In all things human

I am late.  All the time.

Usually only a couple minutes late, sometimes maybe five.  I’ll call if I’m going to get to ten, so at least I seem polite about it. But I am consistently, irrefutably, unarguably late.

I’ve been mulling over this habit of mine of late and trying to ferret out its origins.  Here are the top components:

1.  The ego: “Oh my goodness, I was just soooo busy at work that I could hardly tear myself away.  I am soooooo stressed out!”  I gush melodramatically.  Then I throw myself into a chair and wait for sympathy.  Because, after all, I must be very important.

2.  The obsessive-compulsive:  “I’ll just answer this one last little email, it won’t take but a minute.”  Fifteen minutes later, I’m running out the door.

3 . The masochist.  “I’m sooo sorry,” I cringe, “Sorry sorry, to be late.  I suck (am irresponsible, unworthy, etc. etc.)”

My habit is really a combination of all there.  But the truly insidious revelation is that I’ve simply gotten used to the stress of running late.  It’s become ground zero. And since I’m used to being stressed,  I create situations to manifest my “norm.”   I have been practicing being late.  And I’ve gotten really good at it.  I’m always just late enough to send my sympathetic nervous system into a tizzy; but never late enough to lose friends or a job.

We live in a culture that values stress.  Loud noises and fast cars get attention; meditation and quiet acts of kindness stay…well, quiet.  In the maelstrom of multi-tasking and escalating technology, stress has become synonymous with productivity and worth.  Despite the fact that stress is actually counter-productive (literally) and multitasking is actually impossible, we still expect others to look haggard if they’re really paying their dues.  In this climate, is it any wonder that we expect success and stress to be interdependent?

Similarly, we layer stress into our yoga practice.  As a power yoga practitioner, I have often muscled my way into poses and through chaturangas long after ease and integrity have left the building.  I have this idea that to practice “well,” I have to practice “hard.”  But really, all I’ve been doing is teaching my body how to layer tension onto a perfectly good asana.  And when we layer tension, we actually start to plaster over the intrinsic integrity and grace of the movement with extra stuff.  Just like when I’m late, I add a certain dramatic (and unnecessary) color to my experience.

What if practicing yoga were actually ease-full?  Rather than layering on more tension, what if we allowed our body to use its brilliant intrinsic support to move intelligently and efficiently through the asana practice?  Letting go of tension means sacrificing some of our ideas about doing a “hard” or “meaningful” yoga practice.  As one of my teachers said, it’s no longer about kicking our butt; now we have to kick our ego’s butt.

For those who aren’t yet convinced, allow me to offer a carrot.  In my own practice, I’ve realized that all the huffing and puffing holds me back.  When I practice with tension, all I’m teaching myself is how to stay tense.   In those moments that I remember to slow down and become more easeful, my experience shifts.  I’m still doing all the same poses, but they are less forced, more natural, more integrated.  Happier.

So here’s to the experiment.   Ferret out the little everyday stress triggers in your life and your practice and see how you are unconsciously nurturing them.  What is no longer serving you?  Then unlayer your asana.  Unlayer your life.  Relax your chaturanga; get to your meetings on time.

Let’s take a deep breath…and see what happens.


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