More wisdom lessons: Embracing ‘what is’

January 18, 2013 | Life in My 50s

I almost didn’t go to yoga class this morning. I was awake at 5 a.m. but my body felt worn out, more so than usual. I wanted to “sleep in” until 6:15, except I couldn’t sleep. So I figured, if I’m not going to sleep, I might as well do yoga. And off I went.

As is usually the case when I almost skip yoga, I got to class and heard echos of things I needed to hear, things I’ve been thinking about or writing about — in this case, yesterday’s wisdom post — as I breathed in and out with my movements.

“Embrace what is, not what you think should be,” said my yoga teacher. And I smiled, knowing that this truth must become more and more my own with each passing day and year as age makes the “what is” more and more difficult to accept.

Then, as we were lying on our mats in savasana, Deanna asked us to focus on the words of Thomas Merton:

We cannot achieve greatness unless we lose all interest in being great. For our own idea of greatness is illusory, and if we pay too much attention to it we will be lured out of the peace and stability of the being God gave us, and seek to live in a myth we have created for ourselves. And when we are truly ourselves we lose most of the futile self-consciousness that keeps us constantly comparing ourselves with others in order to see how big we are.  — Thomas Merton, No Man Is an Island

And I smiled again because these wise and eloquent words of Thomas Merton seemed to be spoken just for me, even though there were about 18 other people on neighboring mats maybe thinking the exact same thing. Imagine that all this was happening not in a retreat center, not in an ashram or even a yoga studio but in a YMCA fitness room just beyond the treadmills and ellipticals. That I could drag my tired body out of bed to a local Y and get such spiritual sustenance is like a minor miracle. This particular yoga teacher and her early morning classes twice a week are the only reason I keep my Y membership active.

So chew on those words from my teacher and from Merton for a bit today. Mull them over in your head, let them sink down into your heart, breathe them in and out as you go about your day without any “futile self-consciousness.” Just be yourself and you will achieve greatness. How awesome is that?


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