Living With Purpose: A Quiet Welcome to the New Year

I read a story recently written by a man recalling a moment in his boyhood in which he found a cocoon that had yet to open. Because the days were growing colder, he found a way to warm it to the point that it was forced open. At first, as the cocoon peeled open and the butterfly began to emerge, he was delighted and thought he’d done good work. But his delight turned to horror when he realized that the wings weren’t fully formed and were stuck in a closed position. Unable to fly and not quite ready to be in the world, the butterfly lived only for a few minutes. The man remembers this time as one in which his impatience with the natural order of things meant that a miracle was taken away.

The story made me remember a science teacher I had long ago who told me I shouldn’t bother majoring in anything science related because I’d never be able to grasp the work. Hmm, never? I believed him at the time and went on to major in English, thought I’d spend my life as a teacher of writing and literature, which I did for a time. Until one day, I emerged with new wings and realized that, as if by a miracle, I had learned about and understood human anatomy. Not just understood it, but truly enjoyed it — the body: the most beautiful work of art I’ve ever contemplated. So not never, just not right then.

Why do I write about this now? I suppose I am contemplating new beginnings and dormant potential in this New Year. Surely, winter is a time of death, but it is also a time of dormant life, seeds that lie in wait for their time to grow and flourish. When I think back on all the times in my life from which I’ve emerged anew, I know that there have been dormant seeds that have grown in me a life of purpose.

I discovered pretty early in life that I have a capacity for teaching. When I discovered that yoga brought me home to myself — body, mind, and spirit — I felt I had no choice but to share the gifts of this practice with others. The decision to move from teaching English to teaching yoga felt like a natural revelation of myself and my abilities. Because of that decision, I gained the ability to learn how to listen more deeply to others and to myself. And though I didn’t plan to be a business owner and ten years ago would have said that I’d make a terrible one, I’ve allowed myself to emerge into that role. A role that has given me the ability to live and act from a set a principles that I’ve had to question and strengthen again and again. I suppose I’d say I get to live with passion because I am inspired by what I am doing — inspired to teach a practice that is rich with potential for transformation and inspired to continue to transform myself to uncover my greatest abilities in the time and season that is natural and right.

At one point, I thought that offering the teacher training at Jala would mean I was offering a culmination of what I’d learned. I didn’t realize how fluid the teaching and learning would have to be in order to be authentic. I’ve discovered that each year I emerge again with new wings, transformed by the time I’ve spent cocooning with the trainees. Their wisdom, curiosity, enthusiasm, and insight allow me to discover something more in both the practice and in myself each time we gather. One of the exciting revelations was in discovering how wrong that science teacher was about me! And what that makes me realize is how many stories we hear about ourselves–from teachers, parents, bosses, our own frantic mind–that aren’t true and don’t account for the possibility we hold, sometimes dormant for a long winter period. The time spent together and the deep attention that are part of the teacher training mean I get to watch the process of story deconstruction happen to these beautiful students again and again. It is sometimes scary and often exhilarating for them. For me, it’s an honor that has awakened me to just how possible it is for people to feel alive within themselves when they’re given space to emerge, to contemplate the truth of old stories, and uncover deep possibilities.

This winter, I’ve been meditating on what is dead within me and what is possibly dormant. I don’t have a list of ways I’ll start new in 2018 quite yet because I am not quite sure of what potential is “warming” within me. I am thinking on this quote from the Quaker writer and teacher Rufus Jones: “I pin my hopes to quiet processes and small circles, in which vital and transforming events take place.” I know that as I commit to certain parts of my life–practicing yoga, understanding this business, teaching both the 200 hour and advanced teacher trainings–that I am endeavoring back into that exactly–the “quiet processes and small circles” that do indeed hold all that is vital and transforming. I am working to be the kind of teacher that can allow each person to emerge in the time and way that is right for them. I am excited to witness as I teach the rich possibility of new beginnings within each person and the ways that they will draw their wings upward into flight. And I know that through teaching and listening, my own old stories will begin to fall away into all that is new and possible in me.