Years ago, I only went to my yoga mat to exercise. My mind didn’t come with me. It made the grocery list or solved a marketing dilemma. My body powered through while my mind was over there, doing its thing. That’s what worked for me then.
Yet, my consistently showing up on my mat moved me, gradually, inward. These days, I go to my mat with a singular intention: to be with myself.
The moment I step onto my mat, I commit that the practice is between me and me. The pieces that want to hold me separate from me, I gently invite them onto the mat, too. I notice the strays. I look for what’s lingering outside of me and I open the door for them.
And then, there are those times, like Sunday, when my teachers show me the way to a part of me. Sunday’s teacher pointed me to be okay with being uncertain--uncertain in the practice and uncertain about life. Sunday’s practice was in an unfamiliar studio led by a teacher unknown to me, so I had already observed my ego wanting to be seen as a good yogi. I heard my ego say, “I’m a yoga teacher, so I’ll need to show up as an expert.” As my ego chatted, I felt my body gird against exploring uncertainty. My ego likes to be certain about my path, certain of my success, certain of my impact, certain that I can hold plank pose, certain of my relationship. There is a part of me that works hard to make sure everything turns out as I think it’s supposed to turn out.
Contemplating my teacher’s invitation, hearing it as I breathed, I was able to open the part of me that was hesitant to look at uncertainty. It began with a dialogue between me and me that sounded something like this:
ME: What would be the opposite of uncertainty?
ME: Not necessarily. We can wholly choose uncertainty. We can only surrender our desire for certainty.
Me: Oh. We can choose to be okay with uncertainty, but we can’t force certainty?
ME: Yes, certainty isn’t ours to grasp and, indeed, when we try to reach for certainty, the grasp becomes a grip and the energy required to try to hang on is exhausting. The opposite of uncertainty, therefore, must be curiosity.
Me: Curiosity. A sense of wonder about what we can’t be certain about?
ME: Right. Curiosity about what’s yet to be. Curiosity about the path ahead. Curiosity about how to move steadily toward your dreams. Curiosity about what a relationship wants to offer. Curiosity--the lightness of it uplifts and sparks something of the unknown and unseen.
Yoga’s way is to offer the body an experience, a concept illuminated by movement, so I paused the dialogue and let my body feel the uncertainty in the next asana, pigeon pose. I invited my body to be curious about how I could soften my hips a little more. Could I trust my own flexibility and let go of how I was holding my hips in place? Could I horizontally align my forward-leg’s shin with the front of the mat? Or could I not care about challenging my body and be okay with feeling less expert? Could I be completely uncertain about how my body might respond? Could I quit and simply rest in savasana for the rest of the practice?
My body showed me that it is all okay--the uncertainty, the curiosity. And in this practice, I surrendered to the truth: little about this life is certain. Little about today or tomorrow or next Tuesday is certain. I think the sun will rise--it has for millions of years--and I can be curious about its intensity more than I can be concerned about the day it might not appear. As philosopher Erich Fromm wrote, “The quest for certainty blocks the search for meaning. Uncertainty is the very condition to impel [us] to unfold [our] powers.”
For a day, just let yourself be in the state of uncertainty. Be led by your curiosity. Surrender into not knowing. If you need something to help you, move your body into the felt experience of uncertainty. Be with you.