[mk_blockquote style=”quote-style” font_family=”none” text_size=”16″ align=”left”]The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity. – Dorothy Parker[/mk_blockquote]

boredMy kids learned at a very young age that “bored” is a dirty word in our house. I had all kinds of snappy responses to perhaps the most often whined complaint in any language, “I’m bored.” “If you’re bored, I’m happy to let you do some of this yard work for me.” “If you’re bored, this is probably a good time to choose some of those toys that no longer interest you to give away.” “If you’re bored, why don’t you fold this basket of laundry. You can pretend it’s a game.”

While often topped with a bit of attitude, my message to my kids has been consistent: Life is precious. It’s a shame to waste a second of it being bored.

And, really, they do know this is true. But there are inevitably moments when boredom creeps up on us all. I’m sure you can think of many such moments. We’ve all had “in between” moments when we’re waiting for an appointment or for friends to arrive. Perhaps you only have 30 minutes, which really isn’t enough time to start the next chapter in your book, or to weed the flower bed along the driveway or to take a quick walk. We talk ourselves out of doing anything and, not surprisingly, as we wait, we get bored.

We’ve all had moments of anticipation when something super fun is on the horizon and we simply can’t focus on anything else until it gets here. Think about the day before a vacation. Or the long hours before the party you’ve been planning for ages. Or the days before your long-distance best friend arrives for a visit. We putter. We pack and repack. We make lists of things that need to happen. We fidget. But, because we’re so excited about what is about to happen, we have a hard time distracting ourselves or keeping ourselves happily occupied while we wait.

We’ve all had moments of exhaustion when we’re way too tired to figure out what would perk us up. We stagger in from a busy day at work, relieved to be home, only to discover an hour later that we’re drumming our fingers on the sofa cushions because sitting in a collapsed heap isn’t all that exciting. Perhaps we try to read, but we’re too tired to focus. We may consider watching a show or a movie, but the mere thought of finding the remote or even of choosing the show is daunting. So we sit … and get bored.

In moments like these, being bored is (almost) excusable. The worst kind of boredom, however, is the kind we bring on ourselves. I caught myself doing this last week. We were all home one night and everyone was occupied. My husband was working late. My oldest two were doing homework. My youngest was playing the piano. When the thought crossed my mind that I was bored, I was sitting in the living room playing what must have been my 20th round of Word Warp on my phone. I looked at the time and realized that I’d frittered away over an hour on the game.

I’d sat down happy enough. I had a quiet moment, which is always something celebrate. But instead of deciding to do something special, I automatically clicked on my phone. There were no emails waiting. There were no texts requiring my reply. No one was waiting for me to take my turn in Words With Friends or Scramble. Instead of turning off my phone and opening my book, though, I kept clicking. And an hour later, I was still sitting there doing just that. And I was irritable, antsy and bored.

As I sat on the sofa that night, I failed to choose to take advantage of my little window of free time. I failed to choose an activity that would engage me. In fact, I didn’t even think about what I wanted to do or what I would enjoy for that rare, quiet hour. Instead, I succumbed to my infernal habit (a habit I fear I share with many) of mindlessly fiddling around on my phone. My mindless lack of engagement in that hour resulted in tedium and boredom.

Though it may surprise you, it is also possible to fritter away time on a yoga mat. In other words, it is possible to get bored while practicing. The good news is that doing so is a great way to start to recognize the pitfalls that lead to boredom off the mat. Boredom while practicing almost always comes from a lack of interest. The less interest I take in the posture, the less I feel, learn and enjoy.

Downward facing dog has long been one of my favorite postures. It is fairly easy for me at this point. It doesn’t require a lot of strength for me to hold it. It doesn’t ask me to perform any complicated movements. In fact, I’m in this posture so often that it can feel a little habitual. But when I approach down dog like a habit, it turns out that I don’t love the posture. I don’t even really like it. I don’t get anything out of it at all. In short, it’s boring. When I don’t apply myself while in it, I might as well not be in it.

[mk_blockquote style=”quote-style” font_family=”none” text_size=”16″ align=”left”]Disinterest creates boredom.[/mk_blockquote]

It is the constant recurring discovery of all that happens in downward facing dog that makes it one of my favorite postures. When I’m not interested, when I’m not engaged or when I’m just frittering away the five breaths, this potentially fascinating posture becomes boring. It only feels rich and life-giving when I’m pressing actively and firmly down into the floor, when I’m consciously lengthening my spine, and when I’m mindfully rolling my shoulders open. There’s just no way to be bored when I’m experiencing all that.

