Back at the end of 2013, I sat down and wrote out some goals. I had let go of the rope in my tug of war with alcohol, and accepted that I would no longer see drinking in terms of struggle.
Standing Bird of Paradise
It was over and I was moving on.
Part of this process was writing a list of fulfilment outcomesthat I would achieve for the next ten years if I were to maintain my no alcohol status. This list became the vision of the best potential version of myself — of an ideal me without alcohol.
It was ambitious and broad in scope and included some Big Hairy Audacious Goals (BHAG) that I now encourage people I work with to visualise. BHAG’s are those goals you achieve with the perfect version of yourself. I didn’t have 100% certainty, but I wrote them down anyway.
Running Half Marathons
One goal was to run two half marathons every year — and I have kept to that. I run 25km each and every week and staying confident with 10k and 20k runs brings a certain sense of body integrity. There’s a clarity and honesty about just putting on shoes and running along the beach alone, without any schedule or extras. It’s simple, pure and uncluttered. (When I wrote this goal I was smoking a packet of cigarettes a day and huffing through an asthma inhaler each ten days or so. I couldn’t run up the driveway without bending in half and coughing up something.)
Making Yoga Part of My Life
Another goal was to immerse myself in yoga for ten years. I imagined how I would feel if I had ten years of daily yoga in my life — it was almost laughable as a paunchy, pale 38 year old who had a chronic sore back. But I started with five days in a row and I can still remember the yoga teacher singing a verse in sanskrit at the end of that first week and me with tears rolling down my face.
Since that first week, I have made 6am morning practice a part of my life. Some of the proudest moments were turning up in the middle of winter, pouring rain outside, just the yoga teacher and I ready for class. Other times were just being there like a fixture, week after week after week. It gets to the point that the yoga practice is more essential and part of you than other things you once clung to.
I’ve fallen in love with the process and the energy of yoga — and the silence and sense of deep connection I have with some people I have been practising with for years now but have never actually spoken a word to. There is an unsaid majesty in just knowing that we have both been there, on the mat, and sharing that space in deep breath silence.
Just yesterday my yoga teacher led us through a series of poses and I found myself lifting up into standing bird of paradise for the first time.
It is an awkward, balancing pose, with one leg over your shoulder. You lift up and rise into a place of vulnerability and courage all at once. It’s about using strength to rise and hold the pose, but also relaxing enough to be able to absorb the balance. And then, once you arrive, being present and able to ride the flush of “I’m actually doing this” and stay in the pose without teetering over.
Humility and patience brought me to the standing bird of paradise — and they are the most profound lessons I have learned from my yoga practice these past three years. The two elements that together mold integrity and authenticity.
Follow my journey at BrenMurphy.net