How I was taught to slow down.
I suppose I’ve always tended towards impatience. My childhood was full of encouragement to dream big, excel in extracurricular activities, and play only when work was complete. I remember concluding that a day must not be productive if I didn’t put in at least eight solid hours of “work” towards my goals and responsibilities. I carried this busy mindset right on into my twenties, continuing directly into graduate school after college, and maintaining a steady stream of part-time jobs and leadership positions as I went. It wasn’t until after I had been working for over a year that I began to realize I had no idea what I was rushing towards anymore. I felt unsure of my long-term career goals, less than fully healthy for the first time in my life, and overcommitted to high achievement in an unsustainable way.
In the three years since, I’ve come to understand patience as a vital and powerful tool of transformation, and I recognize the following experiences as my greatest teachers.
I thought I was healthy…
In my early twenties, I began to experience symptoms of hormonal dysfunction that continued for about six years. I had recurring stress injuries, abnormal menses, decreased exercise tolerance, and I felt easily stressed to the point of tears. I sought the advice of numerous specialists in women’s health and endocrinology, and as testing came back inconclusive, their recommendations for prescription drugs seemed like a bandaid fix. Finally, I visited a highly regarded holistic practitioner, Dr. Anthony Salzarulo.
I learned that the likely causes of my hormonal imbalance were multiple and compounding — several years of underlying stress and anxiety over my career, student loan debt, and transient living situations, poorly managed blood sugar levels throughout the day, predominantly stress-inducing exercise (running), suboptimal quality of sleep, and unprocessed feelings of sadness and guilt from the ending of an important life relationship.
Understanding the complexity of my own health and taking ownership in turning the trajectory of dysfunction around was not an easy process. I felt irritated by the changes I needed to make in my daily routine and resistant to the introspection that was required. It took about nine months before I began to notice a difference in how I felt. I have now had no symptoms of abnormality in close to two years, and I know the necessity of patience in healing and lasting wellness.
Saying “no” and not missing out…
I am enthusiastic and industrious by nature, and this has led me, time and time again, to being overcommitted and overwhelmed. When I first came to New York City, I was stuck in a cycle of saying yes to everything. However, it is not a calming or comforting place, and I began to realize that my tendency to overbook was taking a negative toll on my physical health, work performance, mental clarity, and emotional well-being.
Inspired by a client, I tried saying “no” to small things at first — a lunch with someone here, an extra community event for work there. I started to have a bit of space and I liked it. I felt less rushed and more in control of everything I did. I then said “no” to training and racing marathons in the near future, and I said “no” to extra plans every weekend that left me without time to cook, read, write, and catch up on sleep. I thought I would feel like I was missing out on opportunities and experiences, but to my surprise, I felt the opposite. I finally had time to consider what I really wanted, and I was choosing with clarity what to engage in. De-cluttering my schedule has been monumental in teaching me patience, and I feel happier and more present in all that I do.
Finding yoga and meditation…
I didn’t enjoy yoga when I started to practice regularly. I was training for my first marathon at the time, and my sister agreed to join me on runs if I went with her to Yoga to the People on Friday mornings. It was so painful! My body was tight, I couldn’t feel my breath, and my mind resisted any efforts to slow it down. I recognize now that my impatience was being confronted head on with a discipline that is all about patience. I decided to stick with it for awhile because I didn’t understand how she and many others enjoyed it.
One day about six months in, something finally clicked. Perhaps it was how the morning light was filtering into the room and bouncing off of the wood floor, or the way we slipped into half pigeon pose after a challenging standing balance sequence, or the gentle persistence of Bon Iver’s voice from the speaker in the corner. I felt my breath move smoothly in and out, I sank farther into my left hip than I ever had before, and I knew that I was entirely present in that moment and it felt amazing.
As my yoga practice grows, I find myself equally drawn to the physical asanas and to the meditative benefits. Daily meditation is now part of my morning routine, and the two disciplines are a journey in self-discovery and patience that has no end.
I believe that life teaches us the lessons we need to learn if we are open-minded enough to recognize and embrace them. In taking a holistic approach to my health, saying “no” without regret, and studying yoga and meditation, I have found patience to be my greatest unexpected lesson. I now enjoy operating from a base of deep calm, continuing acceptance, gentle curiosity, and true presence. It is making all the difference.
Originally published at medium.com