I will never forget the description of the experience my yoga teacher Gary Kraftsow shared with us about his recovery from brain surgery many years ago. As I remember it, he said that right after surgery he experienced his mental state as a blank slate where every decision to engage in a thought or activity had to be intentional, because it required effort. He had to choose what he would spend his energy and efforts on. As life went on and he continued to recover, he found himself being swept again into the whirlpool of mental chatter and ongoing daily activity. It seems that even after an experience that redefines our view of reality, it is easy for us to fall back into our old patterns of overthinking and overdoing.
Right now, we are slowly emerging from the pandemic, some of us eagerly, some of us tentatively. As we return back to teaching in person and begin to take on more and more activities and responsibilities, it might serve us well to do it mindfully to avoid being swept away in the pre-pandemic busy-ness. This might be a good time to evaluate what we have learned in this past year about ourselves and our preferred way of teaching. We would need to make conscious choices about what we choose to continue doing, what we might want to add, and what we might have to let go of.
Do we choose to do a little bit of everything, or do we want to focus more on one area and develop it more fully? Do we choose to go back to teaching multiple yoga classes, or will we continue to work with students one-on-one virtually? From my conversations with different yoga teachers, it seems that the opinions are split in terms of virtual vs in-person teaching. Some cannot wait to see their students face-to-face again, and others got fully adapted to the virtual work. Making decisions and eliminating possibilities can be very difficult. Greg McKeown in his bestselling book Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less writes: “When making decisions, deciding to cut options can be terrifying–but the truth is, it is the very essence of decision making. In fact, the Latin root of the word decision–cis or cid–literally means “to cut” or to “to kill”. Yes, making the choice to eliminate something good can be painful. But eventually, every cut produces joy–maybe not in the moment but afterwards, when we realize that every additional moment we have gained can be spent on something better.” And at this point of time, it might not even be necessary to cut anything off, you can simply choose not to pick it back up.
When you make those important decisions, it helps to look at them from the perspective of purpose and the ultimate direction you want to move in. Greg McKeown suggests that you ask yourself the following three questions:
- What am I deeply passionate about?
- What taps my talent?
- What meets a significant need in the world?
Once you figure out what fits in the cross section of those three areas, it will be easier to let go of the things that do not meet all the criteria.
Personally, I had to let go of my yoga studio space and with that my visions of teaching small therapeutic in-person classes and in-person private sessions. I realized that I was trying to do too much, and things were starting to slip through the cracks. Instead, I decided to direct my full attention to my yoga video practices, my finally-realized Sequence Wiz student management system, and my personal yoga practice. I still work with students one-on-one virtually, but I can no longer work with anybody who asks, and that’s OK. It feels good to make those definitive decisions and set your course for the future. Once you make that one big decision, it becomes easier to make small daily decisions and say no to things that don’t align with your vision.
What direction do you choose to move in? Which steps will help you get there? Can you say no to the projects and opportunities that steer you in a different direction? Now is the time to reflect on those questions before we get swept up once again into the sea of post-pandemic possibilities.
If you need a bit of help in refining your vision, I recommend that you check out the book I mentioned earlier Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown. It will help you discern what is essential and eliminate everything that is not, so that you could make the highest possible contributions toward the things that really matter.
Reading can be helpful, but, as yoga practitioners, we have another unique way to help us chart a more mindful course. We will talk about it next time – tune in!
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