It's been a bit of a sad week for me. I've had to say goodbye to a class that I've been running since I first qualified three years ago. It has never been as busy as my other classes but there was a comraderie, a connection, between the students that made it worth pursuing despite the low numbers. And then, over the last twelve months, attendance became patchy and when numbers are wholly reliant on the same few faces showing up there reaches a point when it's time to face facts.
It wasn't a decision that came to me easily. I've come to know my students, their likes, dislikes, their patterns of movement and breath, and have been privileged to have been gifted little glimpses into their lives away from the mat. Over the last three years we had built ourselves our own little community that met for 90-minutes once a week to breath, sweat and swear together on our mats. I like to think we have become friends.
The collapse of the class is nobody's fault. My ego would probably like to stake a claim on the situation but the fact is life changes and impermanence runs the show. Illness, injuries, house moves, work commitments ~ all of these conspire to keep us on our toes with our wits about us. We need to be mentally supple, ready to adapt at a moment's notice. We sometimes need to discard things that no longer serve our new situation, even those things we enjoy. I knew this and yet still I clung, not wanting to face reality that this class was no longer viable.
Any self-employed yoga teacher will tell you that the fluctuations in income from week-to-week are terrifying. We're like any other person ~ we have bills that need paying no matter what's coming in. It is a precarious profession. So inevitably the point arrived when my heart lost the arm wrestle with my boring old head.
Yet despite all the angst, the worry and disappointment, I can now reflect that this has been a positive, learning experience. I had, over the past few months, been studying the concept of aparigraha ~ the fifth of the Yamas. Patanjali's Yoga Sutras (II, 39) say:
Agarigraha sthairye janmakathamta sambodhaha' (II Sutra 39)
Being established in non-accumulation gives knowledge of how births happen.
It not only refers to the quality of non-possessiveness, non-covetousness and non-grasping with regards to material possessions, but also includes the psychological idea of surrendering and relinquishing control and fear.
Yes, I had been clinging to this class. I had fear of losing people, income and losing face. I wanted to be able to control the situation and, blimey, how I wracked my brain to come up with schemes to entice the unwary member of public into my space like some budget-conscious spider in Sports Direct leggings. There had to something, right? If only I did this, or that, then things could be different. If only the town had a different demographic, if only people could commit. On and on and on I went, fit to bursting with shoulda-woulda-couldas.
Adyashanti (kick-arse Zen buddhist who is on the subject of enlightenment what Kevin McCloud is on the subject of being in before Christmas) says:
You will only lose when you resist reality; you will only struggle when you disagree with what is.
By resisting reality, by wishing things were different to how they actually were, I was creating my own suffering. So I began to let go. I stopped clinging and began accepting. Accepting is not the same as giving up. Giving up suggests, yes, a surrender but a surrender with a sighing attachment ~ you would prefer things to have worked out "better".
With acceptance there is no attachment, no preference. It is what it is. You let go, leaving space for something new to appear ~ "this is how birth happens".
Try it, let go of any idea of having a grand design. Control is an illusion. You won't know where you'll land but you'll sure as hell have fun shouting "Wheeeee!" on the way down.