Last week in my morning yoga class I could tell we were moving towards a handstand.
I can’t do a handstand. In fact, I’ve never done a handstand in my life. I have tried, many times, to get my legs to go above my arms and land on the wall, and failed. Even a two-hour upside-down workshop didn’t get me over my fear of gaining enough momentum to get into a handstand.
So as soon as I realized where the flow sequence was heading, I felt uneasy.
About ten minutes before the end of class our teacher asked us to sit down so she could explain the next pose. She is seven months pregnant so wasn’t about to demo anything fancy, and suddenly I heard her say: “Nat, will you demo for me?”
Here’s the weird thing: I said yes before I realized I said yes.
After inhaling Michael Singer’s The Surrender Experiment (yes, it seeped so deep into my veins that this is my second blog post referencing it), I became fascinated with the idea of surrendering. Most of my life, I’ve subscribed to exactly the opposite philosophy — the idea that good things come when you run after them, work tirelessly to get them, overcome crazy obstacles and climb huge mountains to make them yours. If I didn’t dig a tunnel through the toughest rock towards something awesome, nothing awesome was ever going to come my way.
In The Surrender Experiment, the author describes surrendering as accepting things, people, and situations that come our way without judgement, without liking them or disliking them. Simply accepting that it’s what is meant to be in our path at this particular moment and doing our part to serve this moment. If we consider the fact that events unfolding in our lives were set in motion 3.9 billion years ago, when the world was created (you pick whatever method of creation you like to believe), then it’s silly to think that we can control these events to our liking. A more fulfilling and aware approach is to surrender to what comes and to consider things that are asked of us a call of something greater that’s been set in motion long before this very moment we’re in.
I found this idea so powerful that I’ve been trying to consciously practice it as often as I can. And thinking back, it’s likely why I agreed to demo a yoga pose in a class headed towards a pose I don’t know how to do. I didn’t judge being asked, I didn’t form an opinion about it, I simply surrendered to the call.
Want to know what the pose was? Here it is:
(Yes, there are people who can do this in the middle of the room. Whoa.)
When our teacher described to me what she wanted me to demo, I started to laugh inside: There was no way in the world I could do this. This was worse than a handstand!
But I answered the call, what was I going to do now, run out of class? So I tried. Once, twice, three times, with zero success. She was standing next to me and said she was going to catch my leg on the next try, which she did. Here I was, in this upside down half stick pose, with my teacher holding up one of my legs in the air, when I heard the class clap.
People demo poses all the time. Usually they are brilliant at them. I’ve never heard anyone clap, until now. And I’m certain it had nothing to do with my finally getting into the pose with my teacher holding me up. It had everything to do with my classmates knowing that I just tried something I had no idea how to do.
But my personal surrender experiment didn’t end there.
Ten minutes later, it was time for the handstand. Surprisingly, my teacher asked me to demo again. I don’t know if she knew I couldn’t do it or she thought I could — it didn’t matter. I was too far down the path of surrendering to the call so I went to the wall, put my hands down, and tried to get my legs to swing above my head.
I felt my legs gently tap the wall, straightened my arms, and I was in a handstand. Just like that. For the first time in my life.
After class many people came up to thank me for demoing. I felt this warm kingship from them, this shared experience of going for something without any idea about how it will turn out. I took on a bit of their own fear in putting mine aside and it didn’t go unnoticed.
This experience has stayed with me for days since the class. It was the first time that I felt the power of simply surrendering to the call, putting aside my like or dislike of what was being asked of me, and going for it, ignoring perfection or any type of desired outcome. I tell anyone who will listen the story I just recounted here. It shifted something big inside me, in the simplest way, but one that I feel is revolutionary.
What else can happen if I surrender to the calls that come my way more often, putting aside my like or dislike of them, and not worrying about how exactly it will all turn out? How will my life change if I re-focus on serving the moment that is presented in the best way I can instead of trying to make every moment into something that fits my vision of what it should be?
I’ve lived most of my life in the fake safety of making lots of plans and to-do lists — can I achieve more, experience deeper, live fuller if instead, I chill the heck out and stop trying to control what’s in my path?
My newly acquired handstand practice is quietly but firmly saying yes.