let it go: it’s not as easy as the pop ballad sings

9103b1151dd8dc751f2ae73f0f408a93For those of you who have had even the shortest tidbit serving in restaurants, you know–like I do–that no dining out experience can go uncritiqued. The same is true now that I’m a certified yoga teacher. Yesterday Dave and I went to a level 1 class…and let’s just say I gave up about halfway through listening and following the instructor and finished my own practice in Shavasana. Everything about the instructor was off: the setting of intention was sloppy; she taught from the back corner of the room with a mousy voice; her assists were not grounded; her cues were weak at best, absent at worst; she ignored an older gentleman in the class who clearly needed modifications and cues; her pace was off; she made poor choices for postures; she failed to cue modifications consistently.

But of course, I practice yoga in non-judgment. Ugh…

I tried so hard to release judgment, to just be present with my breath on my own mat…but I just couldn’t. let. it. go. The minute I found peace in my breath, her voice would chime in, and then my mind would criticize and compare. A vicious cycle, I finally gave up and laid in Shavasana, palms pressed into the Earth, focusing with my inhales ” my thumbs are grounded, my pointers are grounded…”

Naturally, this is true off of my mat as well. I think about when I am in meetings, or PD, or conversations that are not going to my standards and expectations. I find myself daydreaming, diverting, distracting, disengaging, because I just can’t let it go. The question, the challenge, arises: how do I stay present when I do not deem a task worthy of my presence?

Ouch. That’s a raw reality.

For me, the answer to this question lies in a critical distinction: what I can control versus what I cannot control.

  • 235bef9b0da84b1fbd92f5eded8f17c5I can control how I sequence, cue, and sanctify a yoga class. I can learn from what I don’t like and do differently the next time I teach. But at the moment I am in class with another teacher, the only moment I have in all reality, I cannot control her teaching. I can only control how I respond.
  • I can control meetings, PD’s, or conversations in which I have influence. I can structure those with honor and intention; I can make them meaningful to all parties involved. But at the moment I am in a meeting or PD that I do not have control over, the only moment I have in all reality, I cannot control “them” or “it.” But I can control how I respond.

So what is my response? How do I stay present? Breath. As Thich Nhat Hanh says,

Breath is the bridge which connects life to consciousness, which unites your body to your thoughts. Whenever your mind becomes scattered, use your breath as the means to take hold of your mind again.

To be present and mindful in the current moment, the only moment I have in all reality, I need to come back to the root and wings of my breath. In the inhales, I find intention. In the exhales, I find surrender. 

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