Years ago, I was in a yoga class where the instructor tried to explain the difference between “doing” yoga and “practicing” yoga. In his mind, “doing” yoga didn’t exist because there’s no real end state. When you do your taxes, for instance, they’re done after you complete the forms. In yoga, however, it doesn’t matter how many forms your body takes; you’re never done. There’s always another layer, and another day, and another reality for your body to teach you. That’s why it’s called a practice.
Yoga is kind of like life. It doesn’t matter how fast you’re rushing to get from here to there. It doesn’t matter that you have a long “to do” list with all the tasks you need to accomplish before the day’s done. It doesn’t matter that your calendar has your entire week scheduled in neat 15-minute increments. That’s because real life happens in the interstices between the things we plan, and the only way to get better at handling them is by practicing equanimity when the opportunities arise.
Not in the plan
Here’s how it plays out: You plan to be at work at 9:00—but the subway breaks down, and you’re late. You schedule a lunch date for 1:00, but you get stuck on a phone call that you can’t extricate yourself from until 2:00. You intend to work out at the end of the day, but your spouse gets pulled into a critical project and you have to cancel your plans so you can pick up the kids instead. You figure you’ll recover from your messed up day at bedtime by playing a few games on your phone—but you didn’t charge the damn thing, and it’s dead.
Needless to say, I can go on. You can’t live for longer than a week without realizing that even the best laid plans frequently go awry. There’s traffic and tech glitches; snow storms and car breakdowns; lost keys and last minute phone calls; family emergencies and friends in need. If you want to know how to handle all these unexpected interruptions, you need to know a secret that few people learn: they’re not interruptions. All that stuff that happens outside our control? That’s called life.
This is where the whole idea of practicing comes into play. When these so-called “interruptions” occur, instead of losing ourselves, it’s the optimal time to practice staying grounded. After all, virtually every day has some element of the unexpected that throws us off our game. Despite that, the majority of these incidents are relatively minor. Yes, it can feel irritating to have to reboot your computer every hour. Yes, your blood may boil when some buffoon cuts you off in traffic. Sure, you get upset when your kids fight, or your parents nag, or your boss asks you to deliver on some ridiculously unrealistic deadline—again. Yet, even though these things bother you or perhaps put you in a bad mood, they’re not truly significant. By which I mean, they may mess up your day, but they won’t mess up your life.
Which isn’t true of everything life throws our way, right? The truth is, some unforeseen events are genuinely bigger than others. And when these seemingly bigger events take place, they make all the little irritants fade into the background. Things like serious illnesses and accidents; fires and floods; marital breakdowns and betrayals; and, of course, death—the constant elephant in the room.
This is also part of life, even though it’s a part we like to ignore. Which is why, when faced with these life-altering experiences, so many people fail to cope. It’s because they didn’t take the opportunity to practice life when the daily opportunities arose.
Getting better all the time
I’m not saying practice makes perfect. I don’t actually believe there is a “perfect” way to handle misfortune. I do, however, believe that practice allows us to navigate everything life throws our way—even the big things—with greater grace and poise and mental balance.
I actually believe that’s why life throws us all these constant opportunities to practice. How the heck are we supposed to handle the big stuff if we don’t know how to handle the little stuff? The little stuff is put there so we can learn to walk long before we’re expected to run.
So the next time you’re stuck in traffic, or you burn dinner, or you get rained on, or you disappoint someone, or your plans fall through in the million other ways they tend to every day, take a deep breath. Take a step back. Unclench your teeth. Uncross your arms. And say thanks for the chance to get better at life when it doesn’t really matter—so you can be good at life when it does.
About Aviva Rabinovici
In the corporate world, my bio generally underscores my extensive business experience. After earning a law degree, I started up my own company called AR Communications Inc., which is now one of North America’s leading copywriting boutiques. I’m proud of these achievements, but they don’t tell the story of what’s closest to my heart.
What truly makes me shine is having nurtured a passionate, loving marriage for almost 25 years; raising three phenomenal children who light up my life; sustaining a 20+ year yoga practice; and most recently co-founding Conscious and Carefree—a blog dedicated to exploring how to live life fully in joy.
Originally published at :www.bcarefree.com.