone is looking for ways to lose weight, it was a practical decision. But since the focus of my writing is about making choices, I chose to start by challenging you, my readers, and myself to get better at asking questions. Okay, so I lost all this weight, but am I really better off because of it?
(Don’t fret; my next post will be about how I lost 60 pounds.)
You’ll start to notice that while I like to “debate” both sides of an issue, I don’t pick a winner. By approaching things from many angles, it forces us to ask better questions and ultimately make better choices for ourselves. What may seem best for me today may not work best for you today. And it may not work for me tomorrow.
My brother, the sage, likes to say that our day starts off better when we put on our pants in the morning and they’re a little loose. I can’t deny that I feel a lot better and have more energy in the absence of lugging around all that extra weight. That energy makes me feel better, which in turn, elevates those around me. I enjoy being in my body more. I look forward to exercising. I have more confidence in just about every situation.
But am I more lovable? During a game of duck-duck-goose, do my godkids care whether Uncle Greg has a gut or not? Is a smile any less impactful when there’s a triple chin beneath it? Does my upper-body strength have anything to do with allowing another driver to take the parking spot I had my eye on?
My friend Mark once told me that people are like bells. The “wax” that builds up on top of us could be excess weight, toxins, grudges, limiting beliefs, or fears. That’s why the term “transformational work” is really a misnomer. It’s not about transforming; it’s simply about getting rid of the wax so the bell (who we really are) can shine brighter and ring clearer. Losing all that weight didn’t change who I was; I’m still the same bell. Now you just don’t have to get past as much wax to see and hear who I really am.
Perhaps I’m leading with this column as a disclaimer. For all I will write about peeling off the wax, flushing toxins, ramping up metabolism and the like, I don’t want to lose sight of the fact that we must cherish who we are right now. We don’t need to transform. If anything, we need to appreciate who we are and re-connect to that essence. We can work on clearing the wax, but we can’t forget that it’s the bell and not the wax that matters. Love is in our heart, not in our hips.
When I think back to that yoga class, I realize that by trying to get somewhere, it took me out of the moment—a moment that is gone forever. It makes me wonder what I may have missed out on while I was waiting to lose weight to fully express myself. Yes, I’m glad I lost the weight. But it’s more important to me that I don’t lose the lesson: to love and accept myself as I am, hamstrings be damned.
Leave it to a woman of eighty-nine years to sum it up best. “Just be yourself. Everyone else is already taken.”