I read a short piece today from one of the required books for my Yoga teacher training course that beautifully captures a concept I have been trying to articulate for years and so I scrapped my original blog idea for this week so I could share this instead. It’s something I have tried numerous times to write about, but no matter how hard I tried I never really felt like I had captured the essence of the idea.
The concept I am referring to is that of how we have a tendency in our society to move from one thing right into the next without ever really being present, without ever really experiencing each individual moment or the time in between each thing that we are doing. But Rolf Gates describes it so well in his book, Meditations from the Mat. He begins by talking about the style of yoga he teaches (flow yoga). In flow yoga you go from one yoga posture right into the next – one flows into the other seamlessly so the multiple postures are like one long posture and the breath and meditation remain unbroken throughout the practice. But he points out that not all yoga styles are like that. (In fact the style of yoga I have practiced all of my life is not like that.) Neither way is right or wrong, but Rolf points out that there is an important lesson we can learn:
“…it is our tendency to pay attention to the postures themselves, but not to the spaces in between. So it is in life. We leave one relationship or job and set our sights on the next. We cross one item off our to-do list and dive into the next chore. The illusion is that the posture ends. The reality is that the posture never ends, it just shifts from one form to the next, one lesson to the next, one opportunity to the next. We remain life’s student whether we are inhaling or exhaling, in a relationship or out of one…” – Rolf Gates, Day 35, from Meditations from the Mat.
And while his analogy may speak more clearly to those of us who have done yoga at some point in our lives, the truth behind the message is relevant for all of us. We move from one thing in our lives to the next without taking the time to enjoy or appreciate the space in between those things. Often we plan to enjoy that space when we reach a certain point in our lives (after we are married, after we have kids, after we get that new job, after the kids are out of the house, after retirement, etc.), when instead we can and should be taking the time now to be in that space. This rat race we call our daily lives takes such a toll on us – if only we would just slow down long enough to be in that space between the events in our lives, we would be so much the better for it.
My goal personally for the past several years has been to cultivate a practice that allows for a cyclical flow in which I pause to reflect and appreciate between the things I am doing in my life rather than rushing from one thing to the next. It is a practice, as is all things, but with practice I have gotten so much better at it wherein now I am pretty good at taking time to be in the space between the things happening in my life instead of rushing off to the next one. The result has been that I feel better, calmer, and I enjoy my days so much more.
Life truly is cyclical – the flow from one thing to the next, one day to the next, one goal to the next continues in what can become a vicious circle. But we have the ability to pause, breath, and experience the space in between, to slow things down and enjoy. If nothing else, take some time to celebrate and reflect on what you accomplished before going on to the next thing. As Rolf Gates pointed out, we are all students of this life. The question is what kind of student will we be? How will you flow from one thing to the next in your own life? As someone in the midst of this practice now, and as a former teacher, I would highly recommend taking the time to enjoy being a student of life.