Sometimes the harmful stories you’ve always told yourself miraculously dry up.
Maybe you’ve ignored some of the characters or have lost interest in the plot. You might have adopted the abridged version or someone else edited your story for you — cut it in half like Charles Dickens’ original manuscript for Great Expectations.
So we write new chapters, telling ourselves it’s okay and that we’ve finally moved on. Sometimes it is and we do.
But often, nostalgia knocks on our door and we let her in. High school taught me that this is called personification — giving human characteristics to non-living things. Life has taught me that this is called dwelling.
Not so when we finish an enthralling story. In the space that hangs after the final punctuation there’s a mix of savoring and What now? I wondered that question for at least an hour after finishing The Catcher in the Rye one day in 1998.
Stories like these change us — ones we read on paper and ones we write ourselves. You don’t have to be a writer to draft these; they happen every day among the neurons in your brain.
This week, here were my stories:
- I almost got hit by a car and saw two cars collide — separate instances — in the same day.
- I unexpectedly attended the Bronco’s playoff football game in 11-degree weather (they lost).
- I got in an argument with my boyfriend because I led with my ego rather than with my heart.
- I found out that a high school classmate is battling for her life after contracting Lyme Disease.
The stories that dry up or keep going are up to us.
The End of stale stories
Of all the stories written in a day or a week or a month of your life, I’ll bet the ones that stay with you most are stories that don’t exist outside your mind, like my four examples above.
In other words, they’re untruths you try to make true through repetition. Untruths we tell ourselves such as:
- I’m not good/smart/strong enough to _______.
- I’m not deserving of __________. (money, love, happiness)
- I’m a failure; I always seem to screw up.
- Everybody’s “better” at yoga than I am.
To these mental battles I offer the following:
“Sometimes what we deem a failure at the time it happens actually serves to foster a change within us that creates an even greater success down the road.” – Marianne Williamson, The Law of Divine Compensation
Leave dwelling in the past
What creates success is what Marianne calls a miracle, which is simply a shift in thinking which then shifts your experience. Dwelling on the past makes it difficult for your thinking to shift, which makes it nearly impossible for your circumstances to shift.
But once you’re present, the universe takes care of the rest. Why? Marianne says (and I LOVE this):
“Because perfection is your eternal home, to which the universe is programmed to return you whenever you have deviated, for whatever reason, from the thoughts that get and keep you there.”
Committing to drying up stale stories that don’t go away doesn’t happen overnight. The process of sitting in meditation or moving on your mat can help you stop dwelling. But it does take time, so here are three things to keep in mind:
1. When you’re trying to open up, slow down.
You can’t force your heart to open before it’s ready. Not in a yoga pose and not off the mat. Take your time to sort through your alignment and allow your body (and emotions) to unfold.
2. When you strive to be a better, more improved version of yourself you miss the perfect version that you already are. (click to tweet!)
3. The perceived fastest way to a goal may turn out to be the slowest.
Tortoise and the hare-style, stay present to your path and your path alone.
As Marianne writes, “No matter what our problem is, the universe is on it.”
Try this: Upward Facing Dog, Urdhva Muhka Svanasana
This pose is flat-out challenging for those of us who aren’t naturally bendy. It took me a long time to feel comfortable in this pose, and sometimes my low back still aches. I used to let this color my practice, dwelling and dreading when this pose came up in class.
Then, I stopped forcing the pose and instead breathed into what I could do. These principles of alignment can help you get there safely. Remember: It’s not about how you look — it’s about how you feel.
- Lie on your stomach, palms near your shoulders and fingers spread. Bring your legs hip distance apart, toes flat on the ground.
- Inhale and root your palms down as you rise up with the chest, lifting the tops of the legs slightly off the floor but keeping the toes planted. Softly bend into the elbows, keeping the eyes of the elbows facing one another.
- Gently hug the thighs in and up while descending the tailbone. Keep the belly button moving in and up and the glutes firm, not squeezed tight.
- On deep inhalations and exhalations, lift the front and side ribs without jutting the chest forward. Keep the chin parallel with the floor to elongate the neck.
- Stay for four to six deep breaths, exhaling and lowering back to the floor. Take Child’s Pose to rest and lengthen the low back.