How to Do More of What You Love Every Day and Still Pay the Bills

Do what you love is a theme that comes up a lot in modern circles. There are variations on the theme, and chances are you’ve heard some of these as well:

Do more of what you love

Today my yoga teacher suggested an activity that was a twist on the usual “to do” list. The task was to make a list of things we enjoy doing and then spend this day (which happened to be a Monday) doing what we want to do.

Ah, if only I had that luxury, I thought. I’d probably go get a pedicure and then pack for a week away at luxury yoga retreat, maybe one that includes learning how to draw or paint. But unfortunately, there are bills to pay. And without getting into details, as a responsible adult, I have to make that a priority right now, so…

I could not afford the luxury of being sure to have some fun today.

But wait. Life should be fun, shouldn’t it?

I don’t advocate being miserable. I’ve shown that in my life by leaving one or two dead-end jobs and opting out of activities and relationships that don’t help me grow and live in love. But how do those of us can’t pretend we don’t need to make a living manage the do what you love thing?

Well, it’s simple. If you can’t do what you love every minute of the day, then find a way to love what you do. Or at least find a way to not be miserable while you’re doing it.

A while ago, I wrote about how I’ve learned to turn some of the more tedious aspects of my work, like dry technical editing or grocery shopping, into meditations. (Seriously, next time you go grocery shopping, try to go slowly and really notice the colorful array of fruits and vegetables in the produce section or the myriad choices you have if you want a dozen eggs or a container of yogurt!)

Doing more of what we love each day is important, and so is taking care of our responsibilities. So, if you can’t quit your job or ignore a deadline to spend the entire day today doing things on your what I love to do list, try loving the simple fact that you’re alive and functioning, and love (or at least like) whatever you need to do.

The fact that you’re able to do anything is something worth appreciating. So despite the fact that I can’t do something I’m in love with every second of every day, here’s a short list of the things I’ve loved doing in just the last 24 hours:

  • I drank more than one delicious cup of coffee.
  • I ate a yummy breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
  • I went to an awesome yoga class.
  • I watched the New York Mets win (again)!
  • I watched a fascinating drama on television.
  • I listened to some of my favorite music.
  • I noticed the lilies in a bouquet of flowers I bought a few days ago have bloomed and are gorgeous.
  • I did my “editing meditation.”
  • I wrote this latest entry for my blog.

What will you love doing today?

Wake Up!

This morning, my sweet yoga teacher encouraged me to wake up. Not directly, as in, “Wake up and pay attention, Maria. You look a little sleepy today!” It was a general teaching for the class. But it caught my attention.

I was a little sleepy and a bit slow getting going and getting to class today, which is not completely unusual for me, especially on gray winter mornings.

Another reason the topic caught my attention is just an hour or so earlier over morning coffee, my husband and I were kicking around the concept of “waking up” in the sense of clearing cobwebs from our brains and becoming more focused and productive.

Awakening in Yoga and in Life

Then I got to class, where our teacher shared some wisdom she’d learned at a workshop she’d recently attended. The workshop leader was Guru Singh. Coincidentally, I recently read his book, “Buried Treasures.” Coincidence?

When I walked into class and saw another one of Guru Singh’s books at the front of the room, I knew the universe was trying to get my attention. There was yoga again getting to the heart of whatever is happening in my life.

We talk about awakening a lot in yoga. As our teacher (via Guru Singh) explained, it’s something that’s always available. In my own practice, I’ve found when I learn to pay attention, I open our eyes, heart, and mind to what is and what has always been. And it seems the more I pay attention, the more I realize I’ve spent a lot of time napping.

Are you ready to wake up?

There are things I’ve always been ready for (like starting a yoga practice). I wasn’t aware it was something I was meant to do until, one day, there it was. Often we dabble and go slowly because we’re not sure something is meant for us.

On the other hand, some things keep coming up in a way we know is meant for us, but we haven’t figured out how to do them or where to begin.

Your teacher is already here

They say when the student is ready the teacher will appear. But if Guru Singh’s position resonates with you and you believe you have always been ready for the thing you’re meant for, then maybe the real issue is you’re not awake. You don’t see that your teacher is already here.

As teachers often say, then, wake up and pay attention!

