The Risk to Bloom

Whenever I teach Yin I like to share readings with my students. A very special person in my life gave me their personal copy of “The Book of Awakening” by Mark Nepo as a gift, with the hopes that it would touch me like it had touched him, and it has turned out to be my favourite book. It is now what I read from every time I teach Yin yoga, and I get asked almost every time by students after class for the name of it. The author, Mark Nepo, writes a passage for every day of the year with a meditation to follow. Because these passages resonate so strongly with my students and myself, I wanted to share one of my favourites that I get a lot of comments on, in hopes that it resonates with you.

The Risk to Bloom

And then the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk to bloom – Anais Nin

We all face this turning point repeatedly: when resisting the flow of inner events, suddenly feels more hurtful than leaping toward the unknown. Yet no one can tell us when to leap. There is no authority to bless our need to enter life but the God within.

FullSizeRenderHow often we thwart ourselves by holding tenaciously to what is familiar. It is instructive, if chilling, that in floral shops the roses that won’t open are called bullets. They are discarded because they will never bloom. They have turned in on themselves so tightly that they can never release their fragrance.

Yet as spirits in bodily form, we have the chance to tighten and bloom more than once. But even spirits, if turned in on themselves enough, may grow accustomed to being closed. Unlike roses, however, the human chamber can be shut down for years, and still, it takes but one breath from the true center and we will flower.

It has always amazed and humbled me how the risk to bloom, can seem so insurmountable beforehand and so inevitably freeing once the threshold of suffering is crossed.

I have a friend in recovery, and when asked what made him stop drinking, he says, “The pain of drinking became greater than the pain of not drinking.” The same can be said for us all. We can flower in an instant, as soon as the pain of not flowering and not loving become greater than our fear.”

  • Mark Nepo, The Book of Awakening. Page 161

This is something that I have been noticing all around me lately; people being “accustomed to being closed” like flowers turned in on themselves. I’ve witnessed friends leave people they love because of the fear of being vulnerable, commitment, change, or whatever it may be. I’ve seen people stay with people they don’t love, out of fear of loneliness, change, or the unknown. Fear is so blinding and irrational that it will outweigh all other emotions if we let it.

But “blooming” can have so many different meanings. Whether it’s leaving or committing to a job or a relationship, or anything that is not serving you. The fear of leaving our comfort zones and facing the unknown outweighs people’s desire to follow their path and put their happiness first.  Or perhaps people are too focused on pleasing others or what they “should” do, and they forget that the only person you need to please is yourself.

As Marianne Williamson says in A Return to Love, “love is what we are born with. Fear is what we have learned here. The spiritual journey is the relinquishment – or the unlearning – of fear and the acceptance of love back into our hearts.”

You only get one life; you don’t want to spend it tight in a bud like a bullet. Think about what you fear and what is holding you back, and if you are not choosing love you are choosing fear.


Kim Olmstead, Edmonton ABKim Olmstead

Yoga is such a huge and important part of my life and has been every since I took my first yoga class eight years ago. It was a Bikram yoga class, and I fell in love with the challenge and intensity of it right away . I noticed immediately how good it made my body feel but what yoga did for my mind is what made me stick with it. In the summer of 2013 I tried a hot Vinyasa Flow class and fell in love.This led me to take my first 200 hour Vinyasa Flow Teacher Training in Edmonton last summer (2014) and since then I have been teaching 8 classes per week at multiple studios around Edmonton. I also took a Yin training with Carly Forest in the Spring of 2015 and am so happy to be teaching regular Yin classes as well Vinyasa Fow and Hatha. I feel so lucky to have found yoga because it has helped me physically, mentally, and spiritually in countless ways, but now after having taught Yoga for the past year it has added even more satisfaction and gratitude to my life. Read more about Kim.