Mistakes were made

We took risks, we knew we took them.  Things have come out against us.  We have no cause for complaint.  Robert Frost

As I write this a key is laying on the table near me.  This key symbolizes a chance for me and the culmination of a great deal of hard work done and yet to be done.  When it was laid in my hand I wanted to cry or ask for a photograph of this great moment.  I didn’t though because that would have been embarrassing in a commercial real estate office.  This key opens up to a space I have dreamed of for years; my own yoga studio.  I am not a wealthy woman, in fact most months my husband and I just barely scrape by.  You could say we are on the lower end of the 99%.  I’ve been fortunate enough though to have found a husband that has taken ahold of my dreams as fiercely as I have.  All I’ve ever wanted is to be a great mom and to have something of my own; a place where I can take care of people, be creative, be independent and teach yoga.

This has not come easily and indeed I have just been given a ticket to much more hard work, stress and frustration.  This is a labor of love though and even though we have sacrificed a great deal to get here I consider this opportunity a privilege.  For the past 3 1/2 years I have made my living as a professional musician and independent yoga instructor.  I’ve built a name for myself and a loyal following of students for whom I have an unabashed affection.  I’ve learned how to take care of people and am learning to take care of myself.  I’ve endured long hours, an aching body, the instability of teaching in spaces where I can’t put down roots.  I’ve stood in empty rooms waiting for students who’ve never come, I’ve watched helplessly as the management for my rented teaching space has made poor decisions at a whim that have had major impact on my business and lively hood. It’s all seemed so fruitless at times and yet I’m terrified to give it up.

For months I’ve had an ongoing argument with myself about whether I was making a bad decision to expand and grow my yoga business.  I’ve truly suffered with this inevitable change because of the risk.  Risk tolerance is a term that is bandied about often in entrepreneur circles. Up until now my investment has been very small.   My husband and I… have no risk tolerance to speak of.  No rich aunt or parents on the sidelines to bail us out, this is all us, sink or swim.  We have not taken this lightly since we know that a business failure could spell disaster for us and absolutely impact our children.  “What if I fail?” is a question or more appropriately a wound I’ve been picking at alot lately.  I’ve tried to peek at the future in a hundred different ways but it refuses to give up it’s secrets.  I’ve been thinking of this idea Aparigraha  or non-attachment, an important tenant in the practice of yoga.  It’s something I explain to my students all the time.  “Always do your best, but never be attached to the result”, if I had a dollar for every time I said that…  Attachment breeds suffering.  We cannot see the future and though we may try to influence it we are not entitled to any particular result.

I recently read a post by a blogger I like very much called “What to pray for”.  The blogger brings up an idea that has been roaming around in my head for a while now,  a poignant story from the Bhagavad Gita about Arjuna.  Certainly Arjuna’s personal strife trumps mine in that he is facing a battle for his kingdom and his opponents are his kinsfolk.  He can’t see a way out of what must be done and falters.  Surely he will annihilate these people that he loves and respects.  Krishna the Hindu deity, Arjuna’s partner and protector tells him “By my hand these men are slain already”.  Man! Haven’t you been there before?  Maybe not right there, but between a rock and a hard place.  Each way you turn offers an equally poor or unstable outcome and yet a decision must be made.  Krishna absolves Arjuna by telling him that it is his moral duty to fight and win and that this duty supersedes any personal or spiritual gain.  You’d think that would make his job easier but I’m sure it didn’t.  The Bhagavad Gita elaborates upon yoga and specifically Karma Yoga, the yoga of action by saying “Work alone is your privilege, never the fruits thereof.  Never let the fruits of action be your motive; and never cease to work… be not affected by success or failure.”

Our decisions lead us to all sorts of places in life, and some of them result in failures.  But a failure is less of an event than a long path.  Mistakes are made and then we live with them.  As I am led to this place, this new precipice of possible success or failure with my business I am constantly reminding myself that I can only do my best, take a calculated risk and continue to do the work that is now my “moral duty”.  It also helps me to remember that I have failed before, mistakes have been made and I’m not ashamed to say it.  Somehow on those long dark paths of failure things started to lighten up though;  A failed marriage resulted in two exquisite children, a lost job forced me to rely more on my then new boyfriend, now new husband resulting in the most rewarding relationship of my life.  In other words things don’t just go black when a mistake occurs, they morph into something we can shape and render until it is workable and sometimes spectacular.  It is not for us to know the future or to strive for one single specific outcome.  We as yogis do the work for the sake of the work, for the privilege and opportunity to succeed or fail.  I take comfort in the knowledge that it is probable if not certain that I will make mistakes.  This is as far as I can see into the future so I will bask in this moment.  I have the immeasurable pleasure of teaching yoga, to people I adore in a new space I can call my own.  This is my great privilege.  To stay present each time I step onto my mat either as a student or as a teacher, to always try to do my best and let go of the result; this is my intention.  Namaste yogis.

Comments 9

  1. Mandy, I’m so excited for this new opportunity for you! I will definitely be coming…. It takes a lot of courage to open your own business but you have what it takes for it to be a success! Anne Cornell

  2. Your journey is inspirational. I have been teaching for seven years in a fine, fine studio – my excellent fortune. In another year or so, though, my wife and I will relocate half way across the country to New Mexico. And I plan to teach and even open a studio. My situation is different in the details – I’m 67 now and we’ll be (trying) to retire. But essentially our situations are about the same. I fear the consequences of no students showing up. And I don’t have any resources other than SS. So. Leap of faith.

    I can what-if myself into paralysis – can you relate? But lately I’ve taken a different approach. Humility is a key practice, I think. At least I believe it is for me. I am now in the, for me, difficult practice of acknowledging my gifts. There are things that I’m good at, and I should own and be thankful for those gifts. And furthermore, I should use those gifts in service. In fact, I should make an offering of the service that arises from my gifts. Give it away. Not for what it might get me – that wouldn’t be a sincere offering. I mean – here’s what I can offer, please accept it. (This would not be related to whether or not I was paid. That could be or not be, different subject altogether. The point as you know is about doing what I can do.)

    So, now if I want to play what-if, I think, What if I didn’t honor what has been given to me? What if I didn’t see grace staring me in the face? It’s a different game of what-if with no fear involved. This one is about love.

    Good luck! With the love and support of your husband, you’re starting off about as strongly as can be done. I like to recall something Yogi Bhajan said about when he had first landed in our country and was trying to get some classes going and at first people weren’t coming. He said, Some of the best classes I ever taught had no students.

    I’m going to borrow a little of your courage, if you don’t mind.

    1. David, I love what you said about the what if’s when no fear is involved. I think ultimately that is what I had to do. The option I really couldn’t live with was the one where I didn’t honor the path I’d taken myself on and decided to ignore, as you said, my gifts. I wonder all the time what I would do if I had no fear and sometimes that scares me 🙂 I do take comfort in that story about Arjuna though and I thank you for bringing it to my mind. The future is not ours to know and it would be audacious to think we had a role in it’s meanderings. Namaste David, thanks again for your wonderful words.

  3. Mandy, that was beautiful. I have always respected you as a teacher, but you are also a very gifted writer. I am touched by your story, and so incredibly happy for you. Congratulations!

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