All In Good Time

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“If you try to force a flower to bloom before it’s ready you will break its petals and it will never bloom at all.” The advice we hear in yoga runs in opposition to almost everything we hear in our Western world, where getting ahead of the pack as quickly as possible pervades our thinking.

In yoga you are told to lay down when you get tired, to make your physical comfort the primary indicator of how far to push your poses, to exist fully in the moment and let all of your stresses, worries, and obligations melt away while you are on the mat. You aren’t competing against anyone else, you’re just respectful of your own pace and happy about your continued improvement as it unfolds in its own time. You know that you are exactly where you need to be at any given moment of your practice.

Think of how different this mental and emotional world is from the one that most of us have been inhabiting since we were in elementary school and started worrying about our grades and about besting classmates, a world we will continue to inhabit until the day we die unless we take a step back and interrupt the process once in a while. This is why I recommend yoga to all my clients, because in addition to the physical health benefits, the embedded philosophy acts as a sort of counterweight, giving them the chance to question many of their deeply held assumptions about life and their place in it.

We wonder why so many people in our materially wealthy society still burn out, get depressed, feel tremendous amounts of anxiety, and struggle with all kinds of other mental health issues, and one important reason why is that they feel compelled to bloom before they are ready, living life at a breakneck pace to get ahead, without taking time every day to really care for themselves in the present. Ask yourself how many minutes of pure tranquility you have had over the last week. If your answer is like most people I talk to there were precious few moments, and of course you’ll come up with your perfectly plausible explanations for why, about how busy your life is, but at center the lack of mindfulness is due to the underlying societal philosophy that we should always be on the go. Even our down time is up time, and we spend it buzzing around, making plans, watching television, or partying. If you can just slow things down once in a while, either through practicing yoga, meditation, a quiet walk, or whatever your preferred form of mindful relaxation is, you will probably find the end result to be greater productivity over your lifespan because you won’t burn out, your petals won’t break, before you get where you eventually want to go.