Many, many years ago, I had my first yoga class, and nearly fell asleep in it. The pace just didn’t do it for me, as I much preferred my kickboxing and hip hop classes that had a quick rhythm to it. Since then, I never had the desire to try another class, until my cousin Winnie and her fiance Garry convinced me to give it another go by preaching endlessly on the health and mental benefits of yoga.
It must have to do with age, but this time, I fell in love with yoga after the first class. Rather than putting me to sleep, the slow, quiet pace actually resonated with me! I signed up for an early morning class, so that I could walk in with a clear mind. I even refrained from checking my email before class!
Clarity. That was what I achieved in the 1.5 hour yoga class. It’s amazing how, when we allow our minds to be completely clear, we are able to have a completely different perspective. Meditation has never come easily to me, as much as my husband encourages me to do it every morning, so my ability to clear my mind and meditate during yoga came as a complete surprise to me. And it felt pretty darn good….
Like most people around me, I tend to get caught up in the busyness of everyday life. I wake up with my iphone next to me (a horrible habit I MUST break out of) and check my strings of emails before I ever leave the bed. After noting the few urgent emails, a sense of urgency overcomes me right away as I hurry to get through my morning routine so that I can respond to the emails. (Sometimes, I skip the morning routine altogether and plop right down in front of my laptop…terrible!) Pretty much from that point forward, my day unfolds in fast forward mode as I juggle between emails, conference calls, meetings, walk throughs, social media, etc. etc. Before I know it, I’m rushing to pick Bridgette up and haphazardly preparing dinner. I usually start slowing down mentally during dinner, when we are at the table as a family, chatting about our day. Once I unwind at dinner (we are enforcing a no phone policy at the dinner table to help with this), I’m able to be fully present for the rest of the evening, which becomes the most enjoyable part of the day for me….that is, until the next semi-urgent email shows up on my inbox and the irresistible urge to answer it immediately overcomes my conscience to remain present for my family.
As described above, I get stuck in the “busy” trap, while secretly despising this way of life. I seriously hate to be busy. Like my dad, I’m a laid back person by nature and have strived hard to maintain a good balance in life. Even while studying at Cal, I adopted the motto of “work hard, play hard.” To me, the notion of “laissez-faire” and “ambition” are not mutually exclusive contrary to being raised in a traditional Asian household, and Tim Kreider’s article in the New York Times really struck a chord with me on this topic. Here are a few excerpts from his well-written article:
“If you live in America in the 21st century you’ve probably had to listen to a lot of people tell you how busy they are. It’s become the default response when you ask anyone how they’re doing: “Busy!” “So busy.” “Crazy busy.” It is, pretty obviously, a boast disguised as a complaint. And the stock response is a kind of congratulation: “That’s a good problem to have,” or “Better than the opposite.”
Notice it isn’t generally people pulling back-to-back shifts in the I.C.U. or commuting by bus to three minimum-wage jobs who tell you how busy they are; what those people are is not busy but tired. Exhausted. Dead on their feet. It’s almost always people whose lamented busyness is purely self-imposed: work and obligations they’ve taken on voluntarily, classes and activities they’ve “encouraged” their kids to participate in. They’re busy because of their own ambition or drive or anxiety, because they’re addicted to busyness and dread what they might have to face in its absence.
Almost everyone I know is busy. They feel anxious and guilty when they aren’t either working or doing something to promote their work. The present hysteria is not a necessary or inevitable condition of life; it’s something we’ve chosen, if only by our acquiescence to it.
Busyness serves as a kind of existential reassurance, a hedge against emptiness; obviously your life cannot possibly be silly or trivial or meaningless if you are so busy, completely booked, in demand every hour of the day…”
Kreider goes on to write about the importance of shutting ourselves down momentarily in order to gain a healthy perspective, which was exactly what I did successfully while in yoga class.
“Idleness is not just a vacation, an indulgence or a vice; it is as indispensable to the brain as vitamin D is to the body, and deprived of it we suffer a mental affliction as disfiguring as rickets. The space and quiet that idleness provides is a necessary condition for standing back from life and seeing it whole, for making unexpected connections and waiting for the wild summer lightning strikes of inspiration — it is, paradoxically, necessary to getting any work done.”
I completely agree that there is an addictive element to being busy. These days, we’re so use to our lives being packed at all hours of the day that when we actually have a moment of down time, it feels foreign. Rather than cherishing the down time, we think of ways to fill up our schedule again so that we continue to feed off that adrenaline. We then wonder where the time has gone. Well, it’s because we never stopped to truly appreciate what’s in front of us.
I’m guilty of running around like a hamster on a hamster wheel. I get use to that for awhile until I realize how off balance I am. Last year, I had to take the year off to gain clarify and perspective, but it’s not realistic to take a sabbatical every year, so I must find other ways to maintain such balance while still enjoying my work, and it looks like yoga may be my answer….