Life is not about “should.” At least that is what I keep telling myself. In my yoga practice this morning, the instructor reiterated that everyone’s bodies are different and that what works for one person may not work for another. In pose after pose, he pointed out the various ways people performed it to work the muscles, ligaments, and joints the pose was meant to target. Each way was no more correct than any other. When finding what works best for yourself, he reminded everyone, don’t think about what you think your body “should” be able to do. That’s not what yoga is about.
Linking that idea to a post I read last night, entitled “Writing Yoga,” by Chris Stawski on GradHacker.org, I began to consider how it might apply to my writing practice and to other areas of my life as well. One of my friends used to say that we have to stop “shoulding” ourselves, meaning, that it is unproductive and often destructive to spend so much of our energy thinking about what we should be doing or how we should be living. But how does one do this when this very statement is itself the very a paradox we are trying to avoid: we should stop fretting about what we should be and do. It can become one more thing to mentally beat ourselves up over. Nevertheless, it is good advice, particularly when applied to whatever area we struggle with the most in terms of comparing ourselves to others or to what we feel we should be or be doing. For me, it is academic progress, measured in how many books and articles I’ve read, and how much I’ve written each day. Of course, I “should” myself about other things too – eating and exercise tend to top the list. But I’ve found, like many others, that trying to guilt myself into doing what I know I ought to do tends to have the opposite effect.
So, tonight I decided to focus on what I was doing and doing only one task at a time, which is always difficult since I’ve been a multi-tasker for many years. I can’t say I did this perfectly, but I am choosing to see all that I have accomplished rather than what I think I should have. Instead of thinking about where colleagues are at in their own studies or where I feel I should be, I choose to honor where I actually am. The same applies to my writing. I can honestly say that I am happy with what I’ve done tonight.
There is always room for improvement, but that does not mean I have to bludgeon myself for not having already made those improvements. The yoga instructor this morning warned against trying to push your body too far too fast into a pose to reach the position you will eventually be able to be in. By doing so, you will only hurt yourself, but if you are patient with your body and allow it to gradually relax into the pose, you will eventually achieve your goal. Likewise, in life – How I can be today what I will be tomorrow? Isn’t it unreasonable to expect that I could be? How can I learn and grow and become better and more than I now am tomorrow if I do not take the time to learn the lessons of today? I know someone else has said something very similar, so I cannot take credit for the insight, but I will try to live into it.