I feel it happening, little by little, as each slightly embarrassing bead of sweat leaks out of my skin and hits the yoga mat.
I’ve been doing hot yoga for two weeks now and sometimes when one of those little suckers hits the mat I still instinctively think…ew.
But I already don’t think it as often as when I first started.
I am trying to think of each little teeny plopping sound as a marker of progress—like I’m letting go of little bits of myself that I don’t need anymore.
Little salty tear-like drops of myself, just coming out.
Our bodies are strange and unpretty things.
With every little push, it just falls away. But the pushing part is work. It’s good work, but not always comfy.
That is part of the growth process, after all. That it is why we are all in that steamy stinky intense room together.
Those little sweat droplets are the pathway into the new life that I am building.
Middle-aged. Single. Insular. Footloose. Unsure.
Maybe too free.
You could call this a kind of detoxing—but that implies that it’s possible to get it all out in one go. It doesn’t come out in one go. It’s much more complicated than that. It takes time to actually transform.
Even to “lose” one pound (change our body) takes time.
Squeezing my body (fat) into pretzel-ish formations. Looking at it in the mirror. Not being happy with what I see, but doing the thing anyway. Trying anyway. Knowing that after each class I can feel it getting there. Such small steps.
The scariest thing about changing your body is that to do it for good, you have to step away from the habits that are so deeply ingrained. Sometimes that means friendships, family, other things that make you happy.
With every little bit of trying, with every little push into dropping that sweat, it gets easier. What gets easier is not the yoga, but the understanding that the loving (ourselves, another) is in the doing, not the seeing.
It is not easy to know when that is not what you’ve really known for the past 36 or so years.
I’ve figured a bit of that out, but mostly what I know, deep down, is not that. It’s not ingrained in my psyche that doing something active daily (and leaving out a ton of other stuff) is what will keep me the most solid and genuinely joyful in the long run.
We are taught that an 8 hour work day is the priority and then if we’re lucky/determined we get an hour on a treadmill every other day and that’s enough.
Except it is absolutely not enough!
And that makes me mad.
Nothing to do with my particular upbringing, but with how deeply we are generally conditioned to just do what we are “supposed” to do—which generally does not leave much room for deeply caring for ourselves or our space or our planet.
How are we living like this?
So, this is sort of a metaphor for all that most of us have to spend time unlearning in order to find the spaces where the real joy comes through. Exercise is just a facet of this, an example of the kind of thing that most of us just aren’t offered or taught or brought up with.
So with this as an example, what I didn’t quite know before is that the belief in self—in change—comes with the action of grounding down, something that feels like pain but is actually just feeling.
There are so many bits and pieces to unlearn and let go of, each facet of life affecting the next. Each piece of crap that’s let go of affects the others.
We have ourselves so deeply convinced that a specific thing is “good” that we don’t even know that it’s crap. Or maybe we know that it’s crap but we don’t understand how that one thing deeply affects the rest of our lives and the lives of others.
For instance: insisting on buying the cheap soap at Walmart because it’s on sale. It’s just one thing but over and over again it’s so much more.
Or not keeping an extra bag in your purse. It’s just one thing but it’s a habit that in the grand scheme of things is about so much more.
It’s freaking hard to unlearn the crap.
But it’s the only way we can let in the good.
For me, a part of this was was releasing my hold on most of my possessions about seven months ago with the long term intention of not having much stuff. But with an influx of money and time that came with moving to a new city, that meant more money and time to buy stuff.
And holy crap is it amazing when I invest in something of quality that I know I’ll use regularly for years to come.
But there is still lots of crap to be sorted through and dropped off.
So this is a lifelong thing, this getting lighter. But I’m doing it. It’s not a smooth road. I fell off the path a couple of times but I’m back (still) on it.
I know that the people that do and have and will love(d) me for real don’t care about the new creases on my face or the growing patches of cellulite on my body. Maybe I can change those too sometime.
That’s not really important in the long run but it’s a part of a bigger picture that is scary: aging.
Change is scary. I’ve read and felt that a thousand times in small ways. But actually figuring out what the crap is that you have to drop and admitting that it’s crap is the scarier part.
With every real thing dropped, I’m lighter and freer to actually live right, to do this life thing in the best way I possibly can.
That’s where I’m at.
Renée Picard is an editor and columnist at elephant journal. She prefers real conversation over small talk, red over pink, ocean over mountains. She leads life with a soft-but-fierce heart. For her, writing is an instinct, craft, a heart-thing. For more, check out her personal blog and Medium page. You can also follow her on Facebook, Twitter and I