“Courage to change the things I can”

Many of you know this as a part of the serenity prayer. It is said at the beginning of every AA meeting. The full prayer is:
“God, grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change;
Courage to change the things I can;
 And wisdom to know the difference.”
      Although I do not consume alcoholic beverages for health and spiritual reasons, I frequently get asked if I have ever had a drinking problem? The answer is no. I have attended numerous Alcoholics Anonymous meetings during my time working with dually diagnosed young adults (Psychiatric and Addiction issues). I had to chaperone them. I heard that prayer often, and it still resonates as true today as it did that 20 or so years ago.
     During the ashtanga class that I was teaching the other night, one of the guys in the class said to me “ you are pretty flexible for your build”. I took that in the positive spirit that it was said, as a compliment, but later thought about it. There are many times in our lives that we place qualifies on things. The pose was the wide legged seated splits ( Upavishta konasana)(pictured above). The observation could have just stopped at “You are pretty flexible”. Many times in our lives, people add these qualifiers, and we even add these judgments to our own perceptions. They tend to minimize the positive. I often joke in my classes that things I do are “not bad for a middle aged bald guy.” It is meant to be humorous (and it is), but there is always something underlying. I opened my yoga class at Peaks Athletic with this musing this morning. It is like people saying “you’re pretty cute, for a fat girl.” Why could it just not ended at “you’re pretty cute”. Letting  go of this comparative thinking can be very liberating. This can be particularly true when we do it to ourselves. If we observe how we react to others, we frequently answer questions with qualifiers, or disclaimers. “I’m good, but I have this pain in my lower back”, or “I’ll be ok, it’s just that things aren’t going my way right now”. I think that for whatever reason, many of us choose to be “cautiously optimistic” instead of committing to total optimism. Why not just stop at “I’m good”, or “I’ll be ok”. I am a big believer in the universal truth that “what you think and believe is what you manifest in your life.” Believe that you can be prosperous and you will attract prosperity to you. The same goes for health, relationships, career, family, happiness, emotional well-being, etc. You only have control over certain things in your life. As I mentioned this morning, I can’t change my height. Although I love volleyball, and played recreationally for years, I am never going to play on the AVP beach tour. I am also probably never going to be a professional jockey, racing horses for a living (to heavy). We have no control over that physicality that we are born with. What we do have control over is what we do with what we have. We make decisions every minute of every day that effect our lives. The food we eat to fuel our bodies helps determine our health and well-being, as does exercise, and the amount of rest and sleep we get. The amount of stress we manage, the people we choose to be in our lives, the careers we choose, and the information we consume through media and books, etc, these things and others all effect what we refer to in yoga as the mind / body. We have choices though. We can choose. All choices have consequences. Many people associate this with karma. That is not exactly the way it works, but for our purposes here we will “go with it.” Positive choices, positive outcomes, negative choices, negative effects. Why would people make negative choices then, if they know that they lead to negative outcomes? We all do it. Sometimes because it is just easier. It is easier to eat fast food than to take the time to prepare a healthy meal. It is easier to get our news from the television, than to research news on the web. Sometimes it is more comfortable, or feels good to make negative choices. I am not just talking about alcohol, tobacco, sex, or drugs, per se, but food. Who doesn’t like chocolate anything? Is it good for us? I can rationalize small amounts of dark chocolate. Negative relationships are another example. We stay in relationships with people that we know are not right for us, or even worse abuse us, either mentally of physically out of fear of change or being alone. Fear is a negative. The bottom line is that all we need to do to make changes in our lives, any changes, is to finally decide that you want to change. No one can change you, and you cannot change anyone else. The only person that you can change is you. When you commit to change, when you decide to enact positive change and take positive action, then you will manifest a positive outcome. We think of change as being this fearful and hard thing to do. We fear the unknown and change takes us out of the comfort of routine and into this fear of the unknown. We need courage to change. When you choose better relationships, better food, to treat yourself better in every aspect of your life, life becomes better. Better should not be fearful. We just need to trust that it will be better. Better is a relative term, and I use it because I believe that there is no end to how good you can feel, how positive your life can become. When you feel wonderful about yourself and those around you, there will be no reason for you to add those qualifiers about yourself and others. Just some thoughts for your consideration.
PS. There is an extended version of the Serenity prayer that I connect with more on a spiritual, yogic level. this is how it goes:

God, grant us the…
Serenity to accept things we cannot change,
Courage to change the things we can, and the
Wisdom to know the difference
Patience for the things that take time
Appreciation for all that we have, and
Tolerance for those with different struggles
Freedom to live beyond the limitations of our past ways, the
Ability to feel your love for us and our love for each other and the
Strength to get up and try again even when we feel it is hopeless.


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