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[mk_blockquote style=”quote-style” font_family=”none” text_size=”16″ align=”left”]If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans.” – Woody Allen[/mk_blockquote]

plan vs realityYou had an idea. In classic form, perhaps this idea woke you from a sound sleep in the middle of the night, or flashed into your head while you scrubbed it in the shower. Somehow, you managed to jot it down for a perkier or drier moment. You gave it some thought. Maybe you prayed about it. Perhaps you smiled. You gave it some more thought and fleshed out details. Maybe you brainstormed with a friend or colleague. You smiled bigger.

You swung into action. Made the necessary calls. Did math and came up with a budget. Stared at your calendar and smiled again as a workable schedule materialized before your eyes. You took a moment to marvel that it was coming together so smoothly. Perhaps you got brave enough to purchase supplies or line up childcare or sign a lease or book tickets. Perhaps you got even braver and actually dared to share your plan with the world.

And then, just before the big day – be it launch day, or departure day, or opening day, or move in day, or first day – the wheels fell off the proverbial bus. Your plans crumbled under the weight of a completely unexpected, wholly unforeseeable, totally unanticipated event.

What did you do? I’m serious. We’ve all been there. What did you do?

Did you rage? Did you cry? Were you speechless or were you a ranting lunatic? Did you fight back and fiercely hold firm to your plans despite the fact that they were clearly defunct? Or did you throw up your hands and wallow in defeat?

In the face of crumbled plans – plans that were brilliant, plans that felt absolutely perfect and even plans that felt divinely inspired – I’ve experimented with all of these reactions and more. Frankly, only one has proved to be productive. I learned it on my yoga mat where, as in the rest of my life, I have a habit of showing up with a plan.

Sometimes I plan to have a vigorous, sweaty practice because I indulged at Baskin Robbins the night before. Sometimes I plan to have a quiet, peaceful practice because I didn’t get enough sleep. I have planned to master a tough posture before my next birthday. And I have planned to never (ever!) be able to do a posture.

The good news is that the plans I have for my yoga practice are rarely time-consuming to make. They don’t require an investment in supplies. Best of all, they don’t affect anyone but me. But they do affect me – mentally, physically, emotionally and sometimes even spiritually – which is critically important. Otherwise, I’d never have learned the secret to handling crumbled plans off my mat. The secret is to just go with whatever is happening.

If I’ve planned on a vigorous practice, but am barely able to keep my breath steady in Sun Salutations, the best response is to listen to my body and dial it back. Slow down. Breathe deeper. Work in some gentler postures. Take it easy. To insist on that vigorous practice despite my fatigue is to completely exhaust myself for the rest of the day. Worse yet, it puts me at risk of hurting myself – crushing any and all plans I may have for the days or weeks to come. Sadly, I speak from experience.

I have learned to set my plans aside as I unroll my mat. I have been shocked to find myself feeling strong and light as a feather on a day I expected to feel wiped out. I can’t count the number of times I’ve promised myself (and sometimes my friends) that I’d nail something by my birthday (or Christmas or summer or ….) and find myself still working hard months after the milestone had passed. And at least twice a posture I had no plans whatsoever to achieve (ever!) has materialized out of the clear blue.

In short, yoga has taught me that I can make all the plans I want. It’s good to have goals. It’s good to be working on something. It can even be good to set a deadline or two to keep your energy and drive up. But I’ve learned on my mat that these plans must be held very lightly. So lightly, in fact, that it is almost effortless to allow these plans to easily and quietly fade into the background in the face of reality. Reality – what is actually happening in that moment on that day – gets all my attention on my mat. Sometimes I don’t even realize another plan has crumbled until after my mat is rolled back up and put away.

And that is the secret – to shift your focus from your plans to reality. I’m not setting any deadlines or making firm plans to master this skill. Instead, every time another plan bites the dust off my mat – plans that have often consumed valuable time and resources – I take a moment to be grateful to my practice for this powerful lesson. While I am rarely able to release these plans – especially the particularly brilliant or inspired ones – with the peace and ease that I have learned to release my plans on my yoga mat, I will say that I am getting better and better at going with the flow.

Perhaps you’d like to try too?