Letting Go of What Doesn’t Serve You and Embracing What Does

At a yoga class during the last week of 2014, my fellow students and I were asked to focus on something that no longer served us, something we wanted to let go of as we move into the new year. Suspecting this theme would come up, I already had some ideas in mind when I got to class that morning.

Letting Go

There are many things in my life that don’t serve me. I hold on to most of them because I’m not sure what the alternatives are and because most of them don’t really harm me either. It would be easy to let go of the old if we knew where we wanted to go and how to get there.

That said, there are certainly things I need to release, like regret. Regret serves no purpose; it’s not even filling space until I figure out what to do next with my life. It just makes me miserable. I can’t change the experiences I’ve had or the choices of made in the past. So I need to let go of regret and accept that what’s done (or not done) is history.

After regret, I want to let go of apologizing for who I am. I’ve had some great practice at this recently. I said no more than once without feeling (too) guilty about it, something that isn’t easy for me to do. I was being pulled in too many directions, and I was overwhelmed, so I had to say a few nos so I’d have the energy to be fully present when I did say yes.

Message from the Angels

At the end of class, we all picked from a deck of angel cards, an activity that always gets me thinking and often writing too. I wondered if I’d pick the word “regret” or “guilt.” That would be an awesome clear sign from the universe that I’m on the right track.

Instead, my word was “support.”

I stared at the card for a few moments because it didn’t seem right at all. Was this card suggesting I need to be more supportive? I quickly eliminated that idea. It seems (to me anyway) that one thing I do a lot of is listen to and support others. In fact, I’d been deep into support mode the last few weeks following an event that caused a swell of emotional turmoil for some of the people in my life. I found myself listening a lot, and I was told more than once it was good talking to me.

So why was I holding this card? It wasn’t telling me I should let go of my role of being supportive, was it? That didn’t seem right either.

Then it dawned on me that support was the right word for me after all. It’s not that I need to be more or less supportive, but that I need to stop denying I also need support. I’ve been cast in the role of listener for so long that I’ve learned to act like I don’t need to be heard. What is that really about?

Know What You Need

For me, acknowledging that I also need support presents a problem because of how good I’ve gotten at not seeking it. It’s probably the same for you, whether maybe with the same issue or maybe with something completely different.

Once you acknowledge what you need to release and what you want to embrace, the real work begins.

Maybe the best thing I can do right now is put the intention out to the universe. Rather than asking specific people to support me, I can ask the universe for support and see where it leads me. The universe is much more likely to come through, though I’m sure that when it does it will send me people who can help me find my way. My job is be open to that.

Lifting each other up

In case I had any doubts that I gotten the right message in class that morning, the song playing during savasana drove it home for me in that awesome way that things have of coming together when you’re open it. The chorus goes like this:

We shall lift each other up.

Higher and higher,

We shall lift each other up.

Lifting each other up is a great way to think about support. It doesn’t have to be one-sided. Just think how high we all could climb if we helped each other along the way! So I ask the universe for support in letting go of regret and learning to be myself without apology.

What Will You Let Go Of?

As you move into the new year, what will you release? And once you release it, what will you embrace? You may not know exactly what you need or how you’ll get it, but now is the time to take a new step. Set an intention and let the universe support you.

A very Happy New Year to all!

Who Are You Supposed to Be?

In “The Great Work of Your Life” – a book about dharma, author Stephen Cope notes that Walt Whitman was 47 years old when he found the “true calling” he had been preparing for all his life. When I first read that, a spark of hope went through me. Until that moment, I’d thought I was long past the age when such a thing could happen. And here’s the real surprise. Whitman’s calling was not writing; it was nursing!

It Can Take a Lifetime to Find Your Dharma

When I read Cope’s book a few years ago, I wondered if all the wandering I’ve done from “calling” to “calling” was leading me to something specific I could call my dharma. I hoped so, because the disjointed confusing road was a challenge to travel.

Don’t Do What You’re Not Supposed to Do

I’m not sure I know what I’m supposed to do. I do know what I’m not supposed to do. I usually figure that out shortly after I start doing a something, like studying to be a dietitian instead of a holistic nutritionist or taking a job as a financial aid representative when I really want to be a student counselor. But I continue to hope all of those starts and detours have a purpose.

