The following piece was written by Brianna Goodman, copy and features editor for MindBodyBrew. Brianna teaches Yoga with The Perri Institute for Mind and Body in New York City. She currently attends Fordham University, where she is pursuing a degree in English and Creative Writing, with a minor in Communications.
“We do not succeed in changing things in accordance with our desires, but gradually our desires change. The situation that we hoped to change because it was intolerable becomes unimportant to us. We have failed to surmount the obstacle, as we were absolutely determined to do, but life has taken us round it, led us beyond it, and then if we turn round to gaze into the distance of the past, we can barely see it, so imperceptible has it become.” - Marcel Proust
At one point or another, we’ve all heard it: ‘The only person you can change is yourself.’ It is wise and—as far as I’ve discovered—true, but from time to time it’s easy to forget. Often we so adamantly seek some sort of end goal, whether it be a lifestyle, a relationship, a career, etc., that the people and obstacles that block our way feel like variables that must be conquered. If we could only convince her of this. If we could only make him do that. If only the landlord would lower our rent, or the subway would arrive quicker, or this specific agency would read my work, or the street noise would grow quiet when I’m trying to fall asleep—then I could have what I want. But of course life doesn’t work that way. And often when we view the uncontrollable not as antagonists, but as welcomed events of our grander life story, we discover that our narrowed focus was actually not the ideal—that it prevented us from experiencing all that was at our disposal. A one-track mind is unable to recognize that what it thinks it wants might be nothing like what it actually needs. It seeks a reality that does not exist, a reality that tears our focus away from the reality we should be focusing on: the one that we’re living right now.
Ambition can be fruitful—but not at the expense of an open mind. Goals inspire us and encourage us, and they inspire passionate work that is very positive. But goals do not have to be immovable. They do not have to be un-malleable. Our desires, as Proust writes, change. So, in both our yoga practice and in our daily lives, perhaps we can find a balance that allows us to work towards our destinations, but to be present to the possibility that the destinations might change. Life might take us left of where we think we should be going, but, as it turns out, left might be exactly where we now want to be.
Are there goals or desires you cling to that perhaps no longer serve you? Are there moments in which you fight to change circumstances—or people—that just can’t be changed? Are there changes you desire that can be achieved by a shift in your own mindset, or a willingness to be open to alternative possibilities?