Poser, Part 2Posted: March 8, 2011
In lieu of New Year’s resolutions, lately I’ve selected a word for the year. It serves as a kind of touchstone for the following 12 months. (This lady Christine Kane has created a bit of a cottage industry out of the idea — if you want to select a word, her site might inspire you.) Your word might be something you want to remind yourself of, or a personal goal for the coming year. For example, in 2009, my word was expansion. Last year it was joy — and that worked out pretty nicely for me, I’m happy to say.
This year I picked a few — presence, openness, simplicity and empathy. And they ended up spelling another word: pose.
I know, it all seems a bit too adorable. But I swear I didn’t do it on purpose. I didn’t even think of them in that order. The first one I chose was presence, and the others seemed to add themselves on from there.
With presence I was thinking about being in the moment. Being present. Just being here now. That sounds cliché, I know. But I’ve learned that with some practice, accepting that all you actually can do is live in the moment gets easier, and doing so removes a lot of anxiety. Yoga and running have been good ways for me to learn how to do this — to just be where I am, feeling what I feel. Sure, my mind wanders sometimes in yoga class, but focusing on the pose, my breathing and my alignment tends to pull me back into the present. With running, I’ve learned that thinking about how much farther I have to go is a surefire way to get tired and want to stop. Focusing on where I actually am on the trail is better. If I’m tired, I figure I’m probably going up a small incline (I am from the flatlands, after all, so inclines affect me); once I get to the top and start going down again, it’ll become easier. And it always does. I’ve learned that if I just stay with it, even if I feel uncomfortable, I’ll get to a better place eventually, a more pleasurable place, where I’ll feel stronger. Worrying about that place or taking myself out of the moment I’m in doesn’t make it feel better. Just staying present does.
If I stay present, I worry less about upcoming interactions, tasks and events that I can’t do much about until they actually get here. It doesn’t mean I don’t plan, organize and prepare for things that need it. It just means I use my energy for what’s currently in front of me. If what’s in front of me requires freaking out, by all means, I’ll freak out. But it’s no use to me to freak out about something I haven’t come to yet.
By openness, I don’t mean take-your-best-shot, do-with-me-what-you-will, wear-my-heart-on-my-sleeve openness. I’m thoroughly done with that, thank you. It’s more about being receptive, with appropriate boundaries. It’s more like opening shades to let the light shine in and through, if I might borrow an image from Emma’s yoga class today. This goes along nicely with being present, now that I think about it.
Simplicity is about trying not to make things any more complicated than they have to be. There’s enough stuff piled up in life most days that I don’t really want to pile on any more. It’s also been about trying to be more minimalist in general — cleaning out or throwing away things I don’t need anymore, or at least putting them away or organizing them differently, so that I have more space around me. I’m fairly good at organizing my own head, so that’s been a good start. I’m finding that when I try to keep things simpler, they look and feel more beautiful to me, as well. And I feel more at peace, and more graceful as I move through the world.
By empathy I mean trying to be accepting about who other people are and where they’re coming from. Accepting that they have their own motives and limitations, even if I don’t understand them, agree with them or like them. Keeping in mind that I don’t need to — in fact, that I shouldn’t — take the actions and words of others personally every time. But regardless of that, still reaching out and letting my friends and family, all the people I love, know I’m here for them. That I’ll be present with them, and I’ll try to be open, and that I resolve to keep things simple.
Altogether, this pose isn’t nearly as challenging as it seems. It’s kind of a pleasure.