“And the day came when the risk to remain in a tight bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” ~Anais Nin
I don’t know how many times I have seen or heard this quote over the years. In fact, a friend of mine posted it on Facebook just the other day. I do remember exactly when and where I was when I first saw it, though. It was April, 2001 and I was standing in the kitchen of the house of my brand new friend, Stacie, whom I had only met a few hours earlier and who would soon become one of my soul-sister best friends in the whole world. It was Friday and I had just arrived into Santa Barbara, CA to begin a 10-day teacher training journey with Erich Schiffmann, who, unbeknownst to me, would soon become my modern day guru, my dear brother and friend, and many years later, my Freedom Style Yoga colleague.
Stacie was a “local yogi” who had decided to rent out a room in her house to a teacher trainee coming in from out of town. I was standing in Stacie’s kitchen, looking at pictures of her young daughter on the refrigerator, and this quote was written in Stacie’s hand, tacked up on the side of the fridge with magnets. It blew me away in every way. In fact, I immediately wrote it down in the very front of my blank notebook for the teacher training, which would soon be filled with notes of Erich wisdom that I didn’t even really understand yet, followed by class plans for every single class I would teach for the next two years, which would teach me so much about sequencing that I would no longer need actual class plans anymore. I had no idea that this quote would be part of the beginnings of my magical, mystical yoga journey, that continues to this day.
And the day came when the risk to remain in a tight bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.
When I think about a plant blossoming, it’s a long process. It takes time and there are a lot of things happening behind the scenes before the bud appears on the branch or the vine. First, the plant has to grow from a tiny seed. The seed cracks open, roots form and become established, tiny leaves begin to grow. Once it leaves the darkness and safety of the warm ground, the little plant is pounded by every sort of weather as it pushes up against gravity toward the light: rain, snow, blazing sun, flood, drought. It endures. If it doesn’t endure, it won’t grow strong enough to eventually blossom. And the whole point of the blossom is to bear fruit.
I find that so interesting, but what really strikes me about this quote is this: choice and risk. I don’t know if a plant has actual conscious choice about whether it blooms and grows or not, but I think we do. In any moment, I have the choice whether to shrink, stay small, and play it safe by staying in the familiar…or, I can choose to relax, expand into the new territory of the unknown and into my personal Scary Biggie: letting myself be seen. For me, that is the risk of all risks.
For so long, my whole life, really, my choice has been to stay in that tight bud. Smallness feels safe, for me. When I contract and shrink, it feels like I can blend in better and no one will notice me. I don’t have to feel risk, I don’t have to feel vulnerable and exposed, and I don’t feel those so-called “negative emotions.” Problem is, try as I may, I have discovered that it’s impossible to selectively feel. When I try to block out what I don’t want to feel – sadness, anger, fear – I also block out the good stuff that I want to feel – happiness, joy, peace, and love. When I play it small, I risk my own growth process; I stagnate in an eddy of my own fears and anxieties and constrict myself from feeling the freedom that comes from blooming open and turning my face toward the sun.
And the day came. Not one monumental day, but a collective day began to come. As I practiced yoga and meditation more and more, I began to have more moments of being willing to open. Little moments like these really add up, because the more I let go of trying to control the blooming, even just a little, the more the natural state of openness took over and the less I could shrink back to where I was. In 2010, I discovered a potent combination of transformation that really helped “the day” to arrive: Bhakti Yoga and 12-step recovery. My heart finally began to thaw…and feel. And the more I feel, the more I heal. The more I feel and heal, the more real I feel. It feels like so many old buds in myself are finally bursting wide open. Through Bhakti and recovery, I happened upon the incredible work of Brene Brown, which continues to help me dare greatly in the arena of authenticity by simply being who I am. Karla McLaren’s book, The Language of Emotions, has also helped me to let the blossoms burst forth. I had heard so often, in various yoga circles, that sadness is a waste of time, that anger is a worthless emotion, and that if you’re feeling fear then you’re not feeling love. Not so! I’ve learned that every emotion has a beauty of rich helpfulness. Sadness helps us let go of things, anger helps us restore our boundaries, and fear helps heighten our intuition so that we may move carefully through change.
And, of course, the Scary Biggie did happen. When the blossom finally unfolds itself and opens, then it’s seen. It’s noticed. Its sweet fragrance perfumes the air, it’s delicate beauty inspires, and then the fruit grows and ripens. After years of experiencing “the day” over and over, I finally began to feel brave enough to share my out-of-the box teachings, that don’t seem to fit into the traditional yoga mold. Next weekend I will be presenting my latest work on “finding your inner resonance” at the amazing Sun and Moon Yoga Studio in Arlington, Virginia. This work is on the current leading edge of my own personal discoveries and I’m so excited to share it with the open, loving yogis there who thrive on experiencing new ideas and new ways of practicing and living Yoga. I’m so very grateful. And, of course, I’m also anxious and fearful, as I am before every teaching engagement…but the risk to be Who I Am feels so much less risky than it used to. And that helps me to stay open and not shrink. Shrinking serves no one. It keeps the fruit from forming.
May you and I continue to find the courage to blossom today and every day. The world is in need of the specific fruit of each of our unique vines, not just fruit from some of the vines. Let’s be brave, let’s open up, and beautifully bloom. It’s worth the risk.