“Oh look, it’s a seashell!” I exclaimed as once again, I struggled to pick myself up from the freshly rain-soaked dirt on the side of a mountain. Why there was a seashell there, completely out of place, will forever be a mystery. It seemed odd—comical almost—that it would be there. Completely unexpected; out of place.

Near the end of a confusing and challenging 3+ hour hike, where everything seemed blurry and the end seemed far out of sight, was the perfect time to stumble across a little dirt-coated seashell.

Small as it might be, it reminds me of some things:

  • Comfort is vastly overrated.
  • Expectations can never be truly managed, as hard as we may try.
  • You can do anything, even if it seems incredibly hard.

Seashells don’t belong on mountains; they belong on beaches, in the ocean, in collections hoarded by children and adults alike—mementos taken from vacations gone by. You do not expect them on mountains, in the wilderness. Rather, you expect rocks, roots, discarded beer bottles, and protein bar wrappers. You would, in theory, never expect to stumble (literally) across a tiny seashell while hiking.

The expectations we have for vacations, for our workouts and, most of all, for ourselves, will never actually matter. You can expect to be tired after a workout, maybe even the bone-aching, muscle-straining kind of tired where all you want to do is collapse into your bed and wait for the sweet release of slumber, but you can’t expect everything. You can’t expect the degree of soreness you feel, or even the degree of satisfaction you get when you land that pose you’ve been working on for ages. (Here’s to you, Warrior 3!)

I haven’t been treating my body or my mind with the respect they deserve.

Worst of all, I had let my yoga mat become a stranger rather than leaving it as a long-time friend. I should have become reacquainted with it long before this trip, but I was afraid. Afraid of disappointing myself; of frustration; of having lost the seemingly mediocre-but-better-than-I-thought practice I worked so hard to foster.

It’s almost better to go into a yoga class without expectations. The intention you set out to achieve in the beginning feels better than any expectation and should be the only one. Striving for serenity, for calm, for happiness in your practice. Not just perfecting each and every pose. Yoga is not just a gorgeous inversion, or a model vinyasa.

Lessons Learned

One of the biggest things I’ll be taking away from this week in the French countryside is that yoga shouldn’t have to be perfect. It probably won’t even be close to perfect. But, you’re not striving for perfection. You’re striving for peace, for serenity, for happiness, for relief in the poses you’re doing. It’s not about perfection, it’s about getting what you need. Even if it means less Downward Facing Dog and far more Child’s Pose than anticipated. That is okay.

Expectations hold you back. They keep you in the same place, they keep you from progressing, from moving forward. That little seashell reminded me that you can go anywhere and do anything. Be what you want. There is truly nothing holding you back.

Like that seashell, you can go anywhere you want as long as you set your mind to it.

You want to hike a mountain? Go. Climb as high as you want.

Interested in learning a new hobby? Good. Pick up those knitting needles or that ukulele.

Dying to go on a yoga retreat to France? Go. Eat all the bread, eat all the cheese, drink all the wine.

Nothing is stopping you but yourself.

After all, if the seashell can make it to the mountain, you can too.

Taking this trip has been an adventure, one that I never thought I’d be able to have. I was worried about it from the time we booked our room to the first step I took onto my mat. On the first evening, I set an intention to fall in love with yoga once again, and I think, thus far, I’ve been able to do that. I’ve been able to rediscover the wonderful things that my body can do, the stillness my mind can achieve, the relief from anxiety I’ve longed for for so long.

I knew this trip would take me, a wild and perpetually insecure introvert, out of my comfort zone. I barely like being around people for five minutes, let alone five days. But, the connections I have made here, they will be long-lasting. The laughs we’ve all had, the camaraderie we’ve shared, will be parts of memories cherished forever.

I never knew that *I* would be the seashell on the mountain, but it’s a feeling I’m happy to have discovered. Thank you, little seashell, for the friendly reminders.

Me and my wife, Kristi, on the retreat in the village of Greolieres, France.

HTML tutorial