I say that now, looking back, but I never actually fully enjoyed it. I was too busy worrying about who would see me puffing away, who might smell my bad habit on my breath, and whether I'd ever gather the resolve to quit for good. When Courtney got cancer, quitting was a no-brainer. I'll say it even though it's unbelievable: it was effortless. Shaming and berating myself and worrying up a storm had absolutely nothing to do with ultimately obtaining my desired outcome. It was simply a waste of time.
So okay, you could probably argue that fully enjoying a cigarette is not a useful goal, what with the obvious health risks and all. But I'm gonna go ahead and take a risk here and disagree. Each moment is all that's guaranteed, and with a ten-year long pack-a-day habit, I wasted a lot of moments worrying and hiding and being mean to myself.
Don't worry. Trusting the natural flow of things is a lesson I didn't master on the first try. So the gracious Universe has handed me many more opportunities to practice, loads of examples that may be more compelling than my regret over the lack of presence I brought to my nicotine addiction.
Take today, for example. Today is day seven, decision day: to purchase or not to purchase the expensive yoga package. When I committed to 30 days of yoga, I had six classes left in my series. Part of the challenge I created for myself was to trust that the rest of the 24 classes would be accessible to me somehow, with a full-time job, on a social worker's salary, with a pile of debt and a stack of monthly bills. The worry thoughts crept in from time to time--It's December! Can I really justify spending $110 on myself this month for a membership? And what about my slippery old mat… If I'm really going to do this, I'm going to need an upgrade or I may be risking major head trauma. Do I spring for the $40 towel, or go for the gusto and buy the $70 grippy mat? But when I noticed these thoughts coming around from time to time, I called them silly in a friendly voice and they eased up quickly, having nothing to feed on or push against.
And Source, the Universe, God--whatever you want to call that benevolent force--responded by giving me everything I hoped for and more. Shuffling through a drawer full of coupons on an unrelated mission, I happened upon an unused groupon from over a year ago for a yoga series at Seva, the wonderful studio where I've been practicing lately with a new groupon. The promotional value of the first groupon had expired because I didn't use it, but the amount I paid for it remained, essentially turning it into a $35 gift certificate. Serendipity!
And it gets even better! I arrived early for Happy Hour Vinyasa to purchase my 30 day unlimited package, a $110 value brought to me by my miraculous coupon drawer for only $75. But wait! Order now, groupon yogis, and receive your first unlimited month at our introductory price of only $50! I'm not kidding! That was the deal that was already in place without any effort or stress on my part, though I didn't know it until I stood at the counter with some faith and my debit card. So of course, I also bought the fancy mat--the exact one I'd been researching, recommended for sweaty palmed people like me. It was the last one in the shop--another gift!--a sure-fire way for me to guiltlessly side-step any purchase procrastination.
It's sort of little, in the grand scheme of things, this smooth unfolding of events. But it felt pretty big to me. And while the practical parts of the miracle were really cool and helpful, there's another aspect that feels even more significant. I remember buying that first groupon to Seva last year and feeling anxiety and guilt almost every day I let pass without cashing it in. I watched the expiration date come and go, lecturing myself all the while about the waste and laziness. It turns out, the real waste was the time I spent being unkind to myself and worrying about all the shoulda coulda woulda's. Not using the groupon when I "should have" has given me the opportunity to invest fully in my practice now, when I'm really ready for it.
When I bought my second, recent groupon, I continued to miss this lesson initially. Over the first 54 days of the 60 day groupon, I'd only managed to make it to four classes, which left me with six classes to burn through in six days. Despite the fact that I typically chose to ride the mountain bike trails while the weather was nice or spend time with Courtney instead of doing yoga--both really healthy and meaningful activities--I still managed to give myself regular guilt trips about not making it to yoga class. In retrospect, thank heaven I didn't! I thought there was a "right way" to space out the classes--two per week or something, I guess. But if I had done that instead of leaving them all to the end, I wouldn't have had the inspiration of a six-class, six-day stretch and I may never have embarked on this journey--and what a shame that would've been!
Trusting that my thirty day path would be revealed and watching this lesson unfold in the present feels like a positive step, after noticing it so many times in retrospect. Internalizing this lesson is my metaphorical sticky mat, a dependable foundation to grow from. I can trust that my feet and palms will stay planted, even when I'm sweaty from exertion. I can find deeper rest and stillness in the poses I'm comfortable with, rather than constantly straining and adjusting so as not to slip. I can be braver, sink deeper, open more fully. On my new mat during Black Friday's Happy Hour Vinyasa, pushing myself solidly back into downward dog, I'm more free than I've ever been to relax and focus all of my attention on each moment, to give myself fully to only the movement that's called for as I breathe each breath.