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Stillness, Mason Jars, and Winning at Life

Pumpkin lattes, cute and cozy scarves, and the promise of <100 degree weather for more than one day at a time…Fall, we’ve been anxiously waiting for you!

And you know what’s funny about that? I know that in a few months I’ll be yearning for the lazy days of summer again, dreaming of pool parties and drinks with little umbrellas, wishing for longer days and warmer nights.

The truth is, I’ve always had a hard time being in the moment, enjoying things exactly as they are. I’ve noticed that as soon as I get adjusted to a new season, home, job, or situation, I start looking forward to the next thing. In short, I find the concept of settling, a bit…unsettling.

Why? Because I learned from a young age moving forward is the only option if you want to win at life, so there’s no time for idling and noodling around. I associate the term “settling” with giving up and accepting that I can’t do better, with being stuck and being bored, and being boring.

None of this is true, of course, but I think many of us feel an immense pressure to just. keep. moving. I’ve come to understand that our addiction to busy-ness, to progress and change and action, is a way to avoid what’s right in front of us. Keeping the mind occupied gives us a pass on acknowledging what we’re feeling, what we want, and who we really are underneath the titles and roles we play. We hide our “being” behind our “doing”, and we’re most comfortable in that space.

Ironically, the only way to evolve in a way that’s meaningful is to stop, settle, linger, reflect, observe, and breathe right where we are.¬†When you shake a mason jar full of water and sand, you can’t see a darn thing through it. But if you let the jar sit still and give the sand a chance to settle…things get clear. The same is true in our lives – only in stillness can we see things as they truly are.

And that, my friends – seeing things as they are – is the first step towards finding the happiness and peace and love that we all seek.

We humans are masters at avoiding reality by putting our own spin on things, looking at life through colored lenses that reflect everything from what we ate that morning to the core values we learned from our family. For most of us, it’s actually really hard to simply take something in without crafting a story that explains, validates, justifies, or labels the experience as good or bad.

Here’s a little yogic story for you. A Zen student named Zenji returned to his homeland Japan after spending several years in a ¬†monastery practicing meditation under a Zen master. Someone asked what he learned from his practice and he replied with a serene face, “I have learned that my eyebrows are horizontal and my nose is vertical.” Those who heard his answer were surprised by his response. “What is new in that? Everyone knows it!” they exclaimed in disappointment and left.

Ok, I think I would have left too…I mean, that’s it? That’s really all he learned after years studying with a master?

Just kidding. I’m sure you’ve picked up on the moral here: what is quite literally in front of our faces is actually rarely noticed. We are so busy, busy, busy all the time and our mental chatter is so darn loud, that we move through life without acknowledging our own reality.

This month’s intention at Yogaleena is to unapologetically cultivate stillness and open our eyes to what’s really there. Instead of rushing through your flow during practice, I invite you to settle and take in the full experience of each pose. Let’s savor the breath and move slowly, with intention, and with no purpose other than to feel what’s going on in that precise moment. If you allow your yoga practice to settle the sand in your mason jar, you’ll walk out into the world knowing exactly who you are and where you stand. And that’s what winning at life really, truly looks like.

Namaste,
Carolina

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