I do sometimes think a good way to figure out what you’re supposed to do is to figure out what you’re not supposed to do.

Learning to Be Who We Are

I’m not a physicist (and have never even considered the possibility I should be, though it would be fascinating). I’m no longer a financial aid representative, and I now know I’m not meant to be a clinical dietitian. What I am supposed to be is a writer.

Writing has been part of my life (and my dharma) for a long time. All the things I’ve done or attempted to do have shaped the kind of writer and editor I am now. In college, I wrote fiction. Just after that, I did a lot of journal writing. In an odd, Zen-like way, I destroyed my journals in the early 2000’s to detach from the stories they told. I wrote journal entries as if I was writing fiction. More recently my writing ranges from technical to creative nonfiction.

Now most of my writing is more practical. Some is even technical. It’s almost all nonfiction.

No doubt there’s a reason it took me almost 20 years to return to writing as a career. I’ve written a lot about psychology and nutrition (and, of course yoga) in the last ten years. And while there may not be a formal title for what I am, I’m pretty sure it is what I’m supposed to do.

What are you supposed to be?

Do you know what you’re supposed to be? Have you found your dharma, and if you have, does it have a name? If you’re still not sure despite years of searching, don’t despair. It takes a seed many years to become a mighty tree.

Giving Up Control and Letting Life Happen

This morning, I went to an early yoga class. I thought about skipping the class since I didn’t sleep well, but I managed to get myself up and ready anyway. At 7:40 am, tired not only from lack of sleep but because of lingering sadness over the issue that had kept me awake, I pushed myself out the door.

The issue that stole my slumber is one I’ve been struggling with for a while now. I don’t give up on things easily, but in this case, I’ve begun to feel like it really is time to stop trying. Some things are too draining and too difficult, and it serves us better to just let them go. At least that’s what my “yoga brain” was telling me as I headed to class feeling resigned to the fact that it was time to stop trying to solve the problem on my mind.

Giving up Control

Yoga has a way of calling us to the mat for very specific reasons. Of course, this doesn’t happen every time, but it’s up to us to notice when it does. Today was one of those days. The teacher began, as she usually does, by sharing a reading. This one was about letting go of control. “So often we feel like we need to be in control of everything in our lives,” she began.

I smiled, because this was right in line with the conversation I’d had with myself earlier. I’d set (again) my intention to stop trying to make something happen, because I knew there was no hope. I was just going sit (really, hide) and let whatever was going to happen (or not happen) unfold.

“Can you relate to this?” the teacher asked me. She’d noticed my smile.

“I just had this conversation with myself this morning,” I replied.

At least I’d thought I did.

My teacher continued to read a passage about things that challenge us in life and how we often want to put ourselves right into them and take control and direct the outcome. We just want to say, “Enough! I don’t like the way this is going.”

In my case, the control I thought about taking was going to look more like giving up. I would stop struggling with something that wasn’t going the way I needed it to go.

“But sometimes things are hard because they are meant to teach us something,” was the message my teacher was reading this morning.

It surprised me, because I thought the “control issue” reading would be more about walking away from things that are too hard to control instead of trying to control them.

When the reading suggested things are supposed to be hard sometimes, I was really annoyed! This wasn’t the message I wanted. I didn’t want to be told to keep enduring something that felt way too difficult really to deal with.

So I did what any good yogi would do. I bit my proverbial tongue (the one that wanted rebut this crazy thing I was hearing) and listened to the rest of the passage. If there’s any truth to the idea that things come to us when we need to hear them, this was one example.

Staying in the Storm

It’s tough to think there are some things in our lives that may always be difficult and that the difficulty is meant to be because without those challenges, we won’t grow in important ways.

I don’t know if I’ll eventually come back to my conviction that it’s time to give up on this one thing, but for now, I’m going to try again, maybe just this one time more, and maybe many more times.

I’ll try again, because I was reminded this morning that accepting difficult things without trying to control them is a powerful way to awaken. It’s another opportunity to flex a spiritual muscle. And we need all those muscles to be strong to stay on the path to enlightenment.

When is Anger Helpful?

When I was in graduate school studying psychology, I learned that depression is anger turned inward. That seems right to me. So does that mean the way out of depression is to get angry? Yes.

anger

And no.

