I'm now in Chiang Mai in the northern part of Thailand for the next month, visiting my friend Elisa and switching things up a bit before I head back to the states in March. I am still yoga'ing, writing, and taking time to myself, but there's an added perk of finishing my SE Asia adventures here: saving money with an even cheaper cost of living—most meals are between $2 and $5 (with endless great restaurants and coffee shops), and I'm staying in a studio apartment with a great view for $500 for the month. Transitioning from Ubud's bliss-blanket paradise to the slightly grittier, more chaotic Chiang Mai (think Sedona to Seattle) threw me for a bit of a loop on my first day here. I woke up feeling disoriented and a bit low, but then I noticed an all-day inversions workshop at the Wild Rose Yoga Studio, where I taught a workshop in May. Given my recent exploration of somatics, I figured spending the day upside down would surely turn my mood right-side up. Success! And not without a few yoga life lessons in tow.
*For non-yogis, inversions are poses where you go upside down: handstands, headstands, forearm balances, and shoulderstands. Inversions are great for your circulation, lungs, thyroid function and even for things like reducing stress, working with fear, and generally having a rollicking good time flipping around like you are five years old again.
On the expectation to go from zero to perfect . . . and stay there
I've been working diligently on freestanding handstands for the last year, inching my way toward balancing on my hands in the middle of the room, but spending 95% of the time falling over and trying again. Those few seconds of successful upside down suspension are bliss—worth every ounce of effort.
One learns to handstand much the same way a baby learns to walk, by *maybe* hitting it for a few seconds, falling and getting back up, each time gathering one more muscle-memory micro-clue about what the heck our bodies need to do differently to work better the next time. This process is deeply engaging, challenging, curious, and fun. Sure, you could end up with a few bruises and scrapes, but you will wear them with pride.
Many physical skills are similar; learning to ride a bike is a wobbly nerve-wracking thing . . . until it isn't anymore, and the fear turns to exhilaration and glee as the wind whips in our face and we peddle foreword in pride from that day foreword.
So why do so many of us enter into a relationship, career, or big project and expect perfection? Moreover, why do we do this with our LIVES? If we do not instantly land on the pinpoint of balance and success and stay there, surely we have failed.
Where is the sense of fun and playfulness?
Perfect balance is often a moment in time where life is suspended and slowed down, and it is glorious. And then? It's over, we fall out of it, and we try again. So why not have some fun and find the enjoyment on the way in AND on the way out too? What if we were to approach our lives, work and relationships this way?
In order to grow or learn a new skill—from something as specific as a handstand to as complex as an intimate relationship—we must examine and expand our relationship to:
- (Losing) Control
Which of the items on that list are already in your comfort zone? Where do you have room for more permission or playfulness?
You cannot learn a freestanding handstand by being timid, by being afraid to fall, or by only baby-kicking halfway up (trust me, I tried this for years before mustering the courage to fall, feel silly, and get back up). It cannot be done.
You have to fall in order to figure out how to get up, how to grip the floor and stay up, how to find the middle, how to engage your core, how to lift through the feet, and how to come out gracefully.
As in handstands, as in life:
Falling is the ONLY way to learn, and there is no "get out of jail" free card.
If you're not falling in some way in an area that is important to you, you probably have room to take more risks.
So, expect to fall, and nothing less of yourself.
Falling isn't failing (and I don't even really believe in the word "failure" in the first place); it is trying and living . . . and that is surely something to be insanely proud of.
I'd love to hear from you in the comments: in what areas of life are you afraid to fall? What might it look like to take a more permissive, playful approach?
Thailand at a Glance
Check out this awesome video tour of Thailand from my friend Torre. She is wrapping up a motorbike travel adventure with her boyfriend Ivan, with whom she also reluctantly agreed to sail the world for a year shortly after their first meeting.
Torre self-published a book about their story last year (when we first got connected), then it got picked up by Hyperion and sold movie rights! She heads back to Melbourne soon to launch Love with a Chance of Drowning, and I couldn't be more excited for her. I am delighted that we get to meet for lunch on Thursday!
This post originally appeared on Life After College. I have imported selected posts from 2013 to catch new readers up to speed. Is that you? If so, a) awesome! And b) check out the new here guided tour. For long-time readers, nothing new in this one!