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sweet spot

I am doing too much lately. T’is spring. Soccer here, soccer there. My daughter runs on Tuesday and Thursday. My son plays football on Monday. There’s violin and cello. Meetings with teachers. Teaching yoga. Writing for myself and others. Cleaning one little corner of the house and then another. Calling contractors to get estimates. Projects I signed on to or even started that sounded like great ideas in January now feel daunting.

I find this same tendency sometimes in my yoga – going too far, doing too much. The proof is that I keep wonking my neck – first the left side and now the right. Too many chaturangas perhaps not done just so … ? Or is the headstands? I’m not sure, but I do know it’s a sign of too muchness. Reel it in Jennifer; come back to that beginner’s mind. There is nothing less in a forward fold. Downward dog holds enough lessons for a lifetime.

I find this same tendency in my writing: This could be a book! The tendency to think big, to expect too much. Melville had to start somewhere, I tell myself.

“Who would you like to be?” a conference leader once asked. “The  Buddha,” I thought. Big, bigger, biggest.

My home office – if you can really call it that – has become a cesspool of projects started and abandoned, of ideas gnawed off at the femur only to be released and spat out part way. It makes me sick with embarrassment to cull through its contents. And yet it whispers a cautionary tale. Do less.

Can you be content with beginner’s poses? Content with this blog and writing as it burbles up, going no place in particular? Happy to take a writing workshop that may lead no where except pleasure? Content with parenting and leading a household that is messy and a bit frayed around the edges but happy?

sthira sukham asanam

This summer, we chanted some of Patanjali’s yoga sutras, all of which utterly agreed with me but for one:  sthira sukham asanam. Translation: May the posture be steady and comfortable.

That just sounded wimpy to me. But steady and comfortable, I know in my gut, does not mean without any effort. In yoga, as in writing and parenting and so many things in our life that we love but which challenge us, the sweet spot is to make an effort and in that effort find a place into which you can surrender. Or as Patanjali also said, work on the body should be “hard but at the same time soft.”

So I sink into this Friday, removing one thing from my plate that isn’t serving any part of me other than my over zealous guilt complex and happy to have gained a late afternoon yoga class from a teacher friend who doesn’t feel well. I’ll use it as time to sink, sink, sink into that steady, comfortable place.

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4 thoughts on “sweet spot”

  1. “Ideas gnawed off at the femur”….does that ever capture how I feel when I look at my workspace. Some days I need to remind myself over and over and over that it’s fine to let ideas float through my mind, to play with them for a few minutes and feel the pleasure of possibilities—and then let them go their way without acting on them *at all*. If they’re important, they’ll come back.

    Thanks, Jennifer, for a nourishing post.

  2. Hmmm…I can relate. I pulled a muscle in my back – badly – while moving this week. The movers had gone; the new apartment was full of boxes to unload; it was dusk. I couldn’t find my box of dishes, so I went back to house and looked under the porch in storage. There they were. “Just one more”, I thought. And as I was squatting in the 3-foot space and tugging a heavy box, my back split open with pain. This, I thought (after the stars stopped dancing in front of my eyes), is why I should ask for help. Do less. Rest.

    In training today, I was forced back to the beginner’s mind, and I enjoyed it. While my fellow students were sweating through Sury B’s, I was hanging in downward dog traction, supported by belts and the door frame. I didn’t miss them. It’s been a painful reminder, but an important one. That sweet spot – it doesn’t hurt, and we have time to get there.

    1. I think yoga is one of the best places to practice slowing down. Americans bring their go-go energy to yoga and have made it into a more/deeper/further activity – which is my primary problem with some of the hot yoga and more extreme practices, that they cater to this mentality. But if you are injured. If you stumble into a basic class. If you JUST LET YOURSELF, there is always that space to be slow and mindful. The best teachers remind us of that possibilty again and again.

      Hope your back is doing better and that the pottery is safely removed from the crawlspace …!

      1. I agree completely. All the power yoga just seems to be a way for over-achievers to get bendy too!

        I love how you, yoga, and meditation practice, including Quaker meeting, remind me to calm down, and trust it all to unfold at its own rate, in its own way.

        I mean, the hilarious truth is that it will anyway.

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