Everything works out in the end. If it hasn’t worked out, trust me, it’s not the end. ~ From the film, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
People have been telling me for years that I should try yoga. I resisted for years, assuming that what appeared to be flailing one’s arms in the air would not result in any meaningful exercise or stress reduction for me. I was unable to follow the one yoga class I tried many years ago and wound up feeling even more inflexible, off balance and stressed than when I had begun. I assumed yoga ‘just didn’t work for me’.
Lately, however I have had an intuition that body work may be the best path for me in reducing stress and remaining centered. Then, a few months ago, a yoga studio opened half a block away from my front door. Just as the mountain was brought to Mohammed, the yoga studio was brought to me. I guess when the student is ready, the yogi appears – sometimes right down the block.
It turns out, yoga is hard! I was amazed at how inflexible I had become over the years and how my upper body strength had waned. I was getting a vigorous workout, though. On those days that I do yoga, I notice that I feel more grounded than on the days that I don’t. What really kept me committed, though, was the way our teacher would remind us that yoga was difficult, but that it would not always feel that way. She assured us regularly that it would not always feel like a struggle and that we would build strength and increase flexibility and balance. She told us that the seeds we plant in one class would bloom in another class in the future. I believed her.
She was right. About five weeks into my yoga class, I felt – almost suddenly – that I had strength in my arms and legs that I haven’t felt in many years. Overall, I felt more calm – as if both feet were solidly on the ground. I was finally feeling both the physical and the mental effects of my yoga practice. I began looking forward to my yoga classes – and I’ve never looked forward to any form of exercise in my life. I began dropping in to a third class during the week and I even signed up for two public yoga events in my city. In the meantime, I continue to struggle with inflexibility, lack of balance and lack of strength even as I become more flexible, more balanced and stronger. I am not disheartened, however and am staying with it. I am enduring.
One day, as I was breathing through my downward dog pose with ease – a stark contrast from the first class when my arms could barely hold me up – I considered how many opportunities I have missed because of my lack of endurance. Some of our most satisfying achievements may require struggling through difficult feelings to reach our goal. The physicality of yoga is a concrete example of this but there are many others that involve emotional or spiritual struggles.
Years ago I had wanted to make a change to a different environment within my chosen career. It was a difficult change to make because I had not received my degrees from any of the “right” schools and I knew few people in the industry in my geographic area. It took me three years to make a move and at times, it felt like an eternity. The frustration was palpable and there were times that I really felt depressed. It was all too easy to take the lack of offers personally and to assume that somehow the universe was trying to tell me something – like maybe I just hadn’t worked hard enough or wasn’t very good at what I did for a living. For many, looking for a job or trying to make a career switch can be a long, disheartening process.
Endurance is continuing to put one foot in front of the other along a proven path toward a goal even when you are overcome with difficulty along the way. Endurance takes trust that the world is actually a pretty rational place and that if you put efforts and energy into a process that has proven to be successful, you will eventually hit your goal. It took endurance to remain upbeat at networking events and patient while waiting to hear from prospects. Endurance meant continuing to do a good job in my current work situation while looking for a new one. Thankfully, I had a wise mentor, whom I trusted very much, who used to remind me that; “This too shall pass”. She helped me endure by putting the situation in perspective. She reminded me that I would look back on that time of my life as a phase – and that I’d look back on it from my new desk at my new job. She was right. It did take a while for me to make my change but I finally did make it.
Endurance will reap rewards – eventually. Modern wisdom tells us that it takes 30 days of practicing a new behavior to change a habit. The practice of meditation alleviates stress but it can take a long time of fidgeting through a daily practice wondering if it is all a big waste of time before the effects “kick in”. Sticking to a diet for one day will not result in pounds lost by the end of that day but a daily practice of healthy eating for months at a time will result in weight loss. During acute food cravings, we are more likely to stick to the diet when we remind ourselves to “Hang on. This too shall pass”. Each time we endure, we become stronger.
Not all periods of difficulty are so easy to bear. Working through scary feelings, such as depression or anxiety can require the most endurance. However, exploring and expressing the feelings that underlie anxiety in a safe setting will cause the anxiety to dissipate. In David Burns’ best-selling book, Feeling Good, he prescribes a daily log to change neural pathways in the brain to alleviate depression, anxiety and panic attacks without medication. If one had the endurance to struggle through these terrible feelings while working on meaningful change, along with a trusted mentor to reassure along the way, the anxiety would eventually dissipate, leading to a greater sense of peace than when the anxiety first appeared. This is no easy task but the payoff is priceless.
During some of the most difficult and important struggles in my life I was lucky enough to have a wise mentor guiding me, reminding me to hang on, that I was on the right path, that everything would turn out all right and that this too shall pass. She used to remind me that it’s normal for real change to take a while and that just because I didn’t see results when I wanted them, didn’t mean the process wouldn’t work.
Enough with muddling along feeling only half alive, avoiding facing a problem or struggle we are meant to have. Life is meant to be joyful! Our natural state of being is open, carefree, loving and spontaneous. So, jump headfirst into whatever problem has been lurking along as the first step toward making it through to the other side. You have to move forward in order to experience that joy. You may face difficulty and struggle along the way, but, keep enduring. Hang on. This too shall pass.
Hardships often prepare ordinary people for an extraordinary destiny – C.S. Lewis