Anger is an important reaction to being mistreated or to seeing others mistreated. (I’m angered by the way people abuse animals, for example.)

But if I want to change the mistreatment, I need to do more than get angry. Sure I can rant and rave or complain about the injustices of factory farming, but I’ve noticed when I do that, the only people willing to listen to me are the ones who already agree with me! And even they will recognize at some point (usually quickly) I need to stop being angry and start doing something about the source of my anger. That is, if there actually is something that I can do about it.

As much I hate to admit it, I do not have control over everything. And being angry over things I can’t control only hurts me.

Serenity Prayer
Serenity Prayer

So in the particular case of animal abuse, my action is to not eat these beings and to speak about why I don’t when I can.

And since, like I said, most people don’t listen unless they already agree with me, I do what I can and accept what I can’t do (and pray for the wisdom to know the difference).

Constructive Anger

It’s natural to get angry when we experience mistreatment or disappointment, though how often and to what extent we feel anger varies. Some of us get extremely angry. Often. About many things. Others experience and express the emotion more moderately.

Chronic express of anger can be unhealthy and self-destructive. Not only does it cause physical reactions like rapid heartbeat, constriction of blood vessels and the release of hormones that can ruin our health over time, but we’re not likely to get what we want while immersed in anger. Why? First, it’s very difficult to make clear-headed decisions while we’re angry, and second, most people are put off by chronically angry people, so we won’t get the support that we need either.

Sure, this is easy for me to say. I’m more of the internalizing type, and I don’t express anger easily. And I know my way of dealing with anger has its own benefits and challenges.

Why are you angry?

Let’s say you’re angry because you didn’t win the lottery. Other people win the lottery, so why shouldn’t you? It’s not fair.

Is this kind of anger okay? Sure; why not? Is it useful? Probably not, unless it’s the only thing that motivates you to keep buying lottery tickets, and then you finally do win the lottery. (You’ll probably have a better experience in the meantime if you can keep buying those tickets with a clear and level head.)

Unfortunately, no amount of anger will cause you to pick a winning lottery ticket. Does this mean you should believe some higher force in the universe decides who gets to win the lottery and who doesn’t? I don’t think so. None of us fully understands how or why some people have great success and attract what they want and other people don’t.

Now before all of The Secret and Law of Attraction people jump all over this with that mantra that kind of blames the unfortunate for their own problems, let’s all stop for a moment and come a little bit back to the center.

If you have what you want, it’s probably because you have worked for it and you have believed in your ability to achieve or attract it, and you have been lucky.

I’m sorry if that rattles any feathers, but it’s the truth. It’s just plain wrong to suggest that some folks come up short on their dreams, however big or small those dreams, because they’re not trying hard enough. There is a thing called luck, and like control, it’s not always available when we’d like it or when we need.

It’s not all in your mind. But some of it is.

If you do enough soul-searching, you may find the “law of attraction” philosophies are largely based on fear of that we don’t all have as much control over all our circumstances as we’d like to have.

No, I am not a fatalist.  I do believe we have control over many things, possibly more things than we’re willing or able to admit. And it’s easy to get so lost in our negative emotions that we sabotage any chance we have for happiness or success of any kind.

I do believe that attitude plays a role (in fact, a huge role) in what we attract into our lives. But attitude alone won’t bring about positive change any more than anger alone will.

What is your anger telling you do to?

You can be angry as hell or perfectly aligned with the universe (in other words, on either end of the spectrum), but it won’t do you any good unless you know what you want and how to get it. Even so, I don’t believe everyone who is successful defined what they wanted and went for it. Sometimes people get lucky and are put in the path of things that are not hard to accept and be happy about!

Defining what you want and going for it is always a good idea, but getting attached to success (and either angry or down on yourself when things don’t work out) won’t help for more than fifteen minutes. Okay, take a whole day if you need to. Then take a deep breath and try again. And recognize that whether you fall again or not, you deserve to be happy.

It’s just too darned hard to be happy while you’re angry!

Self Love, Selflessness and Selfishness

The other day, a friend and I were kicking around the topic of self-love, a concept, we soon were reminded, That’s not simple. Most of us know we need to love ourselves and we could probably be a lot better at it.

So what is self-love? The definition is not so clear, perhaps because love is not easy to define.

