How to Get Dumped, Change Your Life, and Become a Flawless Human Being

My first yoga experience was a men's class I took while I was working on my master's at Southern Connecticut State University. I loved it, finding the strength and flexibility training an invaluable complement to my years as a martial artist. Once the class ended, I was intrigued at the prospect of continuing at a real yoga school, but always managed to put it off.

Finally, in the face of a bad breakup, I decided to visit Newington Yoga Center, where my dad had been taking classes. It was love at first tadasana.

I'll have been practicing there two years this fall, and like starting karate or buying my first bass, taking that first class in Newington changed my life, and I can't imagine where I'd be without it.

I was privileged, near the end of my first year, to be asked if I'd like to do Teacher Training in 2013. I immediately accepted, and we've just passed the halfway mark this month. It's been an incredible experience.

About a week ago, I was asked if I'd like to write an article about Teacher Training for Elephant Journal.

I often tell my composition students that writing is a process of discovery, and writing this article helped me attain a deeper understanding of why Teacher Training and yoga in general have meant so much to me. I think you'll like it.

Special thanks to my editor, Kate, for dealing with my thoroughness.

Man Down

My band lost its vocalist a couple of weeks ago.

He didn't die or anything; he just quit—somewhat expectedly—for personal reasons.

His departure is kind of a drag because the music we had been covering was selected primarily out of a desire to compliment his vocal style. Now that he's out, we know about twenty songs and have no one to sing them.

Yet, despite the momentary setback, the band is in many ways rejuvenated.

Rather than consider the loss of our vocalist an impediment, the remaining memebrs immediately saw the opportunity to regroup and reframe our vision of the band. Speaking for myself, I had always felt we were pigeonholing ourselves by covering one particular style of music. While the songs were fun to play, I thought we were capable of playing material that better showcased our musicianship and individual tastes. My bandmates agreed. We now have the chance to expand our tonal palette and cover more diverse and interesting music.

We have eliminated the unnecessary. With four members, we had three dedicated guys and one semi-dedicated guy, which meant we were really only operating at 75%. There may be three of us left, but we can now operate at 100%, and the band as a whole will be better for it.

We have been delayed by the experience—we spent three months learning songs we mostly have to throw out now—but it's better that it happened now instead of a year down the road. It's a step back, yes, but it sets us up to take big steps forward.

As always, it's not what happens; it's how you deal with what happens.

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The Next Better Thing

What do you do when the love of your life decides they don’t want the job?

Like any loss, the first reaction is denial. It doesn’t make sense. Nothing makes sense. How can your heart be so sure of something, and then be wrong? How can your heart be wrong?

What makes someone the love of your life is that they defy expectations. They supersede all of your past relationships, and you can’t possibly envision someone better. You think, this is it. I don’t have to look anymore.

Unless they don’t agree.

And when that happens, we have no choice in the matter. All the confidence and love in the world is not enough to make someone feel something they don’t feel.

The pain and grief comes not only out of the loss of that person, but of the realization that now you’re back to zero. You thought you had a ten on your hands, and now you have nothing. And the despair comes from being unable to possibly imagine anything ever coming close to what you’ve lost.

But the thing is, something better will come.

You only know the love of your life so far. It’s easy to declare someone the best when you have no knowledge of who else is to come after. Sometimes, your heart is right, and there is no one else.

But when your heart is wrong, the only thing you can do is trust that the next best thing — the next better thing — is yet to come. Even if you can’t possibly imagine who they are, someone better is coming. Someone who defies your expectations in ways you’ve never even dreamed of.

It sounds impossible, but that’s because seeing is believing. It’s impossible to envision someone better until that someone arrives. But they are coming. We have to believe and be ready.

They’re on their way.

The Shawshank Question

Is hope a good thing?

It keeps you going through uncertain times, but that uncertainty can drive you insane.

So is it better to be hopeless? To know there is no chance, but to be certain about it?

I’m not sure, but having experienced both in close proximity to one another, I have to say that I miss having hope.

Hope is like a candle when you’re without electricity. Even when everything else is shrouded in darkness, there’s always that little flicker. The hope that some day, just maybe, things will brighten. Things will be OK. It comforts and consoles you.

