I’ve always been a little bit uncomfortable with the idea of faith.
I like proof.
I like tangible results.
I like the clarity of evidence.
I like knowing where I’m headed.
I don’t like being lost or confused or uncertain.
Faith, it seems, requires a big step into the unknown.
“Faith is taking the first step, even when you can’t see the staircase.”
Martin Luther King Jr. said this during the Civil Rights movement, but as a yogi, this is a familiar concept.
When we first begin practicing yoga, even the most basic poses can be challenging. Touching our toes feels like a Mission Impossible level challenge. Downward facing dog feels more like downward facing whale. A single sun salutation makes us feel short of breath and exhausted.
So the idea of doing a more complex pose, like wheel pose or crow pose, seems completely beyond our capabilities. For jedis, only. May the force be with you. Except that it’s not.
Lots of people quit doing yoga because it feels too difficult to keep trying. They think they’re not flexible enough. They can’t hold downward facing dog for more than a few seconds without having to take a break. They don’t like the teacher. They don’t like savasana. They don’t like taking off their socks. They don’t like sweating. And they don’t think they can get past whatever of these obstacles is coming up for them.
It could be laziness.
But I think faith has a lot to do with it, too.
We don’t always believe that the staircase is there. Even if we take the first step, it’s actually the next 2 or 5 or 10 steps that really matter. It’s continuing to climb the staircase even though you’re not 100% sure where it’s leading.
And we’re not even sure it’s worth the trip.
This comes up a lot when it comes to habit change. Sure we all want to lose a few pounds or feel more well-rested or be less stressed, but as soon as the opportunity arises to start on the staircase to a healthier, more rested, less stressed “YOU”, the excuses start mounting.
“I can’t possibly go to bed earlier.”
“I don’t like eating vegetables.”
“I don’t have the time.”
“I’m too busy.” This one truly is a favorite. A blog for another time.
People usually start to employ these excuses when the stakes feel low, the obstacles seem high, and even the idea of where the staircase could be going seems too far, too extreme, too different from where they are now.
And yet, if you just start taking slow and steady steps up those stairs, you start to experience progress. You can start to see further ahead of you. Take a step into transformation, strange and unsettling as the new habits might be, and you take a huge step towards yourself.
But you’ve gotta have faith.
Radical change isn’t what we’re after. Not at first. All transformation or faith asks of you is to take the first, scary step. And then take a few more steps. Faith doesn’t necessarily ask you to try and leap from the bottom stair to the top in one, superhero-like leap. Faith asks you to be brave, but also consistent. Faith asks you to put one foot in front of the other. Faith doesn’t ask you to refrain from question or doubt. Faith simply asks you to keep stepping up. To stop and take a breath when you need a break. Then to step up once again.
This is the biggest part of habit change that most people don’t grasp.
I think of this all the time as a parent when Milly tries more adventurous, even scary things at the playground. I want her to explore and challenge herself. I also want to keep her safe. In order for her to grow, though, she has to take those first big steps. And I have to watch her, fingers crossed, and holding my breath.
I think of this all the time as this new babe grows inside of me…
I have to have faith that my body can continue to support my growing child. I have to believe that I am capable of bringing this kid into the world. I have to know that I will adjust to life as a mom of 2, slowly and not without some struggles, but also likely with some successes. I have to believe that I can heal and re-strengthen post-partum, just as I did with Milly.
I have no idea how the birth will go for this baby, even though I’ve given birth before. I have no idea what the days following will hold, even though I’ve been there before. I have no idea what life with 2 kids will be like, even though I’ve had one kid for nearly 3 years. The staircase is very dark. The top isn’t visible at all. I have no idea where it is going. So I step into the unknown.
I will have faith.
The alternative isn’t an option.