Like any good midwesterner, I've got a lake home in my family tree. It's a simple house in northwestern Minnesota with plumbing, heat, and a rarely used air conditioner. It's the one house that still exists in my family that I have visited since I was a baby. Everyone else has moved from the homes they had in my childhood. Every time I visit my cabin, it seems like it takes eight hours to get there instead of four. Whenever I go, I fish, I shoot the BB gun at cans, I swim, I eat good food, I sleep like a baby and I giggle with the purest form of happiness. It's the closest thing I have ever had to "going home."
When I was a kid, my brothers, cousins and I would ride up to the cabin with my grandparents in their van. We'd get antsy as soon as we got to this road that was very hilly and we'd start asking our grandpa, "Are we there yet?" And each trip, he would tell us the same story:
A donkey and his master went on a journey, they went over the hill, under the hill and around the hill, and the donkey stopped and he said, "Master? When will we get there?" And the master said, "Patience, patience." So they went on. They went over the hill, under the hill and around the hill, and the donkey stopped and he said, "Master? When will we get there?" And the master said, "Patience, patience." So they went on. They went over the hill, under the hill and around the hill, and the donkey stopped and he said, "Master? When will we get there?" And the master said, "Patience, patience." So they went on.
The story continues in a loop, without ending, and eventually one of us would yell, "GRANDPA!! WHEN WILL THEY GET THERE?!?!?" And he would chuckle and say, "Patience, patience." We did this every trip up to the cabin, because we loved hearing Grandpa tell the story. We would try to see how long we could listen to it before shouting. We loved the way his voice was the same each time he told the story. Same inflection, same volume, same chuckle. It was almost as fun as being at the cabin.
Now, when I bring friends to the cabin, I tell the story when we get to the road with all the hills. Some day, I'll tell my children and grandchildren this story. And I still, to this day, ask my grandpa to tell me the story. It hasn't changed.
The story itself has a pretty powerful and yogic message. The donkey is spending all this time waiting and anticipating the destination, while the master is riding along, enjoying the journey over the hill, under the hill and around the hill. Granted, I'd have a patience problem too if someone was riding my back the whole way, and it might be a little easier to take it easy if I was just riding along in a beautiful, hilly landscape. But sometimes you're the master and sometimes you're the donkey. That's life. In either situation, it's important to recognize that you're on a journey and be present in each moment (even the ones where you're sitting in rush hour or waiting in line or, heck, even using the bathroom). Life is full of destinations and departures, but if we all focus on where we wish we were - past or present - and how we just want to get there, we're going to miss out on over half of our lives. The opportunity for growth is in the journey. If you just spent the whole time being anxious to arrive at wherever you're headed, once you get there, it won't be nearly as rewarding as it would have been if you had taken in the whole ride.
This is, for me, like rocket science. I'm a list maker, I'm a detail oriented person, I like to plan my life down to the minute. But right now, during this particular experience of loss, financial and emotional struggle, and extreme change - I find myself excelling at taking in the journey. It feels safer this way. To take in this moment as it is and be thankful for it. If I start trying to figure out where I'll be and what I'll be doing in six months, I start to panic because so many things have to come into play before those goals can be reached. It's ridiculously overwhelming. So I acknowledge those goals, grateful that I have them, and let them hang out.
This idea can be experienced physically in yoga as well. For me, when I'm practicing yoga, as soon as I hear an instructor tell me which pose to move into, I race into it. I want to show my brain and my body I can do it, and then I sit in the pose for as long as I'm told and then race to the next one. In the last week, I've slowed that way down. I've used my breath to link one asana to the next, slowly, feeling my hips shift, my shoulders engage, my glutes tighten, my ankles wiggle. It has created one of the most intense experiences for my body and mind. I find that I'm able to stay in poses longer, my breath is deepened. When class is over, I feel like I'm buzzing.