By: Danielle Wilson
Lately, I’ve felt the sting of living in multiple different worlds. There are so many reasons why I enjoy participating in the various cultures associated with my many passions, interests, and careers. So much wisdom is gained from exposing yourself to different perspectives, values, and ways of life—it keeps us grounded, open minded, understanding, and compassionate. What happens, though, when your thought process and priorities begin to liken more closely to one community over the others?
I’ve been engrained in the culture of dance my entire life. It shaped me in an infinite number of ways, teaching me self-discipline, work ethic, time management, dedication, team work, leadership, artistry, and so many other incredible skills and values. The thing about anything, though, is it’s all only healthy if it remains balanced. Dance culture promotes pushing yourself well beyond your limits, every time: running on no sleep? Chug a coffee. Experiencing intense physical pain? Fight through it. Struggling through an impossibly busy schedule? Figure it out. Although this mentality has taught me just how strong and capable I am in the face of adversity, I’ve come to realize, through my exposure to yogic culture, that it is massively unhealthy.
Yoga has taught me how to prioritize myself and my health: mental, physical, and emotional. My practice has proven to me that I can’t choose to do it all every time, both on my mat and off. Sometimes I have to cancel plans, sometimes I can’t perform my best, sometimes I have to lower my expectations, and you know what? It’s okay! We aren’t meant to rise to the occasion every time. We weren’t built to burn the candle at both ends and “just fight through it,” and the truth is, I don’t like how my body, mind, and soul feel when I run on little sleep and lots of coffee. So, why should I keep living a life in which I don’t like the way I feel?
The more I engrain myself in the yoga community, the more the values and mindset within it resonate with me as the way in which I want to live my life. This go, go, go, career driven, busy bee, western society we live in encourages us to put out, burn out, and figure it out. Well guess what? I’m not about it anymore. I see this way of life in which people cultivate love and understanding for the human condition in yoga, and it just feels right to me. Living for sensation, for peace and contentment, these are things that ring true in my soul. It’s enlightening and exciting to realize there is a way of life I can feel light, and loved, and accepted in as is, but what’s becoming difficult for me is bringing these values, and this mindset into the dance culture I’ve known for so long.
My dance community doesn’t quite understand when I need to take some hours off because my anxiety is through the roof. They show concern, but in the same breath, give me the “we’re all stressed and busy, and we all find a way to make it happen” gambit. In all honesty, when I was in the muck of that culture, I would give me students and peers the same speech, but I’ve evolved in my mindset since then, and I’ve realized that life is so much bigger than the never-ending to-do list lying in front of me. It’s not their fault for speaking on behalf of the only culture they’ve ever known, and I have compassion for them for being incapable of understanding this new value system I’m choosing to live my life by. The question that’s been weighing on me, though, is how do I continue a relationship and life with these people who are not only finding it increasingly difficult to understand me, but are also acting and speaking (subconsciously, I’m sure of it) in a way meant to seduce me back into the mindset that proved toxic to my soul? I haven’t quite discovered the answer yet, but here’s what I do know: I know it takes more courage to fit out in a community than it does to fit in one, I know that choosing to only surround myself with likeminded people may feel easier but will inevitably stunt my growth, and I know that the only way I will actually make a difference in this world through the yogic mindset and way of life that’s brought me so much clarity and happiness, is by remaining an integral part of the communities which fail to acknowledge these values.
The pull of my many worlds has brought on intense stress and anxiety for me as of late. I’m taking my time in navigating my situation and trying to be patient and compassionate with all parties involved, including myself. There’s a part of me that wants to retreat to my yoga community and never leave; that would be easy, but I guess I’ve never been someone to shy from a challenge. Maybe it’s not so much about placing energy in the validation of people and communities who foster opposing values than I do. If yoga has taught me anything, it’s the understanding that we’re all on separate journeys, we’ve all experienced different cultures, and none of us or our experiences are better or more “right” than the next. So, maybe I just continue to follow my journey, not shunning or shutting out those who express resistance to that which I know is right for me, but rather shedding compassion and respect for them for speaking up for what they know and believe. I think this is an ultimate act of love and courage, the ability to be completely a part of those which oppose us: to show them respect, show them compassion, and above all, show them unconditional love.