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Life in a hurry.
For most of my life I have been a fast person. A fast walker, a fast talker, a fast eater, and a fast worker. All in all, I guess you could say I was a fast “get-it-doner.” For years, I attributed my general speediness to my years in Manhattan, where life in general just seems to move at a faster clip than in the rest of the world.
Nowadays, I’m less sure of that. Looking back, I see that my speediness came from within. I was worried about what others thought of me. I didn’t want to get “caught” undone or to fall behind or to hold others up or to be seen as wasting time. Because of this, I spent most of my life in a hurry to get to the next thing or place or task.
Yoga taught me how to exist without finish lines.
Then I discovered yoga. Yoga is a practice with no finish lines, with nothing to “get done.”
Honestly, it didn’t seem like it at first. I was chasing “finish lines” years and years into my practice. I’d unroll my mat thinking thoughts such as “I’ll be good at yoga when I can touch my toes without bending my knees” or “I’ll be a real yogi when I can stand on my head without using the wall” or “I simply CANNOT wait until I can fold my legs into lotus position.”
The reality is that my performance in the postures doesn’t have much of an impact on the quality of my practice. Certainly there is no “mastery” of any of them. It is possible for a yoga posture to unfold for years and years. Even after you finally figure out the physical mechanics, you will always have room for improvement in technique, fluidity, synchronization with breath, mental focus and so on.
What matters each time I step on my yoga mat is my awareness, my attachment to my breath and the fact that I shift gears – even if just for a few moments. What does this mean? Practically speaking, it feels as if I drop down away from my thinking mind into a deeper space where I simply experience each movement and each breath that I take.
Yoga’s lessons (always) seep off the mat and into life.
This is a truly different way of being, one that, until very recently, I would have told you I mostly only experienced while practicing yoga. That is until I started to notice that I was no longer the fastest person around.
The first time I noticed this was actually back in New York, ground zero for “Fast Amy.” We had taken the kids into the city to see a show. I was enjoying walking through my old stomping grounds, when my daughter turned around and said, “Come on! Why are you so slow? You are usually dragging us along.” I put it in gear and caught up, but didn’t enjoy the faster pace one little bit.
Over months and perhaps years, these moments kept happening. I was the last one eating at the dinner table. I was not the first one up the hill on a hike. (I have really long legs. I don’t think I’ll ever be the last one up a hill.) I was still sitting in the theater as the credits rolled while my kids (and everyone else) dashed for the door.
Finally, when I was again teased for lagging, cIarity hit me like a proverbial 2×4. I quipped, without much thought, “Gosh! I’m just enjoying myself! It’s not like we have anywhere else we need to be.” In a flash, as those words left my lips, I realized that the way of being that I’d discovered on my yoga mat had seeped into my way of living off my mat. I was no longer chasing finish lines. Even when I had a destination or was working on a task, I was allowing myself to be immersed in the experience each step of the way.
Slowing down feels really good.
So, two weeks ago, when we took my parents to Longwood Gardens, a botanical garden famous for its fabulous display of Christmas lights, I stopped in my tracks as we were getting swept along by the crowd. I had a smile on my face when I said, “Let’s slow down. We don’t have anywhere else we have to be. Dinner isn’t for ages.” The four of us stood there and let a sea of fellow visitors dash past us. Then we took our own sweet time moseying through the beautiful gardens together. I can honestly say that I’ve never enjoyed the lights at Longwood more.
“Focus on the journey, not the destination. Joy is found not in finishing an activity but in doing it.” – Greg Anderson
Yoga With Spirit classes are a great way to practice slowing down and stretching into each moment.