Life can drastically change in a moment. It can happen over the stupidest of things – like spilled jelly beans. The littlest thing can trigger major transformation.
Relationships come in many shapes and colors, just like jelly beans. Relationships can be colorfully eye-opening, purposeful, and life changing. Most relationships are a result of a need to satisfy some desire. We may desire a little something sweet and before realizing it, we've eaten the entire bowl of jelly beans. Our unconscious behavior lacks discipline, self control, and awareness. In moments of weakness and vulnerability we may act or react without foresight, and consequently; we may feel taken off guard when we're faced with a belly ache. Impetuous, irrational behavior can make us defensive, blaming -- full of excuses, needing to cover up the shame and guilt of acting out of control.
We all have basic human needs -- we want attention, trust, safety, autonomy -- we want to feel industrious, capable, worthy, and love-able. Some of our needs go unmet by our mother and father, or caregivers, instigating a search for someone or something to satisfy what's missing.
While relationships can be messy and emotional, they also can be extremely fulfilling – at least for awhile. You see, no conditional relationship can ever truly satisfy our needs. Relationships make seeing objectively somewhat difficult – if not impossible; it's easy to lose the self when we're so engaged externally – the self gets entangled and misled.
What we seek in relationship is relative to what we need. We may act excessively or not at all. Whether we are sweet or sour, spend or hoard, say yes or no, scream or fold, lie and cheat or help and heal, our behavior is a product of our past experiences and is an unconscious attempt at working out unresolved issues.
The past is always playing itself out -- always affecting the present moment and continually influences and shapes our future. Relationships can help us or hurt us as we climb to get somewhere, attempt to do something, or struggle to work out our stuff.
The lessons we learn ultimately depend on when we are ready to face the truth.
Bikram yoga is the healthiest relationship I've had for over thirty years. It's consistent, reliable, truthful and always difficult. It's the backdrop for which I gauge daily growth; it's what I rely on for objectivity – it lets me take stock of myself because it doesn't interfere – it serves my best interest – it allows me to look and to "see" my Self as I truly am.
Although this hot yoga sequence may appear rather boring to many, the repetitive nature of the postures is what makes this practice unique and so effective. The repetition and consistency are the constants for becoming aware and for gaining insight. While my attitude, mood, mindset, strength, flexibility, thirst, clothing, hairstyle, and class time are variable and may change daily, the sequence does not. In order to effectively measure change or growth, we need a reliable source of comparison for which to rely. Bikram yoga is that constant source. It's given me what I've needed over the course of three decades and has enabled me to notice incremental and monumental self growth.
This yoga is not about mastering the postures. No, that would be ego. It's not about looking around the room to see who's nailing it -- who's doing it better. No, that would be how we live day-to-day in the outside world – always comparing, measuring up, and noticing externals – blinding working towards achieving goals that are not aligned with our inner truth, our highest Self.
Bikram yoga is about the process – not the end result. It forces me to shut out the world – to look within – to notice -- . . . breath, flexibility, tightness, resistance, ease, stillness . . .
It's challenging my self to stay in the room – to notice resistance and to stay in the present moment. By staying in the now, I get in touch with what I need – to tune in to what's going on within, to recognize distraction -- and to stay focused, to stay engaged from within -- simply noticing.
Everyday in the hot room, the predictability of the postures and the mantra-like dialogued instruction, provides structure and familiarity so I can feel safe to explore, eager to experiment, able to trust -- there's always room for learning -- and it's life long . . . it's my work in progress.
It's all about noticing . . . especially breath, pain/ body, what the body's trying to express, where the body's holding emotionally, what my mind's chattering . . .
Steady growth stems from being firmly grounded, present with moment-to-moment awareness, focusing on the breath -- our life force. Bikram allows consistent growth because as I gain awareness, I sense where I am. It offers a stable foundation, a solid friendship – TRUTH – so that I can consistently measure progress – I can notice where I am -- relative to where I was -- a second ago, a minute ago, an hour ago, yesterday, a week ago, a month ago, a year ago, ten years ago . . .
The yoga practice doesn't lie . . . it's unlike conditional relationships.
While God is my ultimate stability, my main backdrop, Bikram provides anchorage physically – it permits me to explore in greater depth – to scan my interior landscape -- mentally -- emotionally -- physically – The asanas and breathing exercises prepare me to hear spirit's knocking -- it offers the stillness necessary to listen so that I can hear my inner voice calling.
