At the end of class, I heard a couple of friends chatting with each other. I was packing up and not paying full attention to what they were saying, however my ears pricked up and the hair on the back of my neck bristled when I heard one say fairly harshly, to the other, ”You’ve GOTTA let that go.” I felt it was said in a cold and blunt way, without kindness or compassion for the other’s feelings. Why was I touched by this? Perhaps it’s a reflection of how one talks to herSELF, so that’s what she heard in her friend. Perhaps I’ve received unsolicited advice in the past and it has been hard to hear.
Let’s all practice self-compassion and kindness. Let’s practice addressing the challenges of life with less judgement, and more kindness. Without the feminine qualities of kindness and compassion for ourselves, how can we offer it to others? And so here begins my story of letting go, and facing fears. With this writing, I’m building a container of compassion and kindness for myself so that I may also hold myself during this challenging time.
I have wound down my yoga business and am transitioning out. I haven’t been able to make ends meet. The shame of loss and debt, and the shame of not being successful. The shame of comparing myself to others. Self-pity comes in… Why me? Why can others make it and not me? This is not true inquiry. These are habits, these statements, borne from feeling inadequate and my deepest fear. That no one loves me. Urrggh. There is it is…I feel unloved.
I have faced many fears since starting teaching yoga. The fear of speaking in public, the fear of being seen, the shame and inadequacy of not being flexible enough or wise and knowledgeable enough. The fear of not being good enough to be a teacher and the fear of failing.
Since making the choice to wind up my yoga business a couple of months ago, I’ve faced the fear and shame of failure head-on. The identification with the failure; “I am a failure” versus ”My yoga business has failed.” I’m purposefully using the word failure here rather than immediately reframing into something positive. I mean of course I have learnt many things running this business, and therefore I can say it is a success on this account. However I’m intentionally using the word failure, to decrease the taboo of failure, to reduce the shame of failure. Why in our society is success good and failure bad?
The Bhagavad Gita verse VI. 8 says a yogi is one who has equanimity of mind and can perceive a lump of clay and a lump of gold equally. Equanimity. Success and failure; clay and gold. All one and the same. It is only our mental judgements that make one good and one bad. And in order to truly succeed one must be unafraid of failing. Krsna says to Arjuna in verse BG II.48: Act without any thought of results and be open to success or failure. This is yoga.
Now, I’m feeling more at peace with failure. And in feeling at peace with failure, I’m more able to feel my courage and my ability to engage in - and with - all aspects of life. Loss and failure have brought me humility. With the arrival of humility, I feel faith in life unfolding for my highest good.
This is not the end. I don’t know yet how the story continues, but I know it’s not the end. Releasing the fear of failure has created space for things like wonder, faith and trust. I wonder what comes next? But for now, it’s just one step in front of the other. I don’t know what’s next, but I’m learning to embrace the uncertainty. Holding the duality of the fear and the excitement of what’s to come.
I feel my perceived failure is my greatest teaching contribution to my students so far. I’m showing up and living this story. I have been teaching about failure, about facing failure, about our shaky identities. This failing has made me a more bold and authentic teacher. Knowing I’m winding up my classes, I don’t have to worry as I’ve done before about whether the themes will be too ‘intense’ for my students and they won’t return.
So this is the teaching. It’s ok to fail. For things to not work out as you had planned or hoped. We never know what treasure is on the other side…