Self love: Whose world is it anyway?

Along with the topic of self-love, my friend and I considered the idea of worldview. He pointed out that each person has a unique perspective, or worldview, that revolves around the person who holds that view. And so, he concluded, each person exists for himself. This was his take on the familiar idea of “looking out for number one.”

I didn’t agree that we all exist for ourselves. We do need to care for ourselves, but I don’t think we exist only for ourselves. We need to care about others, and not just because it’s a nice idea that sounds right, but because our own survival depends on our connection to those around us.

As is often the case when we let our initial reactions get in the way of true communication, I realized that, while I took issue with my friend’s statement about worldview, it was just one or two words before I could agree.

He seemed to be saying each person’s worldview revolves around that person and that the world as he or she knows it exists only in the mind of the observer. In other words, each person operates from a particular worldview, and the only world we can know is the one we ourselves observe.

But what if we learn to step back and widen our view, or at least acknowledge we are limited by our own view of things? We don’t each have our own world. We just have our own view of it. We are just a small part of the one world (or universe, if you prefer).

Love yourself

We do need to love ourselves in order to survive, and again, not just because it sounds nice and it’s the right thing to do. Think about how quickly you would be destroyed if you didn’t protect yourself from danger? Often, danger is concrete and obvious : the saber-toothed tiger, a madman with a gun, a hurricane, hunger, etc.

But what about being taken advantage of, put down, undervalued, criticized, or ignored? Those things are dangerous when they damage our self-esteem and threaten our ability to love ourselves. Subjected to such damage over time, we slowly die.

At first we may only suffer emotionally, but emotional damage often leads to physical illness. So it’s not hard to argue that we need to love and care for ourselves, and we need to do that before we can care for or love anyone else.

But do we also need to care for or love anyone else? I’m sure different people have different ideas about this, but I believe we cannot love ourselves without loving others as well. Because once we truly love ourselves, we recognize that we are part of a whole human experience. Once we truly love ourselves, we realize that we are love, and love cannot be contained.

Self love includes others

Many people put the needs of others ahead of their own, thinking this is the right thing to do. Selflessness is an admired quality, but not if it undervalues the person caring for others. In fact, true selflessness may be very damaging and dangerous.

I’m not talking about selfless acts, because there are times when it’s good, loving and noble, to put our own needs aside for a moment, or an afternoon, or a weekend, and let someone else come first. What is damaging is considering our own needs to always be secondary to the needs of others.

A healthy person is not selfless. He or she receives something in return for attending to the needs of others, and that’s how it should be. True selflessness would amount, in short, to death. So while we cannot love ourselves without loving others as well, and we also cannot love others until we love ourselves, we also cannot love only others or only ourselves.

There’s one world, and we’re ALL a part of it

Like it or not, we humans are interdependent. We need each other, but we need to choose our relationships wisely so we’re not exhausted or used up.

A lot of this choosing depends on our own personalities. Some people are more easily drained and need fewer relationships, while others thrive on interaction with others and need as much of it as possible. Neither is better than the other.

What we’re taught about ourselves and about caring for others also comes into play. Our personal histories influence how easily we’re able to make wise choices about the people we let into our lives.

In the end, each of us is the expert on our own needs, as well as our own ability and willingness to offer ourselves to others in a healthy way. Our bodies, our mind, and our spirits tell us when we’re doing a good job with ourselves and with others.

We also know when we have work to do on one end of the spectrum or the other. Like many things, it’s a question of balance, and the scales usually tip back and forth as we travel through our lives.

Spring: When Everything Old Can Become New

Spring is finally here! And that means it’s time for new beginnings. I’m excited because I’m ready for something new. It’s been an especially difficult winter on the east coast and for me personally, due not only to all the cold weather and snowstorms, but also some of those pesky storms of life.

The universe does have a way of nudging us toward a place we need to be, and that’s probably why I forced myself out of the house at the last minute to get to a yoga class today despite my inner protests (I have all this work to do; I’m tired; I can practice at home).

The teacher’s theme was, not surprisingly, spring-related. She spoke of doors and opening our hearts to new things; she asked us how we intended to greet the spring. Well, maybe that’s not exactly what she said, but you get the point.

