great deal of my personal growth has taken place while dancing to excessively loud punk rock in dark crowded dive bars well past midnight.
Many of the choices that I am the most proud of were made while driving around blasting the perfect song and singing along at the top of my lungs from the bottom of my heart.
Often with the top down or windows open. Sometimes in the rain.
One song that has evolved with me is Social Distortion’s “Reach for the Sky.” In which Mike Ness writes:
“When I was young I was invincible,
I find myself now thinking twice,
I never thought about no future, it’s just a roll of the dice.
But the day may come when you’ve got something to lose,
and just when you think you’re done paying dues
and you say to yourself, dear God what have I done?
And hope it’s not too late ‘cause tomorrow may never come.”
That line about just when you think you’re done paying dues. How often have I thought that?
So many times in my life I have thought “Okay. Enough. I get it. Isn’t it time for things to start getting easier? Haven’t I learned this lesson already?”
Then I lean into my practice of Yoga. I remember the teachings about samskaras. Samskaras are like grooves or patterns in our lives and way of being.
The words samskara is derived from the Sanskrit root words sam (complete or joined together) and kara (action, cause or doing.)
In yoga philosophy it is said that we come into the world with an inheritance of these mental and emotional patterns. As we go through our lives we have the opportunity to either clear them up or reinforce them.
The word scar is helpful here. If we have a scab and we pick at it it will bleed again, scab again, and likely scar if we keep picking at it. If we tend to the wound and then lovingly care for it we may heal without any scars being left over.
It is important to note that samskaras are not always negative.
In fact, sometimes the same pattern or tendency can inspire both helpful and harmful choices in our lives.
An example from my own life is my natural tendency to see the best in people. I see massive potential.
I deeply believe that people can live in their highest potential when they make the choice to do so and accept the responsibility of making it happen.
This trait of mine, this belief, caused some major drama and unease in my life for years.
I would get into friendships and romantic relationships because I would fall in love with the potential – not the actual person. I didn’t yet understand a key component in the realisation of untapped potential.
That key is in the “making the choice to do so and accepting the responsibility to make it happen.”
Before I understood this I would stay in relationships and situations that were way too unhealthy for way too long.
Eventually, I would start to feel like my soul was screaming and trying to claw out of my body. At which point I would bail. This always caused a great deal of pain for everyone involved, but for me there was an element of relief as well.
Each time I learned a little bit more about myself and my tendencies.
Once I got really honest, and really clear about my habitual actions I was able to choose differently.
I started working toward a career in which I could use my ability to see unlimited potential for massive good in a productive way.
I was able to start learning how to set boundaries and acknowledge my own truth and process and see those who I met with a healthy dose of realism.
It became possible to see the potential in people and help them move into it without martyring myself in the process.
When we start to have these types of realizations about ourselves and our tendencies we are forced to make a choice.
We can try to ignore our newfound knowledge and keep placing blame on others and guilt and shame on ourselves or we can choose to grow and evolve.
It can be scary.
For a long time those moments of growth were the “places that I’d come to fear the most,” to take a line from Chris Carrabba of Dashboard Confessional.
They usually meant some major area of my life was falling apart.
Now I see that the falling apart was essential. It was creating space for healing. It was creating space for something better.
As we go through this process of getting to know ourselves more deeply we begin to welcome moments of growth.
We start to see the “flaws” in ourselves as opportunities to evolve.
So what about you? What samskaras are you working through and what songs are helping you through it?
Leave a comment below and let me know what you are working on and listening to. I’ll send extra love right back to you.