Similarly, there’s no way to be bored off my mat when I’m actively interested and engaged in whatever it is that I’m doing. Being interested is a choice that you and I make each and every moment. When I choose well, even something I’ve done a thousand times like downward facing dog (or weeding, or folding laundry or playing Word Warp) can be interesting rather than boring. It’s up to us – let’s choose well!

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[mk_blockquote style=”quote-style” font_family=”none” text_size=”16″ align=”left”]Honor the space between no longer and not yet. – Nancy Levin[/mk_blockquote]


not yetThe first time I remember being in “the space between no longer and not yet,” I was 11 or 12 years old. It was Thanksgiving and I was with my cousins. Until that year, I’d never questioned my inclusion in the older (and cooler) half of the crowd. But as we reunited, it was suddenly clear to me that my older cousins had crossed a threshold that wasn’t even visible to me. Suddenly the four year spread between my oldest cousin and me was gigantic. What made this even harder for me was that, unlike late-blooming me, my cousin who was exactly my age was wildly precocious and could gracefully hang – and even be a leader – within the older crowd. For that reunion, which I’d looked forward to all year, I was decidedly stuck in the space between no longer being a little kid and not yet being a teenager.

This happened again in my first job after graduate school. I worked with a team of men and women who were all nearly twice my age. I learned a great deal in those three years – not only about the publishing business, but about being an actual adult rather than an “adult in training,” which we all are at 24. As I gradually gained responsibility within my job, my age became a bigger and bigger burr under my saddle. It felt the same as that long ago Thanksgiving. I no longer felt like a “kid,” but I was not yet really an adult. At least not in comparison to these seasoned professionals.

In both of these instances, rather than focusing on the change, growth and potential that “no longer” revealed to me, I was obsessed with “not yet.” Rather than trusting that in good time I would be a super-cool teenager (as it turns out, I was only a teenager, not a super-cool one) or a professional with wisdom that only years can deliver, I felt in a hurry to move on. I felt pushed down. I felt misunderstood. I chafed and I squawked.

Looking back, I see that my insistence that I was what I so obviously wasn’t just made me look even younger and less mature to my cousins and my colleagues. I was also making myself miserable.

The space between no longer and not yet appears to us regularly as we practice on our yoga mats. Perhaps we are beginning to feel stronger. We can see definition in our triceps. We are thrilled by this development and take it as an indication that we will be able to lower into chatarunga and stay there, hovering inches from the floor. We are crushed when we collapse unceremoniously in a bellyflop onto the floor. Turns out that while we are no longer too weak to even think about the low push-up, we’re not yet ready to do one.

Perhaps we are thrilled by newfound mobility in the shoulder or knee or hip that has plagued us for as long as we have practiced. So we push it. Maybe we take a posture that our teacher has suggested we modify “for now.” Maybe we press ourselves to go even further in a posture where we’re seeing progress, thinking that change will naturally beget more change, especially if we try really hard. Maybe we ignore little warning signs of soreness or fatigue because we are determined to keep getting stronger, keep getting looser, keep getting “better.” We’re crushed to wake up the next morning hurting. Turns out that while we’re no longer too hurt or too stiff or too old or too “whatever,” we’re not yet ready to do it all.

After we resist and rebel and try to push past the space between no longer and not yet enough times, we begin to understand what it means to honor that space. This honor is a combination of celebrating our growth and respecting our limitations. We rejoice in our progress. We cheer ourselves on as we see changes that may not be visible to anyone else but us. At the same time, we are clear-eyed. We know what we are currently capable of, and we respect that. We know our weaknesses as well as our strengths. We know enough to know what we don’t know.

Best yet, as we gain experience being in the space between no longer and not yet, we become certain that the required learning and growing will be exhilarating. We figure out that this space is not a tedious waiting space, but is instead a space filled with living that is just a vibrant and exciting as arriving finally at the stage we’re so fiercely craving.

Like my practice, life has an unerring way of bringing me again and again to this space. This time, I look at my oldest child and realize that the idea of sending him off to college is no longer an impossibility. At the same time, I realize that I am in no way ready to do so. So, daily as I practice, I remind myself to honor this space. I trust implicitly that this time of being between no longer and not yet is the key to me finally being ready for that August day when we move him into his first dorm room.

