What You Think You Want Versus What You are Given

My yoga teacher always said that you must “digest your experience!” By this she means that it is essential to take time to fully digest the events and feelings of our days. Process. Integrate. Digest. And then, let go and move forward. In a culture that sways towards a fast-forward pace, this is good advice. So much happens in a day (or over weeks or months) such that undigested experiences can accumulate and form repositories of stress, tension, angst, anger or sadness – left  untended in our bodies, hearts and minds. If we don’t return to sift through what lingers, the flow of our energies and emotions can be thwarted. For me, writing helps with this important digestion – and not only to sort through difficulties but also to clarify lessons learned as well as to revisit what has been beautiful, significant. As Anais Nin says, “we write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect.”

In my own retrospective process, I have been through one hell of a month. There was the flood. There was selling our home and all the surrounding logistics. There was packing. There were home repairs. There was new house searching. There were long late night conversations with my husband about our life vision and what is next. There was the ever-present wall of financial limitation. There was finding a rental along with the thousands of displaced flood victims. There was moving into the first rental we could find. There was a trip to Nashville for work and giving a presentation at a conference. There were tantrums. There were fevers and illnesses. There were cavities to be filled. There was a contract signed on a new home. My husband turned 40. We found out we are having another son!

All of this adds up to a very condensed experience of life – with major life events and transitions all culminating in one short span of time. There were emotional breakdowns amidst holding so many moving parts together. And finally, we are settling again. And now: true digestion where insights can emerge.

Amidst all of the on the surface descriptors of life’s changes and happenings, there are also the undercurrents of life doing its work on me in deeper ways. While flying back from my work trip I randomly sat next to a former co-worker I hadn’t seen or spoken to in over five years. At the end of a three hour flight he told me he’d been reading Sri Aurobindo and asked something along the lines of how I rectify what is seemingly predetermined versus what we can control in our lives; how I make sense of the mysterious forces at work in the world versus what our will can effect. At first I laughed and said “I have no idea!” I was exhausted. I didn’t feel up for dissecting Sri Aurobindo. And then I slowly felt into my answer. Thanks to his question I was able to relate the seeming conundrum to my own life and clarify an insight I might otherwise have missed. I shared that actually he was pointing to what I was ultimately grappling with on deeper levels with my huge life transitions underway: the impending birth of my third son, and the impending move into my next home. I said I was used to feeling empowered by moving towards what I want in this lifetime with willfulness and clear intention, but that with the revelation that I am having a third son I was profoundly humbled in the face of what I ultimately can’t control. I had been desiring a daughter. I always thought I would have a daughter – and yet, here I am: life dishing up my third precious boy. I had been wanting a home with outdoor space to garden, have chickens, create magical playscapes for my children. And yet, again and again we were confronted with financial or distance conundrums that made fully realizing what I thought was my deepest vision elusive. Instead, life was handing me a different plate. A home full of sons. The opportunity to take the leap and buy a new home that looked very different from what I had been imagining and ‘wanting.’

Then I said, “I don’t look at it as an either/or situation. There is both will and mystery. I experience it as swimming in a sea of conversation with the Divine. I can move towards what I think I want, and when I don’t get it, I can relax into what is being given to me. There is nothing to be done. There is nothing to do. I can be humbled in the face of what is ultimately beyond my understanding or control. And then, the next layer after relaxing into what simply is: to really love it, despite reality looking different than what I was expecting or desiring…”

I realized that the major lesson of this time is to rectify moving towards my desires with intention while also being humbled again and again by those numerous moments when reality is utterly out of my control. There is nothing to be done about anything – just be in a conversation with what feels Divine in this Life. No moving towards anything graspingly, but rather relaxing into reality and embracing what is. Then loving what is. Right now life is serving up this lesson: the key is to let go of attachments to what I think “should” be any particular way – and instead embrace (again and again) what is arising in the form of presented opportunities. Relax! Settle into a new place and form! And then, find and feel the perfection in what is. Find fresh eyes that know how to live outside of previous attachments.

IMG_1523It reminds me of forward bends in my yoga practice. There is the willful gesture of reaching towards where you want to go, while also surrendering into exactly where you are. There is the gesture of letting yoga do you rather than you doing it. There is the interplay between being and doing. First be, then do. There is the energy of reaching while also simultaneously surrendering. And what needs to be the greater force at work? Surrender. (*Angst arises when our resistance to reality attempts to override the capacity to surrender…)

During transitions of any kind we can practice surrendering into accepting the blessings of what is being given to us. We can exercise the power of our capacity to choose our perspective: how we place our attention dictates what our experience becomes. We can count our blessings or we can pile up the complaints. We can make friends with the new places we find ourselves in (both literally and figuratively). Life is full of surprises and it serves us to befriend new, unexpected surroundings. In this, we can slowly find ourselves freer to relax fully into letting go of what we think we want, or how we think things ‘should’ be, versus unabashedly embracing what is being given to us.

4 thoughts on “What You Think You Want Versus What You are Given

  1. Ellen

    So beautiful and moving, Deb. I love your writing and am inspired by how you share your truth. I can feel the intensity of all of this and have my own ways I relate. All I know is I keep needing to cultivate my piercing clarity right along side my willingness to completely surrender. And motherhood seems to be the most poignant way all of this manifests!

    1. Thanks Ellen! Just after I wrote this I received a card the next day and on the front it says: “Everything comes to us that belongs to us if we create the capacity to receive it” – Tagore

      This was so perfect and just what I needed to help my practice of surrendering =) – and so nice to hear from you! Thanks for reading and sharing. Love, Deb

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