I have a story.

It’s about a young gymnast whose dreams were shattered by an injury that she never fully recovered from. In this version of the story, her coach was at fault. He pushed her to do something that she wasn’t ready for, and it ended her career, her mission to go to college on a full gymnastics scholarship.

I have another story.

It’s about a young woman who learned everything she knows about strong work ethic, dedication and passion from her childhood as a gymnast.  Because she experienced so much with her coaches and teachers over the years, she chose to move forward on a path of teaching and helping others to heal their own bodies.

I could tell you more of the details, and you could decide which version of the story to believe. But the fact is, it doesn’t really matter what my story is, because you have one too. And so does everyone else. In fact, every student who comes into my yoga class has a back story.

Having a story is not a problem; just simply living will create a story out of your life. When it can become slightly problematic is when the story becomes our identity; when we allow the story to define us. Then we attach to our stories, and define ourselves: “I am x y or z, because of a b or c,” and we tend to think of these stories of immutable, set in stone.

Of course our past shapes us. It is our past experiences that gave us our current world view; but we always have the choice to believe something different. Our power as humans comes in our ability to make choices and to own our decisions and the ensuing consequences. We each chose the life that we are living. And all the things you have always believed to be true about yourself, can still change.

Deepak Chopra once said that often traumatic events in our lives are not what cause us stress and suffering, but rather “it’s our thoughts and the story we tell ourselves about an event or circumstance that create the emotional upset.”

Thinking back on difficult events in my life, it’s easy to see that they were all opportunities for me to step up, to grow as a person. But in those moments, they certainly didn’t feel like opportunities; and I definitely didn’t believe at the time that something positive could come from the experience. For about 10 years I let my story define me. In fact, I chose to identify with my story (version 1) so much that I lost the power to reshape my thinking and my path.

In Matthew Sanford’s book Waking, he writes about what he calls “healing stories.” He explains how we can choose our own healing story, and that our interpretations and perceptions about ourselves and an event can ultimately shape how (and if) we heal.

Without my injuries, I would not have discovered the therapeutic qualities of yoga, and quite possibly I would not have found yoga at all. I might still harbor resentment toward a coach who was simply doing the best he could to inspire young girls to achieve their full potential. Instead, I recognize now that the injury that “ended my gymnastics career” was quite possibly the best thing that ever happened to me. It shaped my life in ways that I never could have imagined when I was 16 years old. Now that’s a healing story!

Feel free to leave a comment to share yours.

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