“I QUIT” Examining The Obstacles To Our Own Success
I’m learning something new. When I’m not practicing Yoga, I’m learning to bike with clipless pedals. The first few times I set out with my new clipless pedals, I did fine. The transition was seamless, as if I was always meant to ride this way. I was successful! The Greenway where I bike wasn’t crowded so I never had the direct experience of needing to “unclip” my feet from the pedals so I could stop completely.
Yesterday was different. The obstacles to the ride were everywhere. Traffic was at a standstill on a Sunday. I was still bothered by an early morning message from a friend telling me she was quitting Yoga. As I started my ride, I was examining all the ways we get in our own way, all the ways we get tangled up in ourselves and why we quit things that bring us joy. Just then I wiped out! Forced to unclip from the pedals quickly to avoid crashing into another cyclist, I hadn’t yet learned how to get out quickly and I crashed straight into the mud of my own ignorance.
I sat there with my first thought, “I quit! I didn’t want to ride today anyway. Why am I trying to permanently root my feet to my bike pedals anyway?” I allowed fear and doubt in myself to take hold…and I noticed it! In that moment, I noticed my response to challenge and to stress (“I Quit”). I also noticed right away my ignorance to the fact that my previous smooth sailing would be anything but that on this day. I noticed all the ways my ego tried to make sense of my fall (blame someone else with a healthy dose of judging myself). I noticed my fear of falling, my attachment to outcome (I can make myself good at this) and especially my aversion to those bike clips and my inability to go easy on myself while I’m learning something new. Every Klesha (Ignorance, Ego, Attachment, Aversion and Fear) glistened in my muddy, scraped palms. I saw all of them as I lay there crumpled and tangled in myself.
Thinking about my friend quitting fueled me to get right back on my bike. I remember laughing a bit because a year ago I would have felt embarrassed. I thanked myself for daily Yoga and got right back on my bike just the way I was…muddy, scratched up and vulnerable.
The challenges didn’t stop. The obstacles kept coming. Crowds, children learning to ride for the first time just like me, indecisive pets on long leashes, twigs from the previous day’s storm and my aching knee. This ride required every tool I’ve ever learned in my Yoga practice. I stayed in the moment (unclipping early when approaching a child or a crowd), I felt my place in the whole by being respectful of other riders learning too, of mothers just out for a walk with their new baby and I was nice to the indecisive puppies (more unclipping). I was even nice to my husband, who I had left in the parking lot right before the crash because he was taking so long! I used my breath and I connected to all the reasons I love biking (the wind in my face, moving fast through space, being outside with like minded people and the little girls who like to ride fast, the sound of cicadas). I opened my eyes to where I was. I took it easy on myself. I slowed down. I practiced unclipping and clipping back in many times. I affirmed to myself that I am learning something new! I’m out here! I’m doing it! I did my very best to put a healthy amount of space between what I want (to retain intact hands for my work, success) and the things I do out of ignorance that can entangle me in myself.
If we allow our senses to connect with the kleshas (I hate these clips. I don’t want to learn this. I’m terrible at this. I can’t do this. I’m going to fall. I’m terrified of clips), we rob ourselves of learning something new about ourselves. We stay safe. We live in a small box that will keep getting smaller if we shy away from new experience. The next time you want to quit something, ask yourself why. Write the Kleshas down (Ignorance, Ego, Attachment to desire or results, aversion and fear). You’ll find them like cobwebs, masking the true purity of your soul. You are already confident, compassionate, beautiful, flexible, open and filled with love. You were born that way. The kleshas are just obstacles to the purity of your authentic self. What are you made of? With awareness, can you begin to clear the cobwebs?
In Yoga, we use the breath work, or pranayama to clear out what no longer serves. If you come to a place in your practice and you feel the kleshas getting in the way, back off a bit. Go easy on yourself. Return to the breath work that you know. Notice. One by one, you can send every klesha packing until all that remains is who you always were before they moved in.
I know I’ve got a few kleshas paying for a long term rental. Maybe someday, I will learn to love my clipless pedals. Maybe I’ll decide riding clipless isn’t for me. Regardless, I know I’m not quitting. I’ve got too much to learn. Maybe one day my friend will return to her Yoga too.