I listened to a lecture by Marianne Williamson, the author of A Return to Love, where she said:
“An embryo doesn't need ambition to grow into a baby. An acorn doesn’t need ambition to grow into an oak tree.”
A rather subversive idea is encased in those metaphors: You don’t need to try so hard in order to grow into exactly who you are meant to, in order to reach your highest potential. And maybe, human ambition—a characteristic so often heralded in our society—is more harmful than helpful. What is ambition other than obsession with a result? And what's usually buried under an obsession with a result? Fear. Fear that you aren't good enough as you are, so you think you need to do something, get something, prove something, accomplish something, or win something.
I finished Yoga Teacher Training on February 1, and though right now I don't want to teach full time, I like the idea of teaching one class a week. So, my mind, conditioned to be ambitious, made a plan. I decided I'd go to all the studios in my neighborhood, take classes, meet owners, apply to teach if I liked the classes and owners, and then audition (teach a practice class, a pretty standard step in NYC to getting hired by a studio). After all that, I's start subbing and then work my way up to getting on the schedule. (Other teachers had told me this path: sub first, then get on the schedule.) So I was thinking of doing all that with the ultimate goal of teaching one class a week.
And then I thought: "Nah."
It seemed like such a striving approach. So I practiced the art of non-doing aka I chilled the fuck out. I still practiced yoga asana almost everyday, meditated daily, and read books on yoga and spirituality, because I enjoy doing those things. I don't do them for a future result.
Then, a dear friend texted me and asked: "Do you want to teach a yoga class at my company? We have space and we'll bring our own mats."
It was so easy to say yes to her because it felt so aligned. (Also, I love her.)
So last week, I taught my very first yoga class to a beautiful group of women at my friend's company! I can't get over how much I loved the experience; I felt high with happiness for hours afterward. I've never done anything professionally in my life that has made me feel so fulfilled.
I'd just like to note that these were the steps my "ambitious" mind thought I'd have to follow in order to teach:
1. Take Classes (which, of course, costs money)
2. Meet Owners
5. Sub for a while
6. Teach Yoga
And these were the steps that my "non-ambitious" mind ended up doing:
1. Receive Text from Friend
2. Say Yes
3. Teach Yoga
What I'm hinting at in this letter through a simple example is an ultimate concept in spirituality: surrender. The idea of surrender is that when you relax, when you give into the present moment, when you let go of clinging to the fruits of your actions, when you stop planning and thinking so hard, when you stop conniving and manipulating and trying, when you stop hustling and working, and when you completely let go of any and all ambition—you surrender.
And when you surrender, life flows to you and through you.
You realize that you are whole as you are. That you never need to hustle or work or plan.
You never need to make things happen; all you ever need to do is allow things to happen.
Maybe you think this sounds like bullshit. I get it. Ever since you were a tiny child you were likely taught that "hardworking" was a positive quality. Maybe you were taught that you needed to do things to get attention and, thus, to be loved. You were likely more or less trained to worship results. Maybe you even were told that if you didn't work hard, you'd turn into a lazy, no-good, drunk homeless bum begging for money. So you internalized that—maybe on some deeply subconscious level you actually believe that if you ever stop working so damn hard, you will become that lazy bum. So now you pride yourself in being a hardworking, hustling overachiever.
I get that, I've been there, I lived there most of my life. And I have a question: does the self-pride in your hard work make you feel fulfilled?
Because the truth is, if you stop working so hard, you will not become a lazy degenerate. You might just grow into a beautiful oak tree. You are programmed to be magnificent. You don't need to work so hard at it.
If working super hard and living an "ambitious" life makes you feel whole and fulfilled and satisfied—then, please, do not change a thing.
But if, perhaps, you're tired of trying so hard, sick of constantly hustling, exhausted of proving yourself, then, maybe, try letting go of ambition. Maybe, try something different. Stop making things happen; start allowing things to unfold.
"Very little grows on jagged rock.
Be ground. Be crumbled,
so wildflowers will come up
where you are.
You have been stony for too many years.
Try something different. Surrender."
One of the laws of the universe is if you keep doing what you've been doing, you'll keep getting what you've been getting.
So, if you want to change your life, if you want to feel differently, you need to try something different. And if you've been trying, trying, trying your whole life, maybe that "something different" looks a lot like not trying.
And watch watch what grows in you life.
with Love and with Light,
p.s. After Yoda talks about unlearning he says: "Do or do not. There is not try." I think of this quote often; I think it's often misinterpreted. And though my husband will be the first to tell you I'm no Star Wars expert—years ago, I infamously asked him if Luke Skywalker and Han Solo were the same person—I will say this: I do believe in the Force IRL. So there's that. (: Namaste, my friend.