Paying Attention

Another yoga lesson:

Letting go of expectations and instead paying attention to what’s happening now.  …and now.  …and now.

In yoga classes, we students are encouraged just to breathe–to concentrate on breathing in, and then stopping for a second, breathing out, and stopping for a second; noticing how our bodies feel when they are full of air, noticing how much air there must be in there because of how long it’s taking to breathe it all out, taking stock of how our necks, and shoulders, and backs, and hips, and knees feel–what hurts, what is buzzy and tight, and what feels okay today after feeling crappy for the last few weeks.

Many of the church fathers talk about looking honestly at ourselves, taking stock of our faults and our gifts and our struggles and our service.  Even more true today than when Orson Welles penned it in the 1940’s, “the faster we’re carried, the less time we have” (The Magnificent Ambersons–the opening sequence is the high point of the film; I couldn’t bear to finish it); we look less at ourselves in assessment–or in amazement–than we used to, and we suffer for it.

If our expectations are out of sync with reality, what fault is that but that we cannot accurately project what we’re capable of accomplishing?  (in other words, making superhuman to-do lists because we have lost a conception of time hits us twice–we don’t finish the list, feeling inadequate, and we can’t quite figure out why we couldn’t complete it)  That may mean that we should look a little closer at what on earth we’re spending all these waking hours doing, but it also may mean we should consider what we’re fighting through at the moment, or what our companions need from us in the current phase of life we find ourselves.

In a yoga class, we show up and do our best to focus on the task at hand, putting all our concentration and effort into breathing and stretching and holding and breathing–and explicitly not thinking about other things–for an hour (or so).  What if we showed up in our lives and did our best to focus on the task at hand, putting all our concentration and effort into whatever was sitting in front of us at the moment?  It would be vital to understand that our writing, or our conversation, or whatever it is that comprises our work may not always come as quickly or neatly or easily as we think it ought to, but letting go of the expectation that our work will look and feel a certain way allows us to find new, perhaps more effective and joyful, ways of approaching our tasks and our days.

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