Yogi Assignment: Facing Failure

We need look no further than ourselves to recognize that we live in a fallen world. There is not one human being who is perfect, living in absolute Divine harmony. We all stumble and fall. Our mistakes and our failures have the potential to teach us or to destroy us. If devolve into self-denigration you miss the chance to evolve. If you deny ever making a mistake your pride will make you unteachable. The yoga practice teaches you how to face the lowest places within yourself, rise up and never be vanquished. You find the strength it takes to do whatever it takes, no matter how long it takes to stay on the path.

I cannot count how many times I’ve failed. We may not like the word failure, but sometimes it’s ok to admit that things didn’t work out and that you made a mistake. I make mistakes every day and find myself staring at the mirror image of my own weakness. The key is to learn from your failures and mistakes so that they make you stronger and wiser. The strength never comes from me. This “I” of the ego is nothing. The strength is always a gift of Grace that happens when “I” get out of my own way. Whatever light you see in me is merely the reflection of a larger, grander Higher Power that shines brighter than a thousand suns.

Failure used to be a big fear of mine. In fact, there was a time when I felt like I was being tested, and in each of these tests, I’d reach a critical point and fail. This was when I first started yoga and everything felt like a playground of spiritual realization. Whether it was sunny or cloudy, whether I forgot or remembered my email password, whether I could do a headstand or not—everything felt like some sort of test, and, unluckily for me, I was always failing. My mind got tied up into such a knot that I barely found my way out.

It may sound strange to hear all this now, but the reason I started yoga was on a deep spiritual quest for peace. My emotions ruled my life and lead me to soaring highs and crushing lows. In one moment I could be feeling like queen of the world, next like I wanted my life to end. I would vacillate from feeling fabulous and invincible to judging myself harshly and quitting for good. It was rough. My mind was not a safe space for anyone to be.

Then, I found this practice and through years of dedication I’ve learned equanimity, how to not be disturbed by my emotions and I found the strength to face failure (both real and imagined). I’m not saying it’s easy, but it is possible to carve out a path filled with love and light amidst the inevitable struggles of life. In some ways I’m still that same girl who over spiritualizes everything and stresses the small stuff. And in another sense, I’m someone else entirely.

This week’s Yogi Assignment is Face Your Failure. It’s a complex one that requires bravery. I want you to practice admitting your mistakes and failures in a calm and self-confident manner. When someone points out a mistake, pause and reflect instead of immediately getting defensive. If necessary apologize and claim responsibility, but don’t fall into the trap of flogging yourself. Analyze your behavior and learn from your mistakes so that you do it better next time. Whether big or small the first in learning from our mistakes is admitting that we made one in the first place. Every time you admit that you have stumbled, the ego is worn away just a bit. By embracing your imperfections you move closer to a state of peace.

Yoga teaches you how to move beyond your self, to transcend the personal so that you can vibrate with the universal, to shift your attention away from the effects so you can inhabit the realm of causes. It’s a process that cannot be rushed. Eventually your inner eyes will open and you’ll wake up to the simple truth of who you are, the bright, pure whole vibration of your inner being. I’m not afraid of failure anymore because I’ve realized that no matter how hard you try, you can’t mess it all up. We are here to learn, to share love, not to judge. You can get in your own way a lot, and I certainly have, you can make it harder or easier, but you can’t stop it if it’s meant to be. Breathe. Let it go. It’s not on you anyway.

It is not our perfection that defines us, but our vulnerability, our broken-heartedness and our weakness. The human experience is about love, a love so big and great that it holds all the good and all the bad, all the light and all the shadow, a love beyond duality. We are not here to sit on the top of a hill and look down on everyone. We are here to live with compassion, to suffer with one another, until each and every one of us is lifted up in the tidal wave of love.

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