[mk_blockquote style=”quote-style” font_family=”none” text_size=”16″ align=”left”]“The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.” – popular expression[/mk_blockquote]
We’ve all felt this way. For me, the first time I remember feeling this way was in elementary school. My friend, Sally S., had the coolest stuff. All the Barbie gear you could imagine, loads of stuffed animals and a bean bag chair in her room! She also had two gorgeous big sisters who let us look at their makeup and jewelry. They even let us play with their hot rollers! (Remember, this was Texas in the ‘70s.) She also lived in one of the big new houses in the back of our development. Her bedroom was huge, but we weren’t confined there because there was a separate playroom. Best yet, she even had two sets of stairs!
But Sally liked to be at my house as much as I liked to be at hers. I may not have had as much stuff, she said, but mine was new while hers was all hand-me-downs from her sisters. She loved being with my family, where she could feel like the oldest for once. She loved babying my little sister and teasing my younger brother. She didn’t seem to give a wink that my bedroom was smaller than hers – the secrets, whispering and giggling were just as good no matter where we were. And she adored lazing with me in the hammock in our backyard. Plus, we could ride our bikes to the local pool from my house, which her mom would never let her do from hers!
Looking at my life through her eyes made me feel pretty lucky. For a little while. But the lesson didn’t stick for a decade or two (or three …). There was the girl in high school who seemed to have it all, from the towering stilettos and skin tight jeans that my mother would never allow to the gorgeous boyfriend. There was the girl in college who seemed to have her whole life planned out – including an amazing, summer internship at a record label – by the end of freshman year. There was my colleague at a rival company who had already been promoted to director. There were the lucky moms at the playground in Brooklyn whose babies were already crawling. There were the young families at our kids’ nursery school who drove swanky new cars and were re-doing recently re-done houses.
You get the picture. We are very easily distracted by others – their stuff, their skills, their appearances and their good fortune. By comparison, our focus on our own well-being is often slippery and fickle. But, it turns out that it is our focus on our own well-being that is the secret to happiness.
Though I hope I would have, I’ll never know if or when I would have reached this understanding through the simple process of growing up. For me, this bit of wisdom was one of the first that I received from moving and breathing on my yoga mat. You see, when you show up to your first yoga class as uncoordinated, as inflexible and as hopelessly spastic as I did, you learn very quickly to keep your eyes on your own mat. If I’d spent too much time looking around at my more proficient, more experienced and more flexible neighbors, I am sure I would have felt dejected enough that I may never have returned to class.
For some reason, though, I didn’t do this. Perhaps I was too busy trying not to fall over. Perhaps the movements my teacher was asking of me were so difficult that I couldn’t risk any distraction. Perhaps I was simply too tired to shift my eyeballs to what was happening next to me. Whatever the reason, it was a blessing. I kept showing up. I continued to focus on my own experience. And, best yet, I continued to be excited by the changes I saw and felt in my own practice.
This went on for years. It never occurred to me to consider what my practice might look like to another. In the back of my mind, I suppose I was still a gangly, tight person doing her best to keep up with the rest of the class. But one day a woman approached me in the parking lot after class. She said she just wanted me to know that it was inspiring to practice next to me every week. I was teaching her what a yoga practice could look like – focused, smooth and strong. I think I actually looked over my shoulder to make sure she was talking to me. I smiled at the compliment, but my response had little to do with what my practice looked like. I vividly remember saying, “It’s amazing how this practice can change your life.”
And that is exactly what I could have missed if I’d spent my energy wistfully looking around the room at my yoga neighbors. That is exactly what I could have missed if I’d spent my time focusing on all the postures I couldn’t do rather than relishing the ones I could. That is exactly what I could have missed if I’d allowed myself to be distracted from my own experience – physical, mental and spiritual – on my mat. I would have missed out on the million ways my yoga practice was changing my body, my mind and the way I was experiencing my life.
That conversation in the parking lot had the same impact on me as my conversation with my old friend, Sally. I felt very lucky to be me. Only, this time, rather than this being a perspective shift, I was surprised to discover that I’d been feeling pretty lucky to be me for quite some time. I discovered that keeping my eyes on my own mat had not just given me a healthy, vibrant, life-giving yoga practice. It had taught me that the grass is pretty darn green on “my side of the fence” off my mat as well.
The next time you notice yourself wanting something you don’t have, take a long, hard look at all you do have. The next time you catch yourself yearning for the proverbial grass on the other side of the fence – grass that seems somehow greener, sweeter, and lusher – draw your attention back to the grass all around you. If it’s hard for you to see your own grass through clear eyes, take a moment to see your grass through your neighbor’s eyes. When you do, I suspect you will feel a wave of gratitude and contentment as you re-discover the blessings that fill your life – um, yard.
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Image credit: “Cattle eating grass through barbed wire fence” by James Rickwood – Flickr: P*ssed again!. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Cattle_eating_grass_through_barbed_wire_fence.jpg#/media/File:Cattle_eating_grass_through_barbed_wire_fence.jpg