After class it got me thinking more broadly about pushing limits, taking risks, exploring the edges of things. It also got me thinking about how my life increasingly doesn't involve a lot of risk, or failure, and how missing opportunities for exploring edges in this way is a real limit to personal growth. This connected with another theme I've been pondering lately that I call "when is a groove actually a rut," and was another reminder for me of the importance of seeking out new opportunities to learn, try new things, and being more open to failing.
Yoga provides many opportunities to quite literally be open to falling, and to be reminded that in many cases, there's just not such a huge downside, and a lot of potential upside. Good examples for me in yoga class are handstand and pincha mayurasana. I have done these poses for years without any problem when I do them in front of a wall - even though I rarely actually use the wall for balance. Not for physical balance anyway. But I feel the need for it psychologically. To know that if I fall I've got a safety net. But I'm starting to think that while the wall provides a sense of safety in the moment, it also is a figurative wall in the sense of blocking me from exploring something new and really embracing a new challenge.
I remember being at an event at the beginning of business school where we were tasked with creating something with very limited materials (I seem to remember straws and rubber bands being involved) that could protect an unboiled egg from cracking when dropped from about a 15-foot height. I'm fairly certain that in the end all of the eggs broke. But the point the professor in charge was trying to make with this activity was that "never again will the cost of failure be so low." And while the cost of failure in the safe bubble of business school might have been uniquely low, I think there are a lot of other aspects and times in our lives where the cost of failure is also rather low, and the cost of not taking risks and avoiding the possibility of failure is actually far higher.There might be discomfort with change or the unfamiliar, a fear of looking silly or not being good at something, but these are all generally very low costs. I think too often people (and certainly I) set up their lives and routines so things are comfortable and familiar; there is little chance of failure, but also little chance for growth and I think that ultimately this leads to a real sense of stagnation. There needs to be more playing at the edge of the unknown for there to be real growth.
So, I'm trying to find opportunities to push my boundaries, leave my comfort zone, take more risks. Returning to the yoga mat where this post began, I'm going to start doing my handstands and forearm balance in the middle of the room. (Perhaps that should also serve as a warning not to put your mat too close to mine in yoga class.) And in keeping with an overarching goal of yoga practice, I'm going to look to take this lesson off the mat as well."The person who risks nothing, does nothing, has nothing, is nothing, and becomes nothing. He may avoid suffering and sorrow, but he simply cannot learn and feel and change and grow and love and live." Leo F. Buscaglia