Updated: 6 days ago
I’m one of those people who likes to bloom where she’s planted. It’s hard to fit me into a different pot once I take root. In other words, it can take me a long time to make a change. I have a habit of staying in a relationship too long, keeping a lifestyle choice too long, etc.
However, at the beginning of 2020 I got a prompt from my body that refused to be ignored. I tried, but I couldn’t talk it, eat it, practice it, or journal it away. It was clear. After 20 years of being rooted at Kripalu, I needed to leave my full-time position. I planted my feet, lengthened my spine and gave my notice. It was a process, but I came to understand that change happens, even when we’re not looking for it.
As we all know, early 2020 circumstances had changed dramatically, and we were in a worldwide shutdown. I was working from home rather than in a building with my friends. My interim role was different than my role as Dean of the Kripalu School of Yoga. It was exciting, and I was proud to have been asked to serve with this small band of loyal staff dedicated to Kripalu’s mission. At the start, however, a felt voice said, “Hey, you’ve had a beautiful experience here, but this is a time of transition, you are complete.” It was an easy voice to ignore. I mean, that voice was obviously silly and made no sense.
As time went on, the voice and sensations in my body got louder. This occurrence would not be ignored. My relationship to my work began to change and I found that simple things in my job became hard and burdensome. Resistance had started creeping in and I felt like I was complaining more. Perhaps not vocally, but I felt negative, which was new to me. I was afraid people would see how unhappy I was becoming, because it was unlike me. I didn’t want to be that cranky person whose been around a long time and everyone loves, but also wishes they would retire or quit. I also recognized that I was lucky to have work, when most people didn’t. I loved Kripalu. How could I not want to be there? I tried my best to make the best of it. What I learned was that sometimes the obstacles we encounter aren’t to be overcome, but surrendered to, catalysts for a new way of seeing. When we don’t align with our outer world, it’s an invitation to go inside.
I did look to my interior, but because I wasn’t willing to accept that I was changing, I looked through the lens that I was lacking in some way. I should be able to make this role work, I thought. I must not be practicing enough or well. I declared I would have a new attitude. I would be grateful and positive. I would work harder. This “new me” would hold for a few days, but then I would become frustrated and angry. I would go back to the ever popular “I can’t do this; something is wrong with me.” Or I’d blame Kripalu. “Things should be different.”
The problem, of course, is you can’t put a false face forward and expect the world to rearrange to your liking. The hardest part of making a change is the suffering that comes from not accepting that change is happening. I’m reminded of a quote from N.R. Narayana, billionaire businessman and founder of Infosys tech company,
“Growth is painful, change is painful. But nothing is as painful as being stuck somewhere you don’t want to be.”
I knew my role at Kripalu wasn’t working for me, and I knew that my relationship with Kripalu was changing, but I thought I could will a different outcome. It took a while for me to catch up with myself. I wasn’t able to do that until I accepted how I felt and listened to the message my body was sending: I don’t want to do this anymore. Immediately, suffering began to dissolve. A new perception took root—I am ready for something new.
Acknowledging that we unfold, we progress, we change can be profound, not just for ourselves but for friends and loved ones as well. I have found that if I am willing to trust my own journey, people will most often accept and honor my choice. If that doesn’t happen, I see it as an opportunity to strengthen my resolve. Listen to them, thank them, and recognize that it’s not necessary for everyone to agree or like what you do. It could be appropriate to explain to people why you are choosing what you are choosing (folks that are directly affected by your choice) but not always.
Ask yourself if you are justifying or seeking approval for your choice. Remember, your process is your own.
One of the biggest learnings has been that nothing needs to be wrong in order to make changes. I didn’t stop loving my job because of a failing on my part or on the part of my employers. It wasn’t the pandemic. It was my natural course, and it was happening now. I didn’t need to understand it fully. Certainly, I had good, well-thought-out reasons, but reasons are the story for the mind. The true source of movement is the infinite wisdom, that spark of infinity inside us all. It’s that spark that allows us to move forward with joy. If we cling too tightly to reasons, we close doors on the future, the mysterious unknown. A great quote from Alan Watts sums it up: “The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.”
Sometimes change announces itself with trumpets, sometimes it’s a soft hum only you can hear. Breathe, Relax, Feel, Watch, and Allow—these will connect you to your deeper knowing.
Take time in Silence, not with an agenda or visualization but simply be.
Get outside in nature if you can.
Sit by the water. There is a great saying, “Don’t push the river, it flows by itself.” You don’t need to make something happen. The current of life, which runs within us and without us, will guide you.
Check in with yourself often and ask: Does this (whatever your “this” is in the moment) feel aligned with who I am now? Whatever the answer is that comes, don’t judge.
I found writing about my process, what was true and real, helped tremendously. Sometimes it helps to say things out loud, so sharing with a friend who is light with the feedback can be helpful. When we do the work on the inside, the decision to change something on the outside become effortless.
Cristie Newhart is a Writer, Thread Teacher and Mentor, Kripalu Yoga Teacher and Trainer, and former Dean of the Kripalu School of Yoga.