Running late to yoga on Saturday morning as I often do, I rushed to set up my mat and take a few deep breaths before class began. I am a newbie when it comes to yoga, and I catch myself sometimes trying to coax those over-blissful, I am a blade of grass -type thoughts during practice to try to emulate a ‘real’ yogi. But a thought came to me that morning in an unsolicited sudden rush on my second deep inhale that I was not ready for. All of sudden, it was there without hesitation or persuasion – You don’t have to push through.
Jolted out of my concentration, I perseverated on this peculiar idea the entirety of the class, and am still grappling with why it would appear so suddenly in the first place. Ok, I feel like I know why (keep reading), but why now?
I have been a long distance runner, honors student, and overall over-achiever for a majority of my life. In 5th grade track club, I wanted to try distance running because it was harder than sprinting. At one point in high school, I was involved in 3 sports, drama club, choir, science club, and had a 3.8 GPA. College was no better – with a double major in two separate schools of thought, I also worked 15 – 20 hours a week, trained for marathons, and was involved a service organization. Just thinking about this makes me tired. And now, at the age of 26, I am responsible for the prosperity and integrity of an entire organization as executive director. Does it ever stop?
Don’t get me wrong, just listing out all of those accomplishments makes my chest swell with pride, and more often than not, I get a burst of serotonin from the acknowledgement of my laundry list of activities. But, I also know full well that in the midst of all of those practices, exams, and service projects, I was/am entirely worn out.
There is something to the “just be” culture that I wish I could hold on to. I’ll catch myself entirely content waiting at an airport just people watching, or having an unfettered, illogical love of public transit as an anonymous passerby – feeling a warmth coming from the simple knowledge that I am, and other people are as well. But the thing is, this concept of Zen, the power of now, content-where-you-are has never really stuck. I have always bounced back to the power of competition and over-involvement to make me feel like my life matters. I don’t understand how to sustain the “just be” that is supposedly innately buried. Can anyone sustain it? And what about motivation? I have pushed so long to be better, not than my peers, but better than my current self. I fear that once I am satisfied with who I am or the job I have done, I will no longer strive to make the world better.
So when this thought came upon me in yoga class, just as I was ready to show what I was made of, I didn’t know what to do with it.
You don’t have t push through. Of course I do! How am I ever to get anything else accomplished? What about pull, would that help? Maybe a little cajoling…
It certainly cannot mean what I want it to mean, what was once described as word porn – to quit everything and move into the mountains, grow my dreads back, live free. You 20-something millennials know what I mean. But the thought of it does serve a point – to be without the things or people that “know me” would be to leave the weight of expectation. Maybe this is why I have enjoyed moving so much in the past several years. It is when I start being described as the smart one, the care-giver, the leader, that I push to achieve.
Maybe this message will stick. Maybe it’s the first part of unraveling an identity based on accomplishments and failures, and coming back to the parts that just make me happy…whatever that abstract concept means. I hope so. I also hope I know where to begin – what small steps I might take to help me ‘be’, without feeling the need to push or pull.
Oh, and if there are any other mysterious voices out there who want to give me input, just send me an email next time!