Earlier, I’d been wondering why I wasn’t being strongly drawn to practice at any particular studio lately. I’ve been more or less bouncing from place to place for the last four or five years. Maybe the problem (if it’s even a problem) isn’t so much the studios out there as the plateau that I’ve reached within myself. I seem to be hearing (and saying and doing) the same thing over and over no matter where I go, and none of it is resonating the way it used to.

So it seemed this would be a good time for a new message, or so I was thinking as I unrolled my mat on this spring morning. I don’t mean an “out with the old, in with the new” kind of message. I mean I need to deepen my practice (my yoga practice, my spiritual practice, and my entire practice of life). Perhaps this has to do with the fact that I recently reached a milestone age. And I would like very much to be new.

Beginner’s Mind Makes Old Things New

So there I was in class waiting for something new. But there was really nothing new. Instead, the teacher invited us to experience the poses as if we’ve never done them before!

That was a powerful approach because this was in no way a beginner’s class. But then again, maybe it was. Maybe they all are (or could be). We do a lot of things in life so much by habit that it can become difficult to truly experience them anymore. And what happens? Sometimes, we get bored. And we start complaining about how we want to do something different or experience something new.

But what if we just started to think of the things we’re already doing in a different way?

This is especially challenging, I think, in our relationships. My husband reminds me of this all the time. We get so used to each other’s habits and ways of interacting that we think we can anticipate everything the other is going to say or do. Often, we can. But not always. And it’s usually when we can’t that we’ve missed something important.

So this little insight in yoga class was not exactly what I expected as an approach to this new season of spring. It’s better. Because the key to renewal may be simpler than we think. It may be that we don’t need to do anything new, just that we need to do old things in new ways.

So when you find yourself blaming your circumstances or routine for the lack of excitement in your life, try taking a deep breath and embracing whatever you’re doing right now. Do it as if you’ve never done it before. You may be surprised at how new old things can become!

It’s Okay to Say “God”

I’ve been a spiritual seeker for decades. I grew up in a religious (Catholic) family. Religion was not a bad thing. I went to church every Sunday until I was in college. Soon after I graduated, I followed the path of many twenty-somethings disillusioned with religion. It wasn’t that I saw no value in religion; it was that I needed to go deeper.

God is an Experience

Around the time I took my first yoga class, I spent some time exploring Christian Mysticism. I practiced centering prayer (similar to Eastern meditation) and read about the lives of Thomas Merton, St. John of the Cross, and other mystics. I was fascinated with “The Cloud of Unknowing” and a little booklet someone gave me called “The Hound of Heaven.”

The simple idea behind this mystic’s journey is God is in us. God is part of nature. God will call us in subtle and not so subtle ways. And if we really want to understand our connection to God, we have to go within ourselves to experience it.

This inner knowing was a bit different from the traditions, rules, and practices I’d known as religion until then. To mystics, God is more of an experience than a being you can figure out by thinking, reading, and following a set of rules.

Buddha

As I continued to practice yoga and learn more about Eastern traditions, my understanding of spirituality and what it means to be a spiritual being expanded. I began to learn about Hinduism, then Buddhism, Taosim and other Eastern traditions.

I’m open to anything that brings me a genuine experience of “something greater than myself” (something which I believe I am a part of). I have less need to define it or analyze it or intellectualize it. I just try to experience it and be it.

But I’ve noticed something interesting as I’ve come to know many other spiritual seekers on a journey similar to mine. It seems the word “God” has become taboo in some circles. Some people with Christian roots seem eager to throw the baby (Jesus) out with the bath water.

If you’re a Christian (and even if you’re not), you probably understand Jesus as someone who came to show people the way to God. The path to God is the reason for any religion. Of course, there’s a difference between Christianity and other religions, but it’s not the religion itself that matters most.

As human beings, we need to start with a set of rules that point us in the right direction toward anything we want to understand. And in trying to understand spiritual matters, various groups have established different religions. Religions are important. They start us on a path to God.

Rules, Rituals and Being Human

I hear a lot of people complain about Christianity because it supposedly encourages us to see ourselves as sinners. The problem may be a too-harsh definition of sin or they idea that sin makes us bad people.

