Hi friends, welcome to February! I spent the last weekend of January up in the beautiful Texas Hill country kicking off our 200-hr teacher training with a retreat at Boot Ranch. It was such a special experience, I feel that we all left there with a newfound sense of gratitude, stillness, connection, and possibility. And I really can’t take much credit. Ok, I will pat myself on the back for hooking us up with sweet accommodations, delicious food by chef extraordinaire Courtney West, and an incredible teaching duo (Fran and Bailey). But once we got there, the weekend unfolded seamlessly and offered each one of us exactly what we needed without much guidance or intervention from any of the retreat leaders. The thing is, when people show up with hearts wide open, egos and expectations tucked away, and an honest desire to savor whatever the present moment has to give, the magic simply happens.
For all of us Type A personalities out there hustling, bustling, rushing, going, pushing, doing, and endlessly trying to get ahead of the next thing, this is as true as it may seem counterintuitive: all we really need to do to win at life is show up fully. Otherwise, we can put so much pressure on preparing for our future that we are left exhausted, with nothing to give when that future finally arrives.
I remember talking to a girlfriend about her wedding a few years ago and being shocked to hear she’d been so obsessed with planning the perfect day that she didn’t have the energy to enjoy it when it finally arrived. Crazy, right? This might seem extreme, but on some scale, I bet we all do this – bury our anxiety about the way things will turn out underneath a million to-do’s instead of trusting that our experience will be exactly as it should be if we just allowed ourselves to live it. I know that I was so focused on preparing myself for my future career that I completely missed out on truly experiencing my college years. I showed up to class after class only for the A, all mind and no heart, and to this day regret the missed opportunity to savor the learning and connecting I could have done. Ironically, that future career in engineering never brought me much joy and it was only by creating space in my life for my whole self to join the party that I finally found fulfillment.
I love how Mark Nepo talks about this in The Book of Awakening:
“We can never be prepared for everything. No on person can anticipate all of life. In fact, over-preparation is yet another way to wall ourselves in from life. Rather, we can only prepare for how we might respond to the gift of surprise that often moves in on us faster than our reflex to resist.”
This, of course, is not applicable in all situations. Showing up to take a final exam without having studied or to run a marathon without having trained, no matter how present you are in that moment, is probably not a good idea. But more often than not, I think it’s our attachment to doing and discomfort with being that makes us spin our wheels and over-prepare to a point that’s detrimental. Our collective inability to sit still, in other words, is nothing more than an attempt to influence what is beyond our control and validate our worth when we fear we are not enough.
In his book “Tantra”, Osho makes an interesting distinction between action and activity, two words we often use interchangeably. He says that action happens “when the situation demands it – you act, you respond,” while activity happens “when you are so restless within that the situation is just an excuse to be active.” Think about it…how many times have you taken on a task that didn’t really need to be done just because you felt you couldn’t sit still? How often do you feel like a slave to your to-do list, even adding items you’ve already completed just to feel good about having done more (I’m not the only one who does this, right?) And how much guilt do you carry with you if and when you do decide to take a break from the busyness.
One of the things I love about yoga is that it doesn’t have any pre-reqs. You don’t have to be athletic or flexible, you don’t have to own Lululemon yoga pants or join a fancy studio (although Yogaleena is an excellent choice!), you don’t even need a mat. The only thing that yoga asks of us is that we show up to practice in body, mind, and spirit. And that’s as simple as it can be challenging. Moving through the poses, no matter how advanced they may seem, while mentally drafting our grocery list, is not yoga. Sitting in a perfect lotus pose without flinching for 30 minutes while our ego gets all puffed up because we’re soooo good at meditation, is not yoga.
This month, I invite you to show up to your your life (and your mat) wholeheartedly. In full faith that we are exactly where we need to be in this moment, let’s surrender to the felt experience of moving, breathing, and being in the magical present, no matter what it may bring. Now that’s the yoga I’m talking about:)