Today was an epically terrible day; however, it was also the day I realized that every single cent I've ever spent on yoga was 100% totally worth it.
My morning started with me shattering my brand new iPhone 5S screen. It fell onto tile floor and before I even picked it up, I knew it was ruined. It continued with me coming down with a mild stomach bug, which I understand is uncomfortable for most people, but when you have a horrific phobia of barfing AND you're at work, it's basically the worst. I was teaching, and tummy troubles aren't exactly convenient when you cannot just run to the restroom because you have 36 8th graders waiting for you to teach them about independent and dependent clauses. On top of that, none of my technology was working for the first two periods, meaning that my carefully planned Power Point about sentence fragments was out of commission, therefore ruining my entire lesson.
While I realize that these are first world problems, it was not the best start to the week. And if you know me at all, you know this is an Amy trifecta of hell: bad day in the classroom plus barf potential (it's been 17 years since I last puked) and my beloved iPhone broken. Pretty much all my least favorite things in one horrific day.
Despite all of this, for maybe the first time in my adult life, I was able to simply deal with it. No tears, no dramatic tantrum, a minimal amount of f-words. I arranged to get a new phone (for free, HOLLA!), I left campus to get some Diet Coke and medicine to finish the day, and I rearranged my lesson plans.
I don't write this as some sort of humble brag, but more in COMPLETE ASTONISHMENT that living this way, with the ability to not react and just deal, sans tears, dramatics and waterworks is possible and a thing that people do, all the time. Like, WHAT? I kept asking Andrew, who is quite possibly the world's calmest and least dramatic human being alive, "IS THIS HOW YOU FEEL ALL THE TIME?" It felt so foreign.
In yoga, my teachers speak over and over about how important it is to have a non-reactive mind. They tell me over and over again that the path of a yogi is to be in a place where the world can crumble and you are still there with a calm mind and an open heart, trusting the flow of the Universe. To move through with power and grace.
When I first started practicing yoga, I would get so angry when classes didn't go a direction I liked --- when the music wasn't what I wanted or the flow of the class wasn't ideal for me. I'd find myself angry when I couldn't get into poses --- blaming the teacher, labeling my body as not good enough and mentally tantrumming, time and time again. As my practice has matured, my reactions have as well. When poses are difficult, I'm more likely to return to my breath instead of freaking out, and when a class is just not my cup of tea, I gently remind myself that there are always going to be times like this, on and off the mat, when things just don't feel good for me.
It was the first time I saw myself practicing this wisdom off the mat. Because despite my teachers speaking over and over again about the importance of being in things without reacting, I brushed it off, saying that with my fiery personality, that kind of calm attitude was never going to happen. Ever. I'd tell myself that sure, I could calm down a little, but when things happen, I'm just gonna lose it! That's my way.
A few weeks ago, I kicked into handstand for the first time at a yoga workshop. Being upside down was something else I'd always assumed wasn't for me: I was too fat, it was too scary and there was just no way it'd ever happen. Until it did, and then I felt strong and free and invincible. It was such a high.
While these feelings weren't exactly a "high" (more like a desperate attempt not to barf while teaching), the calm non-reaction made me feel more powerful than any tantrum ever did. It made me grateful for all those times I've silently cursed the teacher for planning a class I hate or silently cursed myself for falling out of a pose, because I was learning and training for these moments off the mat --- the ones that really matter.
In some ways, it was a bit humiliating to realize that my reactions all this time have been me --- that this way of being in the world has always been ready and waiting, but I had to embrace it. I used to roll my eyes so hard when my teacher would say things like "the best thing you can bring to any situation is a calm mind." REALLY? It seemed so ridiculous. And yet, having lived it --- even just ONE TIME --- I get it now. Things work out. It all becomes okay. And better yet, with a reaction that's calm and controlled, there's no fall out to clean up once the dust settles.
The good news for an over-reactor like me is that this isn't magic or a fluke. This is a practice. An exercise in non-reaction that will (hopefully) carry me through the next time I want to absolutely lose it, whether it's on my mat or when I face something much larger than busted technology and feeling gross. Because I will. Another goodie from my teacher? "Figure out what you stand for, because what you're standing in will change." I get it now. I don't want to stand for tantrums and anger and hurtful words and freaking out. At least I want to try.