“We thought life was a journey, but it’s a musical thing and we were supposed to dance and sing while the music was being played.” – Alan Watts
Hi friends, welcome to March. I don’t know about you, but I’m a bit relieved we’re starting a new month… February straight up kicked my butt! Lucas has had a nasty cough for over two weeks, which wakes us up every night at around 2am. He also started “school”, which means I now begin my days with a dramatic and teary goodbye that breaks my heart…and sometimes includes throw up, just to make his point. My sweet Bella has some sort of stomach bug, which I realized when I found she had pooped in the guest bedroom shower a few days ago…and then again on my favorite rug. I’m also slightly more emotional and a lot more tired as I enter my second trimester (yup, Baby Vennie #2 is due August 14!) so even minor studio issues that wouldn’t normally stress me out are making me wish I could just pack up and leave…somewhere far, far away.
I understand these are first-world problems, but you know how it is – when one thing after another seems to be going wrong, it’s easy to convince yourself that the world is against you, life sucks, and the only way you could ever be happy is by moving to that charming apartment in Paris you’ve always dreamed about. Right? As trivial as our every-day worries and stresses may seem, though, it’s these smaller things that tend to get in the way of the peace and joy we all wish for. Bigger obstacles are obviously more challenging to overcome, but they’re also big enough to get our attention so that we’re at least aware that they’re having an impact on our lives. The silly little annoyances sprinkled throughout our days can send us down a negative spiral of thought and emotions without us even realizing it, so it’s important we learn how to deal with them. How?
I think it starts with changing the very common perspective that life is a journey. Let me back up. A few days ago, Dave sent me an inspirational video because, as mentioned above, I haven’t been in the best mood! In the video (check it out here) Alan Watts explains that when we view our time on this planet as a linear experience with a beginning and an end, we naturally focus on moving forward, from one thing to the next, oftentimes to the detriment of actually living the present moment. When things get tough, it’s easy to find comfort in the idea that “this too shall pass” or “it’ll get better soon” or “we have great things to look forward to on the other side of this difficult time.” Although these thoughts makes sense, they propagate the belief that things in this very moment aren’t as they should be and we should look to the future (in a different city, with a different job, living a different reality) to find happiness. We mentally escape discomfort and train ourselves not to look at what IS right in our lives.
What if instead we viewed life as a piece of music where the goal isn’t to move through it, but to be moved by it? What if instead of looking for an out when things didn’t go according to plan, we stopped to listen more carefully to what the present moment had to offer?
Ok, but why would we want to dance to a song we don’t like? Once again, this takes a little shift in perspective. Deeply rooted in yoga philosophy is the idea of non-attachment to either “good” or “bad” experiences, because there are no such things. They are what they are and it is us who label them as good or bad depending on our mood that day, what we ate for lunch, weather we got stuck behind the train as we rushed to work, etc. When we live our lives chasing after what we consider pleasant and running away from what we consider painful, we completely miss the dance. In her amazing book The Yamas & Niyamas, Deborah Adele says “true freedom and contentment begin to find their way to us when we can see things as they are, neutral, and not spend so much energy manipulating things according to our preferences.” I know what you’re thinking – no chance I’ll ever be equally content cleaning up dog poop as I would be getting a pedi. But it’s not about liking the crappy stuff in life (pun intended), it’s about not attaching our entire reality to that one moment of discomfort so it distorts our perception of everything else. This is precisely why we practice asana (physical poses) in yoga. By learning to breathe through the discomfort and remain neutral in our judgement even when all we want to do is get off our mat, we learn to do the same out in the real world. Once we move past the resistance of our opinions, we may find at least some enjoyable notes within a piece of music we wouldn’t traditionally gravitate towards. Although I wish everyone a wonderful month, you and I both know that you’ll experience less-than-perfect moments in the days and weeks ahead. So what do you say, shall we dance?