“If failure isn’t an option then neither is success.” ~Seth Godin
A couple of weeks ago I asked a question on Badlands Yoga’s facebook page about challenge or comfort; you immediately caught the assumption in the question and reflected deeply about the value of each in your practice, responding a resounding, “Both!”
Yoga as the place where challenge and comfort paradoxically intersect is a theme found in the Yoga Sutras,”1.12 These thought patterns (vrittis) are mastered (nirodhah, regulated, coordinated, controlled, stilled, quieted) through practice (abhyasa) and non-attachment (vairagya).” Becoming clear and present in our body and mind requires both practice and letting go. Practice can sometimes stir up our own self judgement, measuring and striving - I’ve not gotten this right, I wobbled in tree pose, fell in Warrior I. The practice of yoga asks us to value the simply showing up and giving our selves our whole attention for a while.
The idea is similar to Seth Godin’s: if the activity isn’t important enough for there to be some stakes, maybe it’s not powerful enough to create transformation or be worth our investment. At the same time, focusing on the possibilities of failure and success will keep us from showing up and actually doing the work.
Sometimes the challenge of a yoga practice is facing whether your monkey mind will ever shut up; sometimes it’s whether you’ll be able to balance on one foot today, or taking headstand away from the wall. Sometimes the challenge is just showing up. Knowing that failure is an option can itself feel like the challenge because there are times in our lives when it seems like that option is closer more often than we’re comfortable with.
And facing the truth that failure is an option in meaningful pursuits, as Godin points out, can help us let go of the results. Yes, I probably won't have a peak experience every time I roll out my mat, and at times it may even be a frustrating or even a boring experience.
And, what I know from decades of experience is that even - perhaps mostly - those boring and frustrating practices, where it felt like fits and starts, wobbles and inner critic, those practices often somehow precede the days where I felt most at ease. Whether I get the unease out in the practice or somehow just facing the inner critic calms her down, I don’t know. Perhaps it’s different things on different days. But I know that showing up for myself on the mat, even on the most uncomfortable of days, facing the challenge and letting it go, leads to more happiness, ease and showing up in everything else the whole day through.