“No one comes to yoga because they’re like, ‘My life’s just so awesome right now!'”
~ Rachel, my teacher
As you can imagine, a holiday temp job doesn’t exactly allow for much spare time! So when my teacher training class arranged a get-together for our one-year reunion, my first thought was, “Yes! Awesome!” My second thought was, “Oh god, I hope I won’t stay up too late—I have work the next day!”
My third thought was, “I hope they don’t judge me for not doing a bunch of asana and taking up teaching immediately.”
How many of us go straight to that third thought, or something along its lines?
A wise yogi once said, “Yoga is like a pet dog: when you neglect it, it gets sad. When you ignore it, it gets angry. But when you walk through that door in the evening after a long absence, it cares not how long you were gone or how far away you went—it knows no greater happiness than to see your return.”
My classmates, as classmates do, all spiraled off in different directions. I turned to writing and philosophy, another teaches many classes a week, another still uses yoga in her life in ways the rest of us couldn’t imagine making use of the training. And our teacher, for what I could see, was just so happy just to see us together again, like old times. What we did, what were doing, what we wanted to do—those things are important, yes, when it comes to development and big ideas, but it’s important sometimes to reunite, too.
Take my brother, for instance. We’ve on occasion gone more than a year without seeing each other. Now, I’m not saying I want to move in with the guy, but when he popped his head into the place I now work—and he used to work—I felt only joy. Past digressions: unimportant. Old feelings: set aside. That’s the essence of fraternity: wheresoever our lives take us, I will always be happy when our paths cross (no matter how bad the day was beforehand).
Speaking of work, it wasn’t until I found myself without any spare time that I realized how much of it I truly waste: I cannot do a full asana practice, work a holiday job, produce as much writing as I want to and pursue any kind of hobby. However, I do not regret the things I cannot do.
My father—not a yogi, to my knowledge—once said something profoundly wise, and I didn’t grasp it until just now. “Work was freedom,” he told me one time, whilst we were discussing the down economy, difficulties in finding jobs today and so on. The circumstances are a little different: for him, work was how he kept his hand-me-down car running (period. It was one of those). Without social networking—or the internet, for that matter—his car was his ticket to any kind of social life. For me, work is also freedom: it’s freedom from distractions. It’s freedom from inaction. I cannot click linkbait. I cannot skip articles and go to the comments section. I cannot check my Facebook in the morning. I simply do. Not. Have. Time.
Now that I’ve rolled with the punch of going from unemployed to seriously over-employed, the real work begins.
I’ve allocated five minutes of my lunch break for meditation, and even found a neat little spot to do it; as when I practiced yoga in the city park, of course there was a moment of, “Man, I hope others don’t judge me for this,” but that faded really quickly—most people are really vain about their observations (“I could never…” “I tried x once…”), so all I have to do is listen to them talk to themselves about themselves, which I’ve come to recognize as observations.
Consider this: we know that we’re empathic creatures—we hear a story from someone overwhelmed by sadness as to why they are sad, it is likely to make us sad as well. Part of that is because of the nature of the story, but another part is because of our ability to empathize. When we judge ourselves to others (e.g. “I could never go to a yoga class; I’m too inflexible.”), we may be looking for a reaction in our listener—how they judge us, we then mirror and adopt to use to judge ourselves. This is why it’s important to, of course, not judge others, and simply listen when they tell us these things…also, being prepared with a few catchy retorts for the FSJs (Frequently Said Judgements, like the one above) helps as well.
So when I say I do not have time for asana, that isn’t a judgement on myself. That’s an observation. If I want asana, I find time for it, as I did with meditation. What then comes forward is the true teaching of yoga: that it is designed to be practiced in studios, but when it’s most important is when you have coworkers having really bad days taking it out on you, supervision breathing, “Faster, faster!” down your necks, a neglected book in your lunchbox and a whole heaping pile of duties and neglected correspondence piling higher and higher. Then, it always comes back to:
If there is nothing else one can take from this practice, if one never comes back to their mat again, we must, must, must all remember: what on the mat is practice, in life is practical. When we feel that we have no control of anything—that we’re falling apart, falling over, falling down…the first thing we can do, is go back to the breath.
This week, may you reunite with an old friend or loved one. May you give up something you do not have time for. May you, in a time of stress, come back to your breath.