First and Last

In April of 2020, about a month after COVID shut everything down in the US, I turned forty.

It was a strange birthday for sure: in lockdown with my husband and kids, the world spinning totally off-kilter, death and uncertainty all around.

Ever true to the cliche, I was really not looking forward to the big 4-0 at all.

It wasn’t so much because of the significant number or the start of my downward slide on the other side of “the hill.”

It wasn’t because of wrinkles, gray hairs, or saggy flesh (those started for me long before my fortieth birthday anyway).

I was dreading 40 because it seemed like all of the big “firsts” of my life were over.

First kiss. First love. First job. First home. First child. First, first, first…

After forty, it seemed like I would be entering the land of lasts.

Last time seeing loved ones before they died.

Last time I would drop my child off at school before they went there on their own.

Last time my youngest would crawl in bed with me because she couldn’t sleep.

Last, Last, Last.

Of course there is a whole universe of experiences between firsts and lasts. But as I approached forty, it didn’t feel that way.

It was either/or. First or last. Alive or dead.

I had had a preview of this stark way of seeing things after the birth of my second child.

With my first daughter, everything was a first. First smile, first laugh. First word, first step. The world was happening for the very first time, and I couldn’t wait to see what would happen with her next.

But with my second daughter, it was different.

I knew that it was unlikely that I would have more kids after her, so everything felt like a last.

The last time I would nurse. The last time I would hold her in the baby carrier. The last time I would suck in that newborn smell.

I didn’t care so much about what would come next with her because I just wanted it all to slow down. I didn’t feel capable of facing so many lasts.

This kind of dualistic thinking, that things are black or white, first or last, good or bad, is pretty much the opposite of yoga.

Yoga tends to dwell in the land of gray. It is more neither/nor than either/or. It is a land of “yes, and…” It is a land of ambiguity and shifting terrain. In short, it is a land based more on the complexities of real life than overly simplified (but convenient) categories of first or last, right or wrong, good or bad.

Yoga constantly challenges us to come back to the present moment, to each inhale and each exhale. And if you really go deeply into that, you start to recognize that each moment is (and always will be) a first and a last at the very same time.

This is the first time I am taking in this very breath. And it is also the last.

This is the first time I am experiencing this particular moment in time and space. And it is also the last.

This is the first time that I am 41 years, 186 days, and 12 hours old. And it is also the last. And I almost certainly did the math wrong there, but who cares. You get the point.

Life is more than a grocery list of firsts and lasts.

It is all points in between.

And it is also points floating in space that fall nowhere on whatever measuring stick we happen to be using.

Life is full beyond measure in every direction infinitely.

We don’t need to cling to firsts or live in fear of lasts.

All of it is happening all of the time.

If we can just open our eyes, breathe into all of it, and not run away.

Want to practice yoga with me from anywhere in the world? Join me in my online Yoga-based anxiety management course, the 21-Day Calm Your Mind Challenge!

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Sign up for the 21-Day Calm Your Mind Challenge! Get a short basic yoga sequence emailed to your inbox daily with links to video instruction with yours truly. It is guaranteed to help you feel calmer in mind and body. And if it does not, I will happily offer a full refund, no questions asked. Sign up here.

Hear what one recent student of the challenge had to say:

“What I discovered was a really comprehensive plan, chock full of tools to help get there. There was a daily yoga sequence that was so gentle anyone could do it, which I truly learned to appreciate. As a teacher, Lauren’s cues throughout were on point for me. She has an overarching peacefulness about her that just feels very honest and genuine. The program is aptly called a “challenge” because there is (at least for me) a real challenge in showing up for yourself consistently for 21 days, even for 20 minutes a day. Today I’m not only calmer, but also feeling stronger and more in-tune with myself. Great experience, totally worth it.”–Phuong S.

Questions about the Challenge?

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