On balancing: “be here now” or “work for your future”?

I’ve been thinking lately about Effort vs. Being Present. Which is it all about anyway? Is it about being accepting and enjoying where I am? Or is it about working hard for what matters to me?

Lao Tzu, the author of Tao Te Ching, says

If you realize that you have enough, you are truly rich

On the other hand, there’s a Zen proverb that states

When you reach the top of a mountain, keep climbing

So which one is correct?

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Then this game changer came along: both are correct. WHAT. These are conflicting viewpoints, right? If my mindset says productivity is what matters, then doing nothing=being unproductive=laziness. Or I have the mindset that enjoying the present and letting go of the attempt to control things is where it’s at, and effort seems like fighting against the current of life.

Yet this new perspective rings true because I experience the truth of them both: there are days when “just being” feels right, and there are also days when working towards my goals feels great. I hadn’t before thought that both could co-exist in harmony because from the outside I’d heard people telling me either one way or the other. Work hard! Relax! Reach for the stars! Sit back and enjoy!

It’s like Yin and Yang. The moon and the sun. Chandra and Surya. Rest and effort. Both are needed to provide balance. Many of us have experienced too much of one or the other: the feeling of burnout when we don’t get to restore and recharge, or the feeling of stuck-ness/laziness when we’ve been inert for too long.

I’ve identified two new skills to practice based on my new perspective:

1. Discerning which action is appropriate at any given moment

This means tuning into where I am at a particular moment and then figuring out what it is I need. This applies to both the physical body (exercise and movement vs rest) and the mind (thinking/planning/analyzing vs meditating/releasing control). In terms of the spirit, that’s still being explored 🙂

2. Embracing the two distinct energies within

It’s no longer an inner conflict between two sides or a battle of right over wrong. Instead, I now practice accepting that there are two rivers that flow in opposite directions, both of which are necessary for a balanced life. Most importantly, it’s about loving whichever energy is flowing that day without the voice of the other side singing the shoulda-woulda-couldas.

 

Living yoga: making money as a yoga teacher

So…lately I’ve been thinking about the financial viability of being a yoga teacher. The question that’s looming in my mind is, “can I make it as a yoga teacher?” During my year in teacher training, I focused on deepening my understanding of yoga and learning how to teach it — mindfully sharing my knowledge with others. This is what I’m deeply passionate about. I’ve also been lucky enough to have another job that allows me to study and teach yoga with minimal distractions and financial stress.

But now that I’ve received my certification and have begun getting paid for teaching, my next thought is “how do I shift a bigger part of my source of income to yoga?” My goal is to exclusively teach yoga. However, I’ve spoken to my yoga teaching friends and read up on salary statistics and yoga teachers’ anecdotes online, and most of them shout, “for your sanity and survival, don’t quit your day job!” Yikes.

So how do typical, non-celebrity yoga teachers make it work? A few ways: 1) they offer overlapping services such as massage therapy, Reiki healing, nutritional/lifestyle guidance, or physical therapy, 2) they offer workshops, retreats, or teacher trainings, or 3) they have supplementary income from another source. Often it’s a combination of these.

With the pragmatics of teaching yoga in mind, I check back with myself again. How do I define “making it”? What is my intention behind teaching yoga exclusively? What am I afraid of?

***meditation break***

Ahh, some clarity! My picture of success, after setting aside my ego, is to share the joy of my yoga practice with others, and to help others see themselves and live their dharma,  or purpose. My fears are not making enough money to live off of, and at the same time letting money and egotistic measures of success cloud my intention, my message and my teachings. Fear of uncertainty of the future.

So…what’s the answer? The answer is…I don’t know what will happen. But what I can do is set up ways to share yoga in the world we live in: through classes, workshops, word of mouth, online presence, and to track how much I earn doing what I love. Since I’ll be traveling around the world beginning this fall, I’ll have a unique opportunity to connect with people from many places and with many perspectives. If anything, this will help me become a better yoga teacher. Who knows where I’ll be in 5 years? For now, I will be here, practicing yoga.


Image credit: Hanson Mao

Are you attached to your yoga practice?

A few days ago I was working on my asana flashcards for yoga teacher training, and I realized it was almost time for meditation class. I was in a good work flow: I was feeling the music, knocking out the flashcards and feeling accomplished. But I felt the obligation of meditation pulling me. I didn’t want to go. But I felt guilty for not wanting to go.

Meditation is good for you. Asana practice is good for you. More of a good thing is always better, right?

I realized that I was feeling attached to my yoga practice. I was attached to the idea that more yoga would make me a better yogi. And that didn’t feel right. So I thought about it and realized…Saying no to asana or meditation is yoga too! Because yoga is about balance, self-awareness, and vairagya (non-attachment). Rather than following a set routine no matter what my situation or condition is, changing the routine based on what’s going on today allows me to live my life more fully and more true to myself.

So I skipped meditation practice that day, and enjoyed accomplishing my task at hand. No regrets 🙂

On balance (my no-asana sick yoga practice)

This has been an interesting week! I came down with the stomach flu last Tuesday and spent the week recovering from fever, stomach pains, and digestive issues. Ugh. Thankfully, my agni (fire of digestion/metabolism) is pretty much back to normal. Since my body was telling me to SLOW THE HELL DOWN, asana was not an option. But here’s how I did yoga anyway (without really knowing it):

I was out of balance

Boy was I.  My digestive system was definitely off balance, and so was my day to day life. Spent the first day in bed, angry at myself: “Why now?? Why did I get sick, when I’ve got x,y,z to do??” As if I had control over when or if I got sick. As if this was a terrible, terrible sickness (it was not — though it sure felt like it at the time). As if missing or postponing what I had to do was the end of the world. Hello asmita, my funny and contrary little ego! How much you’ve taught me by puffing up my own importance and bursting that bubble again and again.  But how is this yoga?

I was doing a balance pose! Like swaying in vrksasana (tree), wobbling in garudasana (eagle), or tumbling from ardha chandrasana B (half moon B),  I was off balance, and my mind and ego had some choice words to say about it.

I was meditating

Ok, this one I was aware of doing. I put on some guided meditation and did some reclined (OK, sweaty fetal position) meditation. Greeted my thoughts, tried to punch my ego to submission, fell asleep, woke up and took some Tylenol, tried meditating again with reduced fever/delirium, tried to punch my ego a little less, and phew, that’s enough for now.

Did I reach samadhi? No. Did I become aware of my thoughts and feelings about where I was? Absolutely.

I was building awareness

By watching It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, no less.  A show where the main characters are living unbalanced lives, with unchecked egos, while being blatantly unaware of all this.  How on earth is THAT yoga?

It helped me see my own ego. The over-the-top situations the gang get themselves into in the show often end up biting them in the ass, and hilariously so. It helped me realize how funny the ego is, the belief that you are separate and unique from everyone else. Seeing the humor in my own anger, misery, and self-centered thoughts, I was able to laugh and become more present, to be where I was.

All in all, it was a good week.  In our teacher training book club, we’re reading The Fire of Love by Aadil Palkhivala, and last week we discussed the chapter on Balance.  Aadil makes a great point about the appearance of balance vs true balance.  Though we’re often told there’s a right way to balance our lives — by eating right, exercising right, acting right, thinking right, feeling right, being right — the act of balancing isn’t static. In fact, sometimes it’s balancing to do something that may appear imbalanced to others. This week I lived that. I slept most of the day, didn’t eat much, watched tv, and didn’t leave the apartment. If I lived every week like that, I’d be in bad shape. But this week, it was just what I needed.