Ever since my husband joined the military 2 years ago, there are 3 big lessons that I’ve re-learned. I say “re-learned” because these are lessons I’ve been taught many times over the years as a yogi and frequently teach as a yoga instructor. I didn’t realize until very recently how my experience in the past 2 years as a military spouse had shifted my understanding of these lessons and had reinforced them within me.
The 3 biggest yoga lessons I’ve re-learned as a military spouse:
The art of being present.
Being present is a big yoga deal. When I’m on my yoga mat, the idea is to focus on the moment I’m in, rather than worrying too much about what pose is coming next or what I’m going to eat when I’m done with my practice.
Being a military spouse requires me to live in the present moment more than worrying too much about the future.
I mean, I still worry about the future. I think most people do. I just have a lot less control over certain parts of my future than I did in my pre-military spouse life. I don’t get to choose where we’ll be living or when we’ll be moving or if there will be a Whole Foods within 25 miles.
As someone who really likes to be in control of all of the things, this has been a particularly difficult lesson to learn.
There are things I can control, so I focus on those. And most of those things begin in the present moment instead of in my future.
I can control how I feel in my body. So, I take care of my body by moving my body daily and feeding myself foods that make me feel less junky and more vibrantly alive. This will impact my future, but I’m more focused on how it will impact my day-to-day life.
Going with the flow:
This is such a classic yoga expression. As in, “Be cool, man. Just go with the flow.” Or something like that.
I’ve always been more of a Type-A yogi, so “going with the flow” has never been a motto that I ever felt comfortable adopting.
I prefer to direct the flow, not be tossed around by its whims (see #1 about control).
Here’s the thing about military life: It will throw you some curveballs.
When Nathan first left for officer training, I wasn’t really sure when I’d get to talk to him again. Then it turned out we could talk on the phone for the first week. And then suddenly we couldn’t and it was only on weekends. And only if his entire flight accomplished a certain list of tasks.
I organized a trip to coincide with the end of Nathan’s pilot training, so he’d be able to pick us up from the airport when we arrived home. He couldn’t. He finished his training a few days later.
You’re told that the start date for something is in July. Then it’s pushed back to August. Then to September. Then to October. Then back to September.
You make plans and then you have to change them because
The Military doesn’t give spouses a lot of information to work with and often that information changes.
This still frustrates me. A lot.
I also can’t change it.
What I can change is my attitude about how I navigate those sudden changes.
So I go with the flow. I change direction. I shift my plans. And I try not to be too cranky about it because my crankiness won’t change anything either.
Approaching each new experience with a beginners mind.
In some ways, this has been the most fun lesson to learn.
On the yoga mat, it can be tough to approach a familiar pose with a beginners mind. If you’ve done down dog 100 times before, you know how the pose feels in your body. You also know the adjustments you need to make if it feels weird or off.
So it can be challenging to do down dog as though you’ve never done it before when you’ve actually done it a lot.
One solution is to bring your focus to a part of your body that you don’t often think about in the pose. Or work an action that you sometimes work less.
Every new place we move to is an opportunity to discover a new part of the country and a new part of the world I might not have explored otherwise.
Every new place is an opportunity to try out new yoga studios and new farmer’s markets.
Every new place is an opportunity to meet and build friendships with new people.
This certainly has it’s downside, too. As soon as you settle in and feel comfortable, you often have to pack up and move again. Still, the ability to discover more about the world and about yourself in the process, is pretty fantastic.
Beginners mind has also offered me one more bit of awareness. I had a lot of assumptions about the military and military spouses when Nathan joined the Air Force. I was uncomfortable. Afraid I wouldn’t find like minded friends or be able to find common ground. I was wrong.
Beginners mind has also given me the gift of recognizing that there are more things that we share than things that divide us.
That is a powerful gift.
Not too long ago, I was catching up with a good friend. We were chatting about how much in my life has shifted since my husband joined the Air Force and we became a military family. I mentioned that we were in the middle of packing up our house for the first of 2 moves we’d make in the next 6 months.
I talked about all of the big changes ahead. The trickiness of 2 moves back to back. The fact that Milly will miss the last few months of school and I’ll need to supplement somehow. The fact that I know basically no one in our new town and won’t have much support.
My friend asked how I was doing and feeling about all of it.
I shrugged and said, “It will be an adventure.”
My friend laughed and said, “it’s great you have such a positive attitude about it.”
I laughed. It’s true. As nervous as I am about the moves and changes ahead, I also can’t help but stay positive. The alternative won’t help.
Instead, I’ll stay present and go with the flow and approach each change with a beginners mind.