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How To Be Messy – by Sarah Dunning

The appeal of a soulmate is the appeal of a love with uncommon clarity and elegance. The mutual recognition. The ‘ah-ha’ moment. It’s clear; it’s tidy. It’s an enduring charm. Conversely, when we choose to say that someone wasn’t the one we’re saying, case closed: It wasn’t tidy, so it wasn’t meant to be. Maybe we embellish it with other reasons so that we are really sure that it wasn’t for us. Relationships are one of the richest and most rewarding domains in our lives. They’re also darned complicated and often a grey area, so we make these bold declarations and sort relationships into tidy boxes. We seek certainty in a life that is anything but.

Certainty tells us where we stand, for better or worse.

Certainty is having the proverbial rug under our feet.

But I’m not sure that having the rug under our feet is really what will make us feel whole. And I propose that wholeness might be a richer life than one of certainty (as tempting as the latter is). Wholeness sees clearly the goodness in things as well as the flaws and works with that. Rather than dropping many anchors to hold ourselves still can we instead learn to swim? That’s the life that we actually have; in the here and now.

There’s a catch of course. The life we have in the here and now might be a messy one. It means embracing where we are in our yoga practice when we hop on that mat (connection with yourself). We have ideas of how that’s supposed to be that could quietly be released in favour of noticing the joy that comes from the poses we can do. It means embracing our relationships (for it turns out they aren’t mind-readers) and discussing those difficult topics as they occur. We are a culture that tends to be silent in our disagreements. In reaching out we’re putting the relationship ahead of any particular situation. We can affirm to each other, ‘you matter to me more than this circumstance’.

It means embracing our wildly busy lives, possibly asking if wild and busy are the ways we best connect with the world or if something a little quieter occasionally would do us good.

It’s a matter of practicing self-compassion as much as it is pushing forwards. While we attempt to get things running smoothly, we can’t control all the variables, and it would be exhausting to try. Instead we could gently applaud the part of ourselves that’s doing the best job it knows how. By seeing ourselves as we are, we appreciate when things do go well. We can still have goals, ambitions and dreams. But the best lessons will come from our messy selves who show us how little we know and how miraculously we’re still okay.

And we’re okay because we have each other. As warm and fuzzy as that sounds, connection comes not from having the answers but from the capacity to hold space for another to be themselves. If we can be honest about our limitations, we can better see and love the truth in others.

Learning to be messy is taking the imperfect, flawed part of ourselves and embracing the imperfect, flawed part of others. Essentially, being messy is where and how we connect with others exactly as we are.

In learning to be messy, you’ll see some experiences are out of your hands. That you don’t get to choose the outcome, and in these moments your flawed self is often the one showing up, trying his/her best to navigate the waters or cling to a life raft. Some people appear quite graceful in this realm of the unknown. They float along with the current. I admire and envy those people because being comfortable with uncertainty is one of the hardest things I think you can do. To truly not have the answers or a tidy shape to a story and be accepting of that takes courage.

If you can engage in the life that you actually have — an imperfect one — you’ll find that you can bear both the messiness and the joy, the clarity and the unresolved. Love is much bigger than you initially imagine. When you love people for whatever reason they are in your life, you see/feel/give more love because of that. As Gregory David Roberts writes, when you honour the truth of others and follow your own heart, you walk in the light that you become.

Yoga classes often close with the word ‘namaste’, which translates as ‘the light in me honours the light in you.’  We say it irrespective of what you did or didn’t do that day. We offer it to each other unconditionally. We acknowledge the basic goodness in each other because there is basic goodness in ourselves. While we crave certainty and while we’d like life to be tidier than it is, we are at our best when we let those things go and embrace each other as we are.


Sarah is an experienced yin and vinyasa yoga teacher based in Auckland who actively incorporates principles of mindfulness into her classes. Email happydunning@gmail.com to get in touch.


© The Yoga Connection 2016

{ 1 comment… add one }
  • 3Dr_BFree1 December 20, 2016, 9:41 am

    Thank you so Much Sarah. Well written with heart and depth. From your pointings, may I embrace the messy more and more. Blessings, Bill

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