Thinking Yogi

The intersection of two loves: yoga and writing.

Theoretically it was a great idea to invite friends over for a last-minute barbecue so the kids could play outside while the adults chatted. It was a near-perfect impromptu summer plan. But then I looked down and saw that the floor of our apartment was carpeted in papers and crayons and stray Legos, and I noticed the smears of toothpaste on the bathroom mirror. We couldn't let our friends see this mess, and I couldn't possibly get the place to an acceptable level of cleanliness by the time they'd get here. As I chucked a stray pair of socks and slumped onto the couch, I briefly considered calling to cancel rather than letting our friends see such embarrassing domestic chaos. 

Meet my inner perfectionist. She doesn’t come out often, thanks to years of reflection and conscious habit-changing (not to mention having two children and a business to run). But she’s still hoarding 23 article drafts because they’re not quite ready to put out into the world yet, and she’s always daydreaming about that time when her future self will magically have more time. Then she’ll perfectly do all the things that have been in need of doing – reorganize that overflowing file cabinet, transcribe all the notes of cute things the kids said from the tiny slips of paper on her desk, and complete and submit every last one of those article ideas.

It's all one big stalling technique, I know. Just another way to put off finishing anything for fear that it won't meet my own high expectations. Whether at work, on creative projects, or at home, the perfectionist/procrastinator in me can always throw up an objection to calling a writing project ‘done’ and she fears allowing friends to witness just how ‘undone’ our home environment is. ‘What does it say about me?’ she wonders. ‘What if the world thinks this is the best I can do?’

But the truth is, while it’s not necessarily the best I can do, it’s the best I can do right now, under these circumstances. It’s the best I can do without avoiding doing it altogether.

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In my yoga classes, I encourage students to practice being content with where they are that day. I smile and remind students that sometimes the balance just isn’t there in tree pose (especially when I’m the one doing most of the wobbling), and encourage them to believe that doing the best wobbly tree pose you can do today is better than not doing it at all. I laugh when, even after 15 years of teaching, I mess up my right and left while cueing students into triangle. Yoga’s unofficial motto is not ‘Practice makes perfect,’ but rather ‘Practice, and then practice again tomorrow.’  

I feel freed by the knowledge that there is no need to pursue perfection when it comes to the physical, and I long ago stopped caring how my poses look or how my practice measures up to my neighbor’s. In fact, I love witnessing the changes and fluctuations of the physical on the mat. So why is it so hard to translate that attitude off the mat?

Off the mat the stakes are higher. Moving beyond the physical and into how I run my business or my home, the way I am with my children, or who I am as a creative being feels way more personal than how steady my tree pose is or whether I mess up as a teacher (again). These imperfections, unlike the limits or weaknesses of a body posing on a yoga mat, reveal a core part of my being, one that perhaps I wish could be more polished than is possible. To invite the world to see your imperfection at home, at work, or with family is to be fully revealed for who you are. Sometimes it just seems easier to pretend or to put things off until another day.

Back at home, I realize I have three choices:

1. Decide our house is just too messy for our friends to come over.

2. Tell them to come an hour later and spend that time frantically throwing all our junk in the closet instead of being with them.

3. Invite our friends into our home as is and let them see our state of less-than-perfection.

The rational part of me fully recognizes that our friends don't want to come over to socialize with our house, they want to see us, to be with us. So I take a few minutes to tidy the most essential offenders, invite our friends to join us (and a few dust bunnies) for an evening together, and know that because they are good friends they’ll look at us rather than our unmade bed. After the hugs and shoving a few blankets off the couch I invite them to sit down, making a conscious effort to avoid explaining away our messiness. Instead we let ourselves be seen, just as we are, in our full imperfection. It’s a start, and the start of a great evening together.

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Posted by on in Off the Mat

ig·no·rant/ˈignərənt/
Adjective:
Lacking knowledge or awareness in general; uneducated or unsophisticated.
Lacking knowledge, information, or awareness about something in particular: "ignorant of astronomy".