What “no longer” and “not yet” are you between?,

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[mk_blockquote style=”quote-style” font_family=”none” text_size=”16″ align=”left”]Life lived for tomorrow will always be just a day away from being realized. – Leo Buscaglia[/mk_blockquote]

it's today pigletOur youngest child is notorious for her need to plan. Truly, this became apparent as soon as she could speak. Each morning as I’d come into her room to get her out of her crib, she’d greet me the same way. “Hi Mommy! What are we doing today?” Day after day, I’d try to get away with “Let’s go downstairs for breakfast and then just see what happens!” And, day after day, she’d wheedle out of me our entire schedule – from breakfast to bedtime – before I had her in a fresh diaper.

As she’s grown, this trait has taken on some different nuances. For instance, while she was still in elementary school we discovered on one of our many eight hour, multi-highway road trips to our family’s lake house in New Hampshire that, as a result of years of constant and repeatedly asking from the backseat “What’s next?”, she knew the entire route. For most of her three years in middle school she has been planning her high school career – what courses she wants to take and what extracurriculars she will participate in. Not only that, but she spends hours on-line reading about colleges and can answer more clearly than our older two which ones she is interested in applying to.

You would think, as a planner, that all this planning and forward thinking would make me proud. In truth, however, it makes me a little sad. I watch her focus on all that will happen to her “later” – whether later is that afternoon or in four years – and worry that she is missing out on her life. Not to sound smarmy, but we only get one life to live. The worst possible thing is to waste even a moment waiting for what’s next.

I know it is hard for almost every thirteen year-old to stay in “the now.” It is a precipice of a year. Just an instant away from being a “real” teen, a high schooler, a big kid! But for someone like our daughter, who has always tended to look ahead, it is nearly impossible to stay in the moment. Her brother and sister haven’t helped – they have told her for years that high school is 1,000 times better than middle school. They’ve even told her that they can’t wait to see who she becomes after she crosses that threshold. And I know that she, too, can’t wait to see what the next stage of her life is going to bring. But still I remind her not to be in such a hurry to get to “what’s next” that she misses out on “what is.”

My yoga practice has done a great job teaching me to stay in the moment. As I practice, if my mind wanders to the next posture or to a posture at the end of my practice, inevitably my breath wavers and my body shifts. The posture I’m currently in becomes shallow, unbalanced and, frankly, unsatisfying. As my practice has developed over the years, I’ve also learned the power of being content with what is. Partly this is a gift of experience. I’ve watched my practice grow in ways that I never expected it to do. I’ve also experienced set-backs and obstacles. Most of these are so sudden and surprising that there is no way I could have planned for them.

Most importantly, perhaps, is that I’ve learned on my yoga mat to stop trying to predict the future – even a future that is (literally) just a breath away. A bad or stiff or sore practice one day does not mean a bad or stiff or sore practice the next. In fact, more often than not (though it always seem practically impossible in the moment), the exact opposite is true. Being sturdy in a challenging balancing posture does not mean I’ll be sturdy in the next balancing posture. In fact, as soon as I start thinking like that, it’s a sure thing I’ll fall out of the next one. To shrink the future even more, just because I notice that I’m able to stretch further into a posture with a deep exhalation, does not mean that I’ll be able to do it again with my next breath. In fact, the chances of this happening end as soon as I allow my thoughts  to jump ahead to that next breath. Over and over again, I’ve learned on my mat to stay in the teeny-tiny moment that is my present.

I believe that every challenge in life is an opportunity to grow, so I am grateful for my yoga practice for helping me move away – to some degree – from my lifelong need to plan. Yoga has taught me to experience the richness of the moment, to be willing to go with the flow, and to be open to the surprises (both the good and bad) that are part and parcel of life. In many ways, my daughter’s tendency to focus on the future has inspired me even more. The opportunity to guide her and teach her to focus with all her heart and mind on what is rather than on what will (or may) be, has helped me develop not only the ability to stay in the moment, but a powerful desire to relish every moment that I’ve been given to live.

Live life well, friends.

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[mk_blockquote style=”quote-style” font_family=”none” text_size=”16″ align=”left”]Fun is good. – Dr. Seuss[/mk_blockquote]

have fun
Having fun is for kids, right?

Running in circles around the yard with the dog at your heels. Flying high on a rope swing. Swimming just because it feels good to be in the water. Digging a huge hole in the sand. Singing at the top of your lungs in the shower. Losing an entire afternoon reading a good book or playing a video game. Dancing in the kitchen while waiting for dinner.