Bikram yoga is a practical, somatic experience for which I can work out all of my stuff – to engage my mind with my body in a way that allows for noticing -- emotions, mental activity, and physical discomfort or distress. It's a daily challenge -- my ritual -- for getting a grip on things. It's my bank account – each day's an investment, the investment is cumulative and progressive, and the dividends appreciate and pay off immediately.
Bikram yoga is my greatest physical investment – it lets me blow off the daily buildup so that I can get on to enjoying the more important things – like getting to know the truth behind the scenes -- exploring and experiencing interiorly so I may authentically engage and flow joyfully with life, instead of fighting with it.
Bikram yoga is my mirror of truth; as I face truth, I am better able to see truth in others -- to see my reflection everywhere. There's no one to blame. There are no excuses. It's just me and my Self – battling it out. And after each day's battle, I leave it all in the hot room -- I feel clearer, more able to bring my practice outside into the world, where my true practice begins.
This brings me to my jelly bean experience. Jelly beans cost me a friendship – actually cut me free from an unhealthy relationship; they were part of the process – they were a gift for which I am grateful. People, situations, things -- come and go – to serve a purpose. Unfortunately, I, like many of us, fail to recognize the lessons at the time . . . but eventually . . . over time, there's clarity.
Thanks to a consistent yoga practice, I didn't lose much sleep over spilled jelly beans. I traded a “friend" for invaluable insight and all it took was a misunderstanding -- a jelly bean spill.
This beautiful, typical sunny California afternoon caught me a little off guard; I got tied up, quite literally. My pantry completely collapsed, and I was at the bottom of the pile -- meanwhile, my boys were "playing" outside. Ironically, this was one of the rare occasions that my oldest son Tommy (H.S. soph.) chose to go outside to play with his younger brothers and some of their friends. Well, lo and behold, this turned out to be a very memorable day -- all hell was about to break loose. While I was having a little trouble of my own, apparently there was trouble brewing right outside my front door.
A friendly little soccer game turned into a complete shit show. And to make a long story short, it all happened because of divine trajectory -- in the form of a soccer ball. One of the kids kicked the ball – the timing was absolutely perfect – the ball hit its target – in precisely the right moment -- exactly as a little second-grade school boy, the guest of my neighbor's son, stood gleamingly -- exiting the neighbor's home, smiling, with his fresh bowl full of jelly beans. Well, it didn't take long, actually, just a split second for his jelly beans to hit the asphalt, for the game to come to an end, and for the shit to hit the fan!
You can't make this up . . . really . . . the ball came down, hit the bowl of jelly beans, jelly beans everywhere; kid's crying -- complete shit show. Kid runs back into the house. My neighbor and “friend” comes running out of her house in a frenzy. Not knowing exactly what happened but from her houseguest's blubbering, she reacts. She yells at everyone, targeting the older boys. She blames the older kids for intentionally bullying the little ones. She's so aroused, she can think straight. She can't hear anything but sound of her own voice, she's completely self absorbed.
Meanwhile, I'm inside, still wrestling shelves. My kids storm through the front door, telling me all about what just happened. They're laughing, shaking their heads in disbelief, upon witnessing yet another all-too-common display of adult absurdity. My kids have grown accustomed to it by now. It's been the adults that interfere and mess it all up; the kids usually do a good job of working things out on their own. Conditioning has already started, the kids experience unfair treatment -- quite daily -- everywhere -- everyday in the classroom -- by teachers, on the field -- by coaches, and in life -- by authority figures, in general. It's nothing new to them. They've learned how to shrug it off, to just accept it -- they tend to forgive but don't always forget -- still, they move on.
But, knowing this lady friend of mine all too well, we won't be moving on so quickly. I suspected that there would be a bunch of bullshit on the way.
So, I instructed my oldest son to go down to her house, to apologize and to let her know what really happened. He does, but she's not at home. Tommy doesn't get the chance to apologize in person and to explain what happened. Next, I tell him to call the mom of the boy whose jelly beans got wrecked. He does. They have a nice, mature conversation. The kid's mom appreciates the phone call and is very understanding. End of story, for now.