I'm practicing being ignorant, and it feels downright blissful. When I give myself permission to not look at all of the updates facebook beckons me to check with its tantalizingly highlighted numbers, or when I decide to opt-out of following the latest news story in its hourly online installments and instead wait until the dust settles and the full story comes out, I'm consciously choosing ignorance without being unsophisticated. Considering the lure of the 24-hour news cycle and the endless quantities of information available to us on every subject imaginable, I'd like to think that opting not to consume every last bit of that content makes us all the more sophisticated.


Last weekend I practiced freedom from my computer, a few days of delightfully real world un-electronic activities. But on Monday morning I anticipated the e-build-up, like water collecting in a dam. When I opened my email it burst forth, message after message, and all at once I was drowning in it. As I waded through, hand heavy on the mouse, I was right back where I started, fully stricken with the internet itch. Clicking from one thing to the other, I reflexively checked in with all my usual internet spots - following the latest news around our neighborhood, the updates in the yoga world, the most recent word on CPS, and I could feel it creeping up on me, the unease becoming more and more pronounced. It was an itch that could seemingly not be scratched.

I'm still figuring out how to live in harmony with my computer, how to manage the ebbs and flows of my internet activity, how to prevent my smartphone from becoming the brains behind this whole operation. The plethora of information and technology available today require us to be more disciplined, more aware of our habits, and more moderate in our online behaviors than perhaps we are even capable of yet.

So for now, for today, this is my meditation. Sometimes the phone can go unanswered, the text message can hang out in the virtual world for a few extra minutes, the status updates can go unread. Sometimes it's okay to not be the first to know the very latest news about the world. Sometimes it's okay to like something without 'liking' it. These days, in order to find your bliss, you must not be afraid to be a little ignorant.

Tagged in: bliss ignorance
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I like lists, especially numbered lists. But today when I was thinking about about concrete ways to keep our fabulous neighborhood independent, I could only come up with one thing each of us can do. I'm still going to number it.


1. Shop Local

If you don't want your strolls around the neighborhood to be punctuated by big box stores and chain restaurants, vote with your dollars. Yes, it may be easier to sit in your pajamas and click your way to the end of the shopping experience, but when you walk into a local, independent store you get so much more out of the experience and you give back to your neighborhood, too.


Being the sort of person who only buys new stuff when my old stuff has completely fallen apart, I admit that I was not quite looking forward to my holiday shopping spree yesterday. But when I headed down Lincoln Avenue, stepped through the doors of Timeless Toys, and was greeted by smiles and offers of help, I was so glad to be there rather than in front of my computer. Instead of clicking around and reading reviews by anonymous from TX, I was able to get specific suggestions for toys based on the ages and personalities of my children. Take that, Amazon.


At the Book Cellar, I was similarly pleasantly surprised at how quick and easy it was to find just the right gift when given guidance by friendly and knowledgeable employees. And I always find something unique and fun when I walk into Hanger 18, Enjoy, and Merz Apothecary. The kids and I are greeted warmly by name when we go to buy shoes at Piggy Toes.

I feel a sense of connection when I shop locally. I feel like a real human being as I ask for advice and touch the product I'm buying and maybe even find out how someone else's day is going. In this highly digital age, couldn't we all use more of that sort of activity? Doesn't it feel good to interact with people rather than technology?

Let's keep our fabulous Chicago neighborhoods cute and independent and unique. You can become a local activist each time you make a purchase. When you need to buy something, instead of thinking Target or Amazon first, think Lincoln Square, or Andersonville, or your neighborhood of choice. You may not think that your one purchase matters, but each time you set foot in local businesses, you are investing in your neighborhood, and taking a step to ensure that it doesn't become overrun with big, cold, chains.

As I wrapped up yesterday's local holiday shopping spree, piling up bags on my stroller, and stopping on my walk home to chat with neighbors I met along the way, I had a huge smile on my face. The wealth of independent local businesses are just one of the reasons I love Lincoln Square. I spend enough time with electronic devices in my work life. When I step away from the computer, I crave people, warmth, and unique experiences. Thanks, fabulous Lincoln Square small business owners, for providing just that!

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