How do any of us know what we are “meant” to do?
In fourth grade, I wrote a story about a flood that forced a little girl’s family to take shelter with the rest of the town in the school gymnasium. The story was seven pages, handwritten in pencil on wide ruled paper. Turning in the assignment, I knew what I wanted to be when I grew up.
The next year, I began growing my bangs out like Nancy Drew’s. I used to sneak around the house as an undercover spy, writing down the movements of the neighbors’ cat. The callous on the side of my right middle finger was abnormally large.
In eighth grade, I took best of round during a Power of the Pen writing competition where kids were given a writing prompt and 30 minutes. I remember being upset that I didn’t win overall. (Ah, sense of not-being-enough at such a young age.)
I wrote my way through high school, joined the Eccentric Rhetoricians, and was schooled in How To Write About Nothing and Everything. It didn’t matter if what you wrote made any sense. Nothing made sense in high school. I began to regard my writing as art.
Then I went to journalism school and learned how to write for “the lowest common denominator.” Yes, an actual phrase used to describe how to communicate regardless of literacy level. I followed the inverted pyramid. All the juicy details that I cared about were trimmed at the bottom in favor of Who, What, When, Where, Why.
For the past seven years of my reporting-the-facts career, I have been steadily working my way slowly back into the How. And it’s all because of yoga.
Meant to be?
How do any of us know that what we thought we were meant to do is actually what we were meant to do?
A couple of years ago I was at my parents’ house in Ohio, looking through photo albums from when we all had fewer wrinkles. I stumbled across this photo:
That’s me in the white leotard during gymnastics in my elementary school’s cafeteria.
And not only am I doing Bow Pose, but I’m doing Bow Pose. When my mom snapped this photo, I was the only kid overachieving the heck out of it. In a shiny, white leotard no less, which is also the color of the crown chakra, Sahasrara, which is also pure consciousness (just sayin’). Excellent work on the outfit, mom.
Seeing this photo had the effect of recovering the last puzzle piece hidden under the couch. My deviation from chasing the corner office to beelining my way after work to yoga class took on divine meaning. I felt like I was meant to be on the mat.
Past, present, ….
Yoga is the discipline of “now-ness.” If your now isn’t so satisfying however, it’s time to go hunting for clues in the past.
Looking back at your younger self can reveal a lot about your present. Like moving in with someone for the first time, your likes, dislikes and habits come back to the surface. You relive parts of you that you thought were lost.
Maybe, you have your own “Yes, I’m meant to do this!” moment.
This youth soul-searching is different than dwelling because you’re not headed back to the past to live. You’re there to remind yourself of your oh-so-clear path and purpose that’s playing out right now.
For a long time, I thought I knew what I wanted to be when I grew up. Turns out, you don’t have to be “meant” for just one thing.
While you’re off building your life, the detours of grief, worry, stress and sadness don’t take you off course so much as steer you in the direction of new ways to say yes to happiness.
So make a pact with your inner child — the one who believes everything is possible and wears shiny white leotards and gets away with it.
Whenever life gets too overwhelming, allow yourself to step back and remember who you are at your core. What are you meant to do with your life? Start by looking within.
Try it: Pose Dedicated to the Sage Marichi, Marichyasana I
The symbolism of this posture is just too good to pass up. With one foot outstretched, yet arms bound, this pose’s freedom is found when you lean forward and keep the low belly long. It’s like leaning in, and looking inward, to come back to you again.
P.S. In Sanskrit, marichi translates as “ray of light” which is pretty much what Willow is evoking in this pose.
- Sit in Staff Pose, Dandasana, with hands by your hips and legs outstretched. Hug your right knee into the body and anchor the foot close to your pelvis. Lean forward and twist your upper body slightly to the left, hugging the right thigh against your right side body. Keep your torso reaching forward as you untwist back to center.
- Inhale, reach your right arm forward and turn your thumb down. Exhale and sweep the right arm around the right thigh, reaching for the back of the thigh or glute.
- Exhale your left arm around the back and reach to clasp the right hand or wrist. If you don’t quite make it, try using a strap or grasp your clothing. Don’t force the reach until you’re ready.
- Inhale and lengthen the low belly by anchoring the sit bones firmly down and back. Press the left thigh bone into the mat and reach through the left toes. Exhale and fold forward, bringing your head closer to your thigh.
- Stay for six deep breaths. Rise on an inhale, unwind from your bind and return to Staff Pose. Bask in your inner bendy or working-toward-inner-bendy. Repeat on the other side.