Well, the next day is a different story. Driving home from after-school pick-up, I'm taken off guard, once again, unprepared for what's to occur on the receiving end of my cell phone. I wasn't ready for the verbal attack for which I would receive. Unable to get a word in, between "where were you when all this happened?" and "your kids are so disrespectful," the call drops -- Luckily, I was descending Valley Christian's steep downhill roads. I was deep in the valley, a place where cell phone reception is impossible. Coincidence? Probably not. I knew what happened. I felt an odd sense of peace. I kept driving. And I didn't bother to call her back. I just let it go. The attacks would continue. She was relentless, she was on a mission. Her full out attack . . . had her unable to hear anything. She simply needed to vent.
This miniscule jelly bean incident started a domino effect of blaming, storytelling, spinning out of control -- my unwillingness to participate only fueled her hysteria and paranoia. She needed to spread word to everyone, to tell her story to anyone who would listen. . . my poor "friend" lost her shit. She couldn't get over the fact that my son would call the kid's mom to apologize and not attempt to apologize to her. How disrespectful. Unfortunately, she was so caught up in fighting she never stopped to ask any questions, she couldn't think rationally -- she couldn't listen. She was so full of hostility, she only saw hostility. She was so angry; she only saw anger. This was her point of view and it was what she saw in everyone and in everything. So full of sour jellybeans!
It's just not worth it. The details aren't worth replaying. This entire event played out, for me and my kids, as it was supposed to, and we never had to say one word. The experience was enlightening, to say to least; it was one of my memorable adult learning experiences -- such a huge opportunity to practice awareness, for measuring growth and for gaining perspective.
By not engaging, by letting her spin herself out of control, her negativity gained momentum. As she got more frustrated with my lack of engagement, she grew even more desperate and needed more supporters so she could keep up with her insanity -- to keep her story alive.
Yes, I witnessed total craziness – complete insanity. But I got to see things clearly -- I got to notice. I, as well as my kids and my family, was simply a number in this lady's life. We served as targets for her to spew her shit. We had to let it happen. It was like a tornado that needed to run its course. We only needed to get out of her way. And the truth made getting out of her way easy to do. Knowing the facts was all we needed; the rest was her problem.
I never engaged. I let it all happen.
It was at this point that I actually realized how reality gets spun-- it's relative, it's individual perspective. We see from a limited lens. When we get enraged and entangled, there's no room for hearing the truth. The only way to deal with unreasonable, unaware people is to disengage, to retreat, to let them go.
And when all the neighbors want in on the gossip, want to engage in the bullshit, you let them go too. You simply don't engage.
My kids and I got to experience craziness first-hand, at its finest; we watched it unfold, without reacting, without engaging. Eventually, she was done with me (us), and she moved on -- to the many others. all lined up and waiting their turn, waiting for her to call their number. They, too, would soon learn the value of disengagement.
So, what appeared on the surface to be a war over spilled jelly beans was actually more deeply rooted.
The lesson: when we lose our shit or someone loses it on us, remember, it's usually not about jelly beans. No, there's something bigger going on – you're just the trigger.
Each person is our mirror – and life presents opportunity after opportunity to look within – to pay attention to our reaction – to understand how each relationship triggers unresolved issues.
This incident, like everything in our lives, happened at exactly the right time in my life. As I was shedding old beliefs, working hard -- trying to shake off and recover from years of East Coast mindless frenetic doing-- I was trying to live - out on the West Coast, practicing being. So I had to have a face off. It took an experience with another East Coast girl, living 3.000 miles from home, all the way in California, to get my lesson in awareness -- to practice the theory of being, to appreciate contrast, to focus on seeing the beauty in life -- not just all the apparent ugliness.
God sure splashed a colorful array of truth in my face; he threw me a bowl of jelly beans to test me, to see how I was coming along, he wanted to see how I would react.
'How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!”
I'll admit, the lesson wasn't easy. It took everything in me to remain non-reactive, to resist the old me who wanted to punch this chick right in the face. But I didn't. I took the higher road. I maintained composure, I kept awareness. With the grace of God, having Him in the backdrop, I realized truth – I saw the lesson, I passed.
It's definitely been the little lessons that have been the most difficult. Each and every day brings tests or opportunities – But when you're aligned and working on the self, it's much easier to have the answers to the test. To forgive, to understand, and to move on – are choices we can make -- opportunities to shake off the external nonsense in order to penetrate what really matters --God wants us to taste real sweetness -- to have internal guidance, intuition for discovering the satiating nectar of truth. His truth.
Each day truly is an opportunity to pick up our spilled jelly beans, to blow them off, and to enjoy them. The choices are ours . . . so too are the consequences.
Ironically I never was a fan of jelly beans, now I know why.