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Being Present: Slacking Off

Being Present

Some of you have noticed that I’ve been slacking on the newsletter this summer. It was time for me to re-embrace being present by slacking off. I am not very good at taking holidays, and not very good at taking time and space for myself, even though I am constantly preaching the importance of rest to others. It is my contention that this is true of many yoga teachers— many of us are type A over-achievers who need yoga to save us from ourselves.

This month I’ve done my best to take some time off. Dave and I went on a cycling trip through the beautiful eastern townships of Quebec. We camped for the week, which is a great practice for achieving appreciation of things we take for granted (running water, comfortable beds, private bathrooms, and freedom from mosquitoes). We met some wonderful people and laughed a lot.  I also went on a lovely weekend yoga retreat taught by Yumee Chung, where I could completely relax and enjoy being a student (thanks Lydia for the little prod).

Being a yoga teacher can really take the joy out of doing yoga. Rather than just settling into the breath and the movement, my brain is always grasping and churning: how can I teach this feeling? How can I translate this instruction to my class? How can I incorporate this movement into a different sequence?  The same is true of my writer brain. It is always busy thinking, judging, analysing and comparing, always wondering about the best way to communicate some thought or another.

My practice this month has been all about “beginner’s mind.” I’ve been reading books, without trying to reverse-engineer them, practicing asanas without obsessing about how to explain them, and not forcing myself to write anything. I’ve been working on knowing nothing and being nobody.

Very often in Buddhist texts, the most enlightened teachers retire to gardening, or disappear into obscurity. I’m not saying that I’ve ever achieved anything extraordinary, but rather, that as I grow older, it becomes more and more clear that achievement can be a distraction, and a ceaseless diversion from the joy and beauty of just being fully present and absorbed in what you are doing. It is possible to take great satisfaction in washing a window, or cleaning the kitchen—if we are willing to let go of our ideas about our self-importance. When we let go of our imaginary (but deeply ingrained) system of weighing and measuring our value, something deep inside can finally relax and and enjoy tiny beautiful things…like the hummingbird hovering at my window (wish you could see her).


The marvelous Yumee Chung (and me), with thanks to Lydia Pollock (Durga) for taking the photo.

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Yoga and meditation teacher, writer, reader, cat-momma, environmental warrior, friend

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