How do you ride your roller coaster?
Life is like a roller coaster. One second you are smooth sailing, comfortable, with a clear vision of where you are heading, the next moment you are jerked to the side, the earth falls from underneath your feet, you’re flipped upside down adamant you may vomit, then you fall back towards the earth feeling elated and on it goes. So how do you ride your rollercoaster? Do you grip on for dear life, close your eyes and wait for it to be over? Or do you throw your hands in the air like you just don’t care and surrender to the journey?
How many times have you been in a situation where you don’t want the moment to pass? Perhaps you are feeling so content, or so in love, or so comfortable, or so exhilarated that you do not want the moment to ever end. You grip and cling onto the situation for fear of losing what you have. And when it passes you feel an incredible sense of loss. So, later you try to recreate the moment or feeling or relationship moving in the same patterns. The thing we often forget though is that the only constant is change. No matter how much we grip, grasp, or cling, things change. Life happens. The rollercoaster ride continues to throw us about in a multitude of experiences and sensations.
Earlier this year I went to Movie World with a friend. I wasn’t really excited about going, I think it was because somewhere in the transition from adolescence to adulthood I had come to fear rides. As I awaited in the mammoth line for the first roller coaster, I felt the odd flutter of fear arise in my stomach but otherwise I felt remarkably calm. Perhaps it was my friend next to me slightly trembling, continuously counting down how many people there were in front of us, which made me calmer. Perhaps I felt I had to balance his energy?
As we sat in the plastic chairs of the carriage and pulled down our safety belts (which we both checked several times), I felt my breath automatically start to lengthen, yes lengthen. I was shocked! I was automatically calming my nervous system down rather than the old hyperventilating on the brink of panic attack I used to have on rides years before this. Then as we took off I noticed I was gripping my body. My feet were flexed, my hip flexors were tight, my arms impenetrably locked, my fingers becoming white as I held on for dear life. And then I found myself asking ‘why’? How could putting myself into this tight, rigid posture possibly change the outcome of this ride? Would I really be able to hang on if the bars suddenly lifted mid circle? Would I really be uninjured if I fell in this rigid box of a position? The answer was ‘no’ and without much more than that I actively allowed my body to soften. I released my grip and started to move in sync with the carriage. Being fiercely strapped into this already moving roller coaster I was unable to change my fate and so I just went with the flow.
As a consequence I found myself laughing, and my screams were not screams of terror but of pure joy. Half way through the ride (please note all of this happened within seconds – I’m pretty sure the ride was 15 seconds long) I looked over to my friend who was indeed gripping for dear life, he was in pain from holding on so tight, absolutely white in the face, and hair literally sticking up on end. We continued onto every ride and the same thing happened each time. I let go and felt joyous, he gripped tightly and came out absolutely terrified.
As a yoga teacher we often tell our students to take what you learn and how you behave on your mat into life with you. This theme park experience was one of the times I realised my yoga practise has actually had an effect on my life. We often don’t have a choice in our circumstances but we do have a choice in whether we chose to suffer or find the light in times of pain, intensity, chaos. Easier said than done, I know, but over time if we make the choice to just “go with the flow”, life starts to become easier and more enjoyable.
So today I ask you, how do you ride your rollercoaster? What are you gripping, clinging, grasping to that you have no control over? Can you let go or even loosen your grip? Can you go with the flow? And are you making decisions in your life based on fear or courage? My motto this week has been:
Let go and go with the flow!
Always easier said than done, but already this week has proved to be more fun, joyous and a whole lot less painful!