If we’re not careful, we can micromanage the meaning of our lives.
When you start to pay attention to how you show up in the world each day, even the minutiae takes on meaning. Living our lives in constant search of a sign or a greater meaning isn’t sustainable. In fact, it’s downright exhausting.
For us yogis and yoginis who try to decipher meaning out of every moment, these traps are dangerous:
“I didn’t have the motivation to practice today. It must not really matter to me.”
“My hips hurt in Pigeon Pose. What deep emotional barrier am I holding on to?”
“My body just doesn’t bend that way. Why is this part of my path?”
Unless your gut tells you otherwise, often we spend more time trying to fabricate problems where they are none. Like new parents who seek to apply meaning to every “first” of their child’s lives, we can worry ourselves into creating meaning that doesn’t exist.
In the practice of yoga, does everything have to mean something?
Sometimes lacking motivation to practice yoga asana means you might not have slept well the night before.
Sometimes tight hips mean you sat all day, not that you’re emotionally repressed.
Sometimes it takes awhile for our bodies to become flexible (and for our minds to accept this fact.)
If it’s simple, allow it to be simple.
This is what it means
What we’re really doing on our quest to define our lives is choosing to resist or flow.
Practicing yoga and meditation helps to smooth this resistance: the mind’s peaks and valleys. A consistent practice, even just 10 minutes a day, can rewire old posture and mental patterns so we experience less of the “what does it all mean?!” moments in favor of the “huh, so this is what it means.”
I used to have only a handful of “this” moments, most of them as a child talking to God in the woods behind my house. Now, I have them every week thanks to yoga. If you’ve got them going every day, you and me — we should talk!
“This” is the feeling you get after not having seen a dear friend for years — then picking up right where you left off. “This” means the mind goes off autopilot. “This” is the moment when everything is going to be okay.
But make no mistake: Believing that everything happens for a reason can be a cop out. It can lead you to self-defeat or simply make you complacent.
I mean, how many times have we blamed our misfortunes on “well, I guess it was supposed to work out that way”? I know I have, not coincidentally when I was depressed.
The moment we realize that we make life, not that life makes us, everything changes.
It’s not that things all of a sudden work out a thousand times better; it’s that we become present to the good in each situation.
The next time you’re quick to judge yourself or others, plant the seed: Maybe what’s happening just is. And if there is a greater purpose, let it be for the good of all involved.
In the end, I guess everything does mean something… depending on the meaning you choose to give it.
What will you pay attention to today?
Try it: Virasana, Hero’s Pose, with Tucked Toes and Eagle Arms
This pose can look deceptively simple, but you know how that goes. Often, the things that appear effortless require the most effort. In this case, effort to stay with the pose and not judge yourself when your brain is screaming to get you out.
Instead, practice recognizing the good of the pose hidden in the discomfort.
Know that while this pose may open up tension you may not have felt before (especially in those toes!), you control the flow. Lean forward to take the pressure off, lean back to add it.
Adding Eagle Arms here gives the mind something else to focus on while you breathe into your “toga.”
- From Tabletop position on hands and knees, curl the toes under. Lean back on your heels and place your palms on your thighs. The more you lean back on the toes, the more of a deep stretch you’ll feel. Take a few deep breaths here to ease into the sensation and determine if the ache is truly painful or just uncomfortable. Adjust accordingly.
- Bring your right arm up 90 degrees in front of you, fingertips spread. Inhale and sweep your left elbow underneath the right and gently pressing the back of the left hand against the right. Bring your elbows up shoulder height and squeeze your elbows together.
- With the elbows lifted, roll your shoulders down and back and gently move the belly button in to the spine so your shoulders are stacked over the hips. Stay for three to five deep breaths.
- Exhale and unwind your arms. Plant your palms down on the mat in front of you and lift and release the toes behind you. Allow blood to rush back into the knees and toes before beginning again, this time crossing the left elbow underneath the right.
- When finished, rest in Child’s Pose, Balasana.