Sin is anything that keeps us from God (so if yoga is your spiritual practice that can mean harming another being instead of practicing ahimsa is a sin; it can even mean skipping your practice or practicing half-heartedly is a sin if your practice is what keeps you connected to a higher power).

It’s a fact of human life that we’re not always perfectly focused on our spiritual goals. But if enlightenment is important to us, we need a way to stay on the journey.

Is it really too many rules and rituals that cause people to cringe when they see a crucifix? Maybe, like the rules you learned for solving arithmetic equations or driving your car, you don’t have to be so rigid about them once you’ve understand what your goal is in the first place.

In other words, it’s the spirit of the law, not the law itself that matters. If you’re getting the answer right, the steps you take may not be as important as you were led to believe when you first encountered the question. Just be honest about what’s happening. Are you really getting the answer, or is it just easier not to do your homework?

God will find you

I had a conversation about this recently, and my companion suggested that another reason people become disillusioned with Christianity is that they don’t like the idea of being eternally accountable to an invisible God.

So, here’s the thing. If there is an invisible God who is watching and taking note of our sins, we don’t have a choice in the matter. But that’s not something to worry about. There are probably eternal consequences to any choices we make in life. And eternity starts now. It’s not some final payment (or penalty) that will happen in the future.

The point I’m hoping to make is if you are truly honest about your spiritual life and your reasons for choosing your own form of spiritual practice, you will find your way back to your source. God by any other name is still God.

(Don’t) Worry; Be Happy

You may remember the song, “Don’t Worry; Be Happy.” It’s a catchy tune and a fine message, usually. If you practice yoga, you have probably practiced being in the moment, which usually suggests a state of blissful trust in the universe. In other words, you’re without

Sometimes worry is healthy

In the book “Aging as a Spiritual Practice,” author and Buddhist priest Lew Richmond writes about “healthy” worry. He describes the Buddhist concept of the “middle way,” comparing it to a lute string. In order to produce the best sound, a lute string must be in balance, that is, not too loose and not too tight.

My mom (who gave me the book to read) pointed this out the other day when we were discussing retirement. Realizing I had some concerns about having enough to live on in retirement, she said, “They say live in the moment, but how can you do that?”

Since I don’t spend a lot of time worrying about the future, I thought I knew the answer. “You have to be aware of the future and make plans for the future, but it’s probably not healthy to live in the future,” I suggested. I’m not sure if that’s right.

The future depends on you

I guess the point is if you go through life in denial and truly live only in the moment, you will eventually encounter unpleasant moments. The unfortunate reality of having to save for retirement is one example.

I often encounter people who swear to me the “universe” will provide for them, that things will happen “in time.” And I’m not surprised to find out ten years later that they’ve made no real progress toward their goals (if they had any goals to begin with).

On the other hand, if we spend our lives obsessing about numbers (living in the future) or stressed out over how to be sure I lives go according to plan, we’ll likely be miserable for many more moments than if we go through life with trust and awareness of how the present unfolds into the future.

Our past does not disappear

Similarly, there’s no real way to be in the present if we have no connection to the past. Our past contributes to what is going on in our lives at this moment. Again, living in the past (brooding, regretting or wishing to return to “glory days”) is not useful. But recalling pleasant memories or appreciating the value of lessons we learned in childhood enriches each present moment, doesn’t it?

Learning to live in the present moment is (along with learning how to breathe) one of the best gifts I’ve received from my yoga practice. I could spend a lot of time feeling sad about things I’ve lost or fearing what will happen in the future, but thankfully, I don’t, at least not too often.

Keeping the Lute Strings in Balance

I try to spend just enough time in the past or future to keep my lute string balanced so I can make the best possible music. When I find myself tightening the string too much, I trust that I can take a step back and stop worrying, at least for the moment.

And when I realize I do need to make plans for the future, I tighten that string just a bit more, but not so much that I forget to appreciate the gift of living in this beautiful moment and trusting I’ll make (mostly) the right choice in each moment as the future unfolds.

The past, present and future cannot really be separated. But maybe this is just a matter of perspective. No one can be in exactly the right place at all times; we need to learn how to make adjustments, to loosen and tighten that lute string as we move through a series of present moment.

That’s the beautiful practice of the “middle way.”

Previous Older Entries Next Newer Entries

%d bloggers like this: