What does this word evoke in you? Emotionally? Physically?
For most of my life, failure, the word or concept has created a knot in the pit of my stomach and one that wasn’t easily undone. Failure seemed to compound upon failure and each knot drew tighter around the previous. It almost seemed as if there wasn’t a way to begin to undo all these knots, so why even try?
Instead, I choose to ignore the knots 99% of the time, numbing out through what I knew I was good at; not-eating, being too thin, and excessive working out. This was a safe place in my mind where knew no knot, no matter how tightly bound could get to me. Failure after perceived failure grew inside, almost parasitic in the attack, taking up the room that was authentically me. Perhaps it started with a bad grade, moving on to relationships, jobs, friends, ideas. Nothing really seemed to be working out and maybe it was just better to throw my hands up and let the monster feed.
However inside this tangle of life, existed a determined soul. I was going to deal with this whole failure thing. Life couldn’t go on this way. The decision wasn’t so much a cognitive choice, but rather something that unfolded and looking back on the unfolding I can more clearly see the path, as if I had just come over a mountain and looking back I can see from where I had come.
So what is failure? Busting out the dictionary there are quite a few definitions:
1 a: omission of occurrence or performance; specifically: a failing to perform a duty or expected action
b: state of inability to perform a normal function
c: a fracturing or giving way under stress
2 a: lack of success
b: a failing in business
3: a falling short
The above? Been there done that. And then there are the other words for failure: deterioration, decay, deficiency, neglect, negligence, default, misprision and dereliction. Whew. That is almost too much for anyone to handle.
So how to flip this definition? This started for me, where else, but the yoga mat. I began in my yoga practice terrified of making the smallest mistake, getting hurt jumping back, piking up to come forward, and a headstand? I might fall over?!?! Over time as I grew to feel safe and at home on the mat and I started to experiment. Did I fall? Yes, but I learned that these mistakes didn’t hurt as much as I had anticipated. In fact they even opened the way for new learnings on how to come into or out of poses and over time I became comfortable that falling or the inability to get into a posture was going to happen and was going to happen frequently. I better come to peace with it and I can now say that 95% of the time I am ok with it.
The cliché that what happens on the mat translates off the mat is so true in this case. I’ve started to notice that what I would view as a failure in the past and a blow to who I am as a person doesn’t hurt as much and at times washes over me. An example: A yoga class I was teaching was recently canceled. In the past I would have stewed over this and it would have eaten me inside. Perhaps I would have even thrown up my hands at the idea of being a yoga teacher. Now? I’m ok with it. Maybe it wasn’t the right time, style, or location.
Failure is an opening of energies for a new idea or endeavor.
And besides as one door closes another opens. Sort of like a room with two doors. You walk in, the door across from you is closed and by closing the door through which you entered the other door magically opens on its own.
Time to go see what is out there.