Control or Lack There Of

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“Skillfullness is when one performs one’s actions without expecting good or bad results from them.” 
—B.K.S. Iyengar

 As a natural lover of algebra, geometry and puzzles, I’ve always enjoyed the back and forth between theory, practice, problem solving and solutions. Because I think in this way, much becomes compartmentalized, intellectualized, reasoned and balanced. So apparently, I spend a lot of time in my head working on control. And I’m not gonna lie, I do like for things to be planned or spontaneously done with skill so that all goes smoothly you know, with minimal hitches. But there are always pitfalls in life and it kind of explodes when you are faced with obstacles. For example, a cancer diagnosis causes everything in your life to become scattered, messy and unable to grasp or put into any kind of comfortable order. It all seems so absurd and out of control. When there's nothing else that can be done, I now realize that the only thing that can be done is to attempt to skillfully work towards activities that make me feel more able, centered and powerful, with no expectations. Finding some stillness is important, then acceptance is the only solution for however things turn out.

Speaking of acceptance and control, or lack there of, I've had to accept that I cannot have donuts, brownies or potato chips in my house. If I do, its over —guaranteed that I will eat all, (in record time). Maybe slightly dramatic, but as long as I control their distance from my reach, I have 'control' which basically is a great example and demonstration of how my 'control' over the snacks that I love is somewhat of an illusion. None of us truly has control over a lot, and certainly not over the curve balls that life throws in our paths that move us far from center and off balance. Cancer removes that comfortable illusion of balance and its a significant experience of a loss of control over the happenings in your body, your health, your future and life. It is quite scary, overwhelming and the opposite of grounding. There is a loss of stability and certainty in one's body that does not go away. Post cancer and surgery there are lingering factors that contribute to anxiety regarding recurrence, lymphedema, developing new cancers and all things health.

At some point though, I suppose you have to, or I had to accept that I had no control over what happened to me, but I could control how I dealt with what happened. If I am strengthening my life and my mind by filling them with ideas, people, conversations and things that make me feel good, then I am bound to find a way. In my yoga practice, the anxiety around gaining or regaining control is calmed by reaching for stability, grounding and the creation of physical balance in my body and mind through the act of focusing on foundation, feeling the ground underneath me, whether laying on my back, sitting, on hand and knees or while physically standing on my feet. Each pose has an element that connects it to the earth and by paying close attention to what is happening with the sensations that I experience while in these poses, I can experience control over the things that I can indeed control. There is energy in it all that travels through the body. And, I believe that when you can feel your presence on the planet and in the world, that there is then a way to become empowered by that. That power then fosters a sense of being able to gain control over as much as it is possible. That is all we can do.

Yoga means ‘union’ and though I do not physically practice everyday its the emotional, psychological and spiritual answer for me. I can feel at one with the sun, earth, creatures, air, moon, and all parts of me: my internal, external and spiritual body. They are all linked to the breath, which is life. It is a practice for me that connects all the dots towards balance and control. How do you stand? Do you roll to the inside or outside of your feet? Are you heavier in your heels or you toes? Do you know that how one stands on one's feet translates up through the rest of the body as well as the spine. Life is about the connection of all the parts. Each is a part of the whole and though hard to put into real practice, it is the reason why we are meant to forego control. Here are 12 things that are beginning to help me to 'skillfully' reduce my need for the illusion of control...

- Taking one day at a time.
- Noticing the largeness of beauty in the smallest of things.
- Seeking peace and more space in which to sit quietly.
- Getting rooted and grounded by sitting still, laying still and being still.
- Accepting myself and laughing at my flaws.
- Accepting compliments.
- Showing up as I am.
- Being more loving and compassionate.
- Becoming more clear, open & direct about what my feelings are.
- Relaxing and doing less (...really trying).
- Making time to laugh and spend with friends and family.
- Yoga practice (generally makes me feel able no matter what).


Teri Gandy-Richardson