One of the highlights of my week each week is a class I teach for those recovering from substance abuse and PTSD. Each week I am continually moved by the enormous effort these students make in their steps towards recovery. As I was preparing for class last week, I came across a beautiful story by writer Portia Nelson.
This is titled, Chapters of My Life:
Chapter 1: I walked down the sidewalk and fell into a deep hole. I couldn’t get out and I couldn’t figure out why. It wasn’t my fault. It took a long time to get out.
Chapter 2: I walked down the sidewalk and fell into the same hole again. I couldn’t understand. It wasn’t my fault. I really had to struggle to get out.
Chapter 3: I walked down the same sidewalk and fell into the same hole again. This time I understood why and it was my fault. This time it was easier to get out.
Chapter 4: I walked down the sidewalk and saw the same big hold. I walked around it. I didn’t fall into that hole.
Chapter 5: I chose another sidewalk.
As I read this, I thought to myself, this so perfectly describes the work we do in our yoga practice. The “hole” doesn’t have to be substance abuse; it could be anything – depression, a repetitive argument you have with a parent, sibling or spouse, any habitual response that we wish we could change but so often happens before we even realize it…
Far too frequently, our responses and reactions are knee-jerk and seem to happen “to” us rather than “from” us. We continually travel the same path, making the rut in the road or the hole in the sidewalk bigger and bigger each time we pass through. Our yoga practice, the work of breathing and staying present through the first and 10,000 Warrior II pose is the work of pulling ourselves out of the hole. It is noticing, here I go again… This feels the same, but I HAVE THE CHOICE how I am going to react. Once we build the skill to notice, we will quickly find the needed strength to change the actions we wish to change.