I want my life to be different but I haven’t the willpower, the energy, or the follow through to change. And yet, I am surprised when my life stays the same, my challenges remain, and my discomfort with what IS does not abate. That was my frustration when I first decided to get clean and sober, and vexed me later on when I was ready to make other alterations in my life: healthy eating, work/family life balance, exercise. I had to DO different to BE different. I couldn’t just fantasize and imagine a better life; I had to work to earn a better one.
“Practice, practice, all is coming.” Great words by a yoga master Krishna Pattahbi Jois elucidate this month’s theme of ACTION! We hear it said in the rooms that “faith without works is dead” meaning that just having an idea is dead in the water, thoughts for change without implementing them have no discernible results. In fact, it is part of the promises of AA: that they will come to pass “if we work for them.” Pretty darn clear—I can’t just think about how I want things to be, I have to do it.
When I first started mat-based yoga practice I could not tip forward and put my hands on the ground when sitting cross-legged. I could barely reach beyond my knees in a forward fold—my back (incorrectly) rounded in my effort. My wrists ached when my hands were on the floor for “downward facing dog” and my arms would cry out to me when they were parallel to the floor for an extended length of time in standing poses. I really wondered how yoga would be beneficial with all these aches and pains. Practice led me to greater endurance, more strength and increased flexibility. While I will most likely not be the most twisty, arm balancing, extreme yogi in the room, I have practiced enough to find comfort in most of my poses. Practice, while it does not make perfect, makes awesome.
Using the tools, the steps and the principles of recovery has not always come easily. It has not been an effortless transition from a life of self-centered self-will to a life of measured attention to self and self-care. It didn’t occur to me; it didn’t happen because I wished it, it came about because I worked for it. I had to do the steps, I had to work closely with my sponsor(s) and I have been to a ton of meetings. I got out of my comfort zone and into the zone of growth, not with a wish but with action. I worked the steps; I still do. I didn’t just read them and think about them and ponder them and discuss them. I did all that, too, but I also wrote, I meditated, I did things that were new and uncomfortable and I resisted doing things that I had done before. I avoided repeating patterns and mistakes. I began my living amends by changing my actions and behavior, my attitude and my outlook. Eventually my brain began to change and what had been decisive effort became an effortless response. Practice not perfection, but every improvement was an opportunity to rejoice
I have a good life. For this time, in this era, the family is well and we enjoy one another. Authentically. This was not always the case. In general we have been polite, and family scenes were not our scene; but anxiety and the desire to please had often squeezed the pleasure out of many family get-togethers. We have practiced being in one another’s company. We have found ways to reduce the “musts” and “shoulds” to a bare minimum. We have practiced being in the present with one another neither ruminating about the past nor pressing one another about the future. This has allowed us to have fun in the now. What a gift.
All of this has taken right action. The living life on life’s terms, the evolution of my recovery and the practice of my yoga have all evolved not through thinking, but with doing. Give yourself a treat and take positive action in your life and you will see the positive results “before you are halfway through”.