Sure. All the above are things my kids do to have fun. But, here’s the thing – except for video games (which simply escape me), these are all things that leave me smiling, energized, de-stressed and happy, too. In short, these are also all ways I have fun.

Only, until very recently, I’d kind of forgotten about fun. Life had gotten busy beyond busy. My days felt squeezed. My hours were jam-packed with things that needed to get done. Business was booming, but life was squished. I was regularly collapsing into bed thinking wistfully about the day that had passed – wishing it had been different, wishing for a do-over, wishing for a chance to meander through moments that I had instead chosen to sprint through.

There was so much to do, there was simply no time for fun. I was more likely to bark at my dog than to play with him. My daily reading had dropped off to roughly three pages of a People magazine before falling asleep. I wasn’t dancing in the kitchen because I was making lists, returning calls and helping with homework all while I cooked and tried to pull myself together to go teach a yoga class.

This went on for a very long time. In the beginning, adrenaline fed me. Then, I relied on sheer stamina. Then, it was will power. Then, I was simply very, very tired. I turned to a trusted mentor and said, “Why am I so tired? I don’t get tired. I am efficient. I am productive. I get stuff done.” She just looked at me. I said in a smaller voice, “I have to get the stuff done.”

Her response threw me for a loop. “You need to have fun.” My confusion must have shown because she repeated herself. “You need to schedule something fun every day.” And, as if she was reading my mind, she continued, “And it can’t be yoga.”

You see, I took my hobby and turned it into my profession. I’m incredibly fortunate that this is the case. I love my work. I am passionate about it. I believe it is a positive gift I am able to give the world. It energizes me, it fascinates me, it challenges me. I read about yoga all the time. I think about yoga all the time. I spend most of my time on social media combing through more yoga information. My job is not just my passion, it is fun. But this isn’t the kind of fun she was talking about. When people get stressed or busy or overwhelmed, the first things they tend to give up are the things they enjoy – the things they do for fun. I hadn’t given up yoga. Instead, I was clinging to my yoga practice like a life preserver on high seas. (Which it actually has been for as long as I can remember.)

What had I given up during this long, busy time? To be perfectly honest with you, three weeks into my experiment with fun, I’m still trying to remember. Gardening. Cooking anything that requires more than two pots. Skiing. Reading actual books. Playing the piano. Hiking. Sewing. Throwing dinner parties. Decorating my house. Some of these old hobbies still interest me. Some, not so much. It’s been helpful to remember all the ways I used to add fun into my days, but, mostly, doing so has revealed that I’m not interested in recreating an old version of me. I’m much more interested in figuring out what this version of me finds fun. And that, in and of itself, has been fun.

I’ve started small. My daughter and I tuned back into a TV series we’d drifted away from. I’ve been cooking dinner (still haven’t gone back to anything complicated) to eat as a family as many nights as is possible each week. Better yet, I’ve been staying at the table until the last child is done eating. I rededicated myself to a weekly crack-of-dawn walk with a friend. I asked my son to teach me how to make a playlist on my i-phone — and have made three so far! I cleaned the bird feeders and have been happily watching dozens of birds flutter around my yard from my office and kitchen windows. I’ve been trying to say “yes” – and, as a result, have seen “Cinderella,” been to the aquarium, driven to my son’s top two college picks just so he could see them one more time, met friends for dinner despite an early wake-up call the next morning, and curled up in front of the fireplace to read with my husband rather than shoveling the still-falling snow.

Is scheduling a little fun into each of my days working? You know, it is.

I’m laughing and smiling more. I am tired less. Not only is having fun, well, fun, but it seems to be helping me to take my life less seriously. I am actually enjoying my work more. I am actually enjoying my yoga practice more. I feel a little brighter and a little lighter. I’ve even caught myself looking for elements of fun in the mundane things I have to do. While I have yet to find anything fun about doing the laundry, I did buy a different detergent because it smelled good. I have sincerely enjoyed many of the moments of the endless driving I do as a mom. I have caught myself dancing in the kitchen (to one of my new playlists) while I waited for the pot to boil. I have even found myself laughing at my crazy cat as she “helps” (read: slows progress to a stand-still) me put sheets on the beds. It turns out that having fun and getting stuff done are not mutually exclusive.

What about you? Are you remembering to have a little fun every day? Go ahead. It really is good for you.