Swimming in First World Problems

OK, I’ll admit it. Change freaks me out.

Just the other day, the guy who mows our lawn every other Monday announced he was planning on switching to Tuesdays.

Hold the phone!

The predictable weekly schedule I had so carefully constructed for my family was in jeopardy: I’m at the studio on Tuesdays. What was I going to do with the dog if yard care was to occur on that day? I couldn’t leave her in the yard; she and the lawn guy don’t see eye to eye. Locking her in the house was out of the question; the last time I did that she broke my toilet and flooded the hallway.

My carefully constructed world was coming undone.

And just as I was dialing the doggie daycare down the road, I paused…. “Huh. This is not about yard care.”

Later, I laughed out loud at the absurdity of my thoughts: How off is my perspective when something as benign as yard maintenance makes me feel as if life is a Pick-Up Stick pile, and I’ve just chosen the wrong stick?

I mean, no one is sick; my family has enough to eat and is generally healthy and happy. I’d say this is definitely a First World Problem.

But here’s the thing: Even in relatively simple situations, many of us employ the strategy of gripping and rigidity as a means to minimize chaos. Which creates a (false) sense of security. A strategy which works for a bit…. until your lawn guy announces a schedule change.

So we resist change by attempting to control and plan; and spend a ridiculous amount of energy wishing things were different…. Often laughing off our actions (or even praising them) by calling ourselves “organized.”

Of course, this non-acceptance of things we cannot control serves only to bring us suffering.

So, whenever I begin to experience this suffering, I return to the mat and find almost instant relief.

A body moving freely understands release on a cellular level and can therefore embrace the gift of change.

Following these easy tips will help you relax deeper into letting go.

  1. Surrender your head. One reason the head tends to stay rigid because people are so visual and want to see what’s going on. Let go of needing to see and go inside. Surrendering the head is both a physical and metaphysical act. In releasing the neck and head, you are sending yourself the message that you are putting aside the thinking mind.
  2. Consciously focus on your exhale. Every breath you take is an opportunity to move prana, life force, throughout the body. Use ujjayi. Especially if you find your mind getting caught up in thoughts, bring your attention to the breath and you will naturally shift back into the present moment. The breath is an ever-present tool in any meditation.
  3. Be total in your practice. If you are not fully involved body and soul in the practice, that points to some part of you that is standing outside yourself judging. Let go of your judgments of yourself and how others may perceive you.
  4. Relax. Let your body be moved by the dance of your breath. Drop pushing yourself and making “something ” happen. Save your cardio goals for the gym. You may get an amazing workout in yoga, but the essential difference is that it happens organically in yoga and is not part of the ego’s fitness agenda. It’s about being, not doing.
  5. Stay open to change. Surrender your ideas of what you expect to get out of it. Be aware and enjoy the ride of the variety of moods and emotions you experience. Also notice how fleeting they are! Appreciate that. Even the darkest mood may suddenly transform to smiles or even laughter. Notice if you are clinging to any particular state, your bad mood, your elation. Notice the clinging, exhale and let go.

These simple techniques will serve as a foundation practice to deepen your journey into yoga. Of course, you are bound to get caught up in judgments, thoughts, control and clinging along the path. Above all, resist judging yourself for that!