Wednesday, January 20, 2010

What's the rush?

I'm often told by students that it's hard to practice yoga at home for a variety of reasons. The phone rings, the dog barks and wants to lay down on the mat, there's not enough room, family interruptions, and just plain lack of motivation are common excuses I hear.

I confess I'm not always able to do my own practice at home either despite having an open studio at my disposal. My excuse is I've already done 15 downward-facing dogs in one day and I usually am not in the mood to do more. Besides, on my day off I feel it's important to give my tired body a rest.

Still, I enjoy the time I get to spend alone doing the poses I like most without having to explain them to someone else. There's a restorative feeling that comes focusing on my body for a change. For that reason I try to make a point of doing my own practice at least once a week.

Yet I can relate to my students who tell me they'd rather come to class than practice at home because there's no one there to hold them accountable. It's easy to rush through a series of poses and call it a practice. I too notice that I don't hold my poses as long as when I'm in a class.

As a remedy I began watching the clock to time myself in my poses. But that backfired. My practice became series of self-imposed time constraints and more about the time I spent than simply the awareness of my body in the poses. Once it was an issue of time, my practice became a check mark on my to-do list.

More and more I realized I was taking this same attitude toward my life, always ready to move on to the next moment, the next event.

In our culture we are wired toward getting things done. Instead of being in the moment we are always thinking about and preparing for the next moment. If we are at work we long to be at yoga class. During yoga class we long to get home to dinner to satisfy our hungry stomachs. During dinner we long to finish and get to the livingroom to watch our favorite TV show. During the show we long to be in bed asleep. And while trying to sleep we long to be at work to finish up the project we started earlier in the day. We never get to where we want to be because we are always wanting to be somewhere else.

Brennan Manning, in his book "Ruthless Trust," writes about the "geography of nowhere." He says, "Now/here spells nowhere. To be fully present to whoever or whatever is immediately before us is to pitch a tent in the wilderness of Nowhere. It is an act of radical trust- trust that God can be encountered at no other time and in no other place than the present moment. Being fully present in the now is perhaps the premier skill of the spiritual life."

Maybe instead of measuring our practices by the length of time we spend at them, we can start measuring them by how present we are during the time we practice. In doing so, we might as Manning suggests, be now-here instead always off somewhere else. To not be fully present to this moment is in reality to be no-where.

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