It’s been a while. How are you feeling these days?
I’ve had plenty of time over the past month or so to practice wellness – from moving to a new place to vacationing in Southwest France on a yoga retreat. Throughout it all I’ve been reminded of three tenets of yoga that I personally hold sacred:
- Be flexible
- Don’t give up when it’s hard or it hurts
I can’t say that every day I follow these tenets 100%. In fact, I have to work especially hard at the third one. And while these tenets hold true on the mat, they’re particularly important to apply off of it.
Do What You Love (As Long As You Can Support Yourself)
In my other marketing work, I’ve been reading a lot about the whole concept around “Do what you love.” This concept is the cornerstone of lifestyle entrepreneurship, a world I’m deeply entrenched in. But these days, a new, more practical perspective is popping up.
Instead of just telling people to do what they love, this new perspective includes making sure you can financially support yourself and live the life you want to live while doing what you love. It seems simple and obvious, but so many people say airy- fairy things like “as long as you do what you love, the money will follow” and I can personally say that doesn’t work. If you can’t support yourself doing what you love, you might need to get creative, be flexible and make some modifications to make it happen. That’s yoga in action.
The Western Attitude About Pain
Classical yoga was written and created for yogis living in caves 2,000 years ago. It was a renunciate’s path, not a householder’s life. It’s hard to imagine that renunciates loved every second of their lives begging for food, starving themselves, and sitting on rocks for hours at a time. Components of Classical Yoga are not practical today. We’ve had to modify (there it is again!) to suit our modern-day needs. But that’s not to say that we need to strip all the pain and hardship out of our personal journeys.
In our fast-paced modern society we want everything yesterday. If something is hard, we’ll often either give up or find another way to get what we need rather than stay the course. This works sometimes, and is even glorified as a valuable skill to have in the workplace, but in daily living, it is not as useful.
A Meditation on Meditation Being Hard
Take meditation for instance. I’ve heard plenty of people say it’s too hard so they stop. I myself get up most mornings and the thought occurs to me that I could just skip my meditation. Even when I sit down to meditate, it can often feel like a waste of time. My mind wanders all over the place at a thousand thoughts per second and I feel like a failure. You wonder why you’re sitting on a cushion for 10 minutes just to feel like a failure every day.
But I do it anyway. Even when I don’t want to. Even when it’s really hard to sit there. Even when I think I don’t have the time. Because even though it doesn’t seem like you’re doing anything, even though it seems like you’re not making any progress, getting any better, seeing any direct benefits, your brain is changing. You’re making subtle changes that over time add up exponentially.
Even though you may feel like you’re not accomplishing anything in your meditation because you didn’t reach enlightenment in 10 minutes, you’ll probably feel a little bit more calm when you open your eyes. And that sense of calm might linger for an hour or so. Maybe even all day. When a stressful situation comes up at work, you instinctively take a deep breath and respond in a different way than you would have if you didn’t sit down and do your meditation that morning.
It’s not about how you feel while you’re meditating. It’s about the after-effects. That’s why it doesn’t matter if it’s hard in the moment. You do it anyway and get through. This is how we grow.
Newsflash: Yoga is Supposed to Be Hard
The same is true for yoga. Yes, yoga can be very hard. But it’s not always about how you’re feeling in the 60 minutes you’re stretching. It’s an added bonus if it feels awesome, and I hope you do take classes that make you feel that way. But pay attention to how you feel for the rest of the day. How you sleep. How you feel the next day. How you treat your family and friends. These are the real benefits of yoga.
While we were in France on our yoga retreat, we were taught headstand in six phases. Some of us could get through all six phases and successfully practice a headstand on the first day, but others had trouble even getting through the first phase. It can be painful sitting in a room full of 10 people all performing headstands and you can’t even do the first phase. The first phase might even hurt a little. But if you don’t keep showing up and practicing that first phase, there will be no way you can get to the second, third, fourth, fifth, or sixth.
Yeah, your shoulders and spine might be so tight that it is really hard for you to put the top of your head on the ground and not feel like your neck is going to snap off. This is just an indication to keep practicing your shoulder and spinal stretches so that you can eventually gain the flexibility and strength to get you to the point where you can progress through the six stages of headstand. Does it require flexibility? Yep. Might you have to modify sometimes? Absolutely. And will it be really hard to get to that sixth stage. You bet. But once you get there, you’ll feel accomplished and you’ll have grown leaps and bounds. This is what it requires to succeed in life.
They Forgot To Tell Us That Living Life To It’s Fullest Might Hurt Sometimes
So yes. Life can be hard. When things get hard, know that you’re not living to feel alive and vibrant and insanely happy every moment of every day. It’s okay to feel sad, depressed, angry, jealous, annoyed. Just make sure you keep on doing what you need to do to maximize the long-term potential for your happiness.
Living life to it’s fullest doesn’t always mean instant gratification. It’s my opinion that this is what this country and world needs to learn more then anything else. If you can sustain a little pain right now (for the right reasons, of course), then you’ll see ample rewards returned to you in ways you could never have imagined in the future.
So instead of doing what you love because that will make you happy every moment of every day, instead of living life to it’s fullest every moment of every day and expecting that that means you’re going to be Ms. Happy-Go-Lucky 24-7, do your best to work towards what you love and be flexible. Make some modifications as your life twists and turns. And be willing to withstand a little bit of pain. It will all turn out in the end.
One of my favorite quotes is framed right outside my door:
“Everything will be okay in the end. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end.”
Keep practicing your wellness. It might hurt right now, but you’ll feel like a million bucks soon.