And your imagination — being the absurdly powerful thing that it is — can take that little flicker and stoke it until it becomes a roaring fire filled with dreams and possibilities and a future that’s so good you can’t possibly envision anything else. How can something that good not come true?

I don’t know why, but it can.

Hopelessness means that the thing you were clinging to, protecting, nurturing, has vanished. There’s a void in your heart where it used to live. And it’s agonizing, especially if you’ve been holding onto it for a long time and have given it your complete confidence.

What makes hope insidious is that it can hinder you from achieving other things. If you’re busy holding on over here, you’ll miss what’s going on over there. And I know — you don’t want what’s over there. That’s natural as long as the hope for what’s over here exists.

Perhaps the realization of hope is inevitable. Eventually, it’s either going to come true or be crushed. Maybe it’s better to rip the bandage off quickly.

The only way to survive hope’s demise is to think of it in the context of freedom. Hope — like expectations — attaches you to an outcome. When that outcome doesn’t come true, your attachment to a thing is severed, and it hurts like hell.

But the pain will subside. Every passing moment brings you a little bit closer to being OK. Once the wounds heal, we are free to move forward. And as we move forward, we come closer to arriving at the next big thing. And — hopefully — the next big thing will be a sure thing.

An Irreparable Moment

I don’t regret very many things. I can hardly think of any off the top of my head.

I attribute this lack of regret to a conscious decision to think before I act, so as to avoid any regrettable actions entirely.

But sometimes I fuck up.

I only just learned the true significance of something I said almost a year ago. It was awful and insensitive and ignorant, and I can’t take it back. And so now I’m full of regret, reliving that moment over and over again, and finding new pain each time.

I don’t know if a single moment can cause the downfall of a relationship. You could argue that if it wasn’t that moment, it would have been some other moment. But it’s still hard not to wish for it back, to wonder what if it hadn’t happened, and to want to do it all over again.

Of course, the way I’d handle that moment now would be completely different. A way that wouldn’t cause so much irreversible damage. I’m powerless now to convince the person I hurt so deeply that my opinions have changed. It would only seem like an act of desperation.

I always tried to be the most supportive partner I could, and in one bad moment, I wasn’t, and it broke everything down. I can’t think of anything more regrettable.

It’s hard to know what to do with an irreparable moment. You can’t really do anything. All you can do is say, “I’m sorry”, and hope it’s enough. Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t. Maybe it’s enough to move forward, but not enough to go back.

You can’t control what another person thinks. The only thing you can control is you. Once you’ve expressed your regret, you have to let it go and trust that it will be enough. Don’t be a prisoner of the past. Be confident in the fact that you know how you feel now. Whether anyone else chooses to accept that is up to them.

Even though my mistake contributed to the loss of my relationship, and even though that fact kills me, I’m better off having learned from the experience. Whoever comes next will get a better version of me, one that will never make the same mistake again.

A Prisoner of the Past

Crave translates into slave
John Roderick

When we lose something wonderful, we experience a natural desire to get that thing back — to get back to the way things were.

This desire arises out of attachment to that thing. When we lose something wonderful, we lose a part of ourselves. Part of our identity was defined by that thing, and so part of our identity must be rebuilt.

Rebuilding can be exceptionally difficult and painful, especially when we convince ourselves that the only way to rebuild is to recover the thing that was lost.

Unfortunately, the loss of the thing is often permanent, which only augments our desire to recover it. The permanence of the loss is directly proportional to our desire to get the thing back. When someone dies, we really wish we could see them again. When someone goes away for a weekend, it’s not a big deal because we know they’ll be back in no time.

The more we allow ourselves to believe that recovering the lost thing is possible, the longer it takes to rebuild, and the longer it takes to be whole again.

Too often, getting back to the thing is impossible. When that is the case, the only way to rebuild is to release our attachment to the thing. Cherish the thing, certainly, but do not try to get back to it. That is, do not allow your happiness and your identity to be dependent on the recovery of a thing that is lost forever. Preserve the memory of the thing, but do not allow yourself to become enslaved by the notion that you can go back to the way things were.

We cannot move forward if we insist on remaining a prisoner of the past. We cannot rebuild by rewinding, only by looking — and moving — ahead.

The best way out is always through.
Robert Frost

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