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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]
Our 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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