Just Show Up!
We all go through periods in our lives (including yogis!) when we feel a little "blah" - unmotivated perhaps, blocked, uncreative, maybe even a little depressed or feeling like our lives aren't moving in the direction we planned or hoped. In yogic philosophy, we might say we are feeling "tamasic". "Tamas" is one of the 3 "gunas" or qualities of natural behavior. Tamasic qualities include being or feeling dull, inactive, inertia, lethargy, negativity or apathy. How do we get inspired during these times? How do we find motivation? I have a pretty strong yoga practice - not just asana but daily meditation practice during which I might meditate on my sankalpa (your heart's intention or desire), or I might do a chakra clearing, or I might just sit with a mudra and open myself to whatever comes. And yet, sometimes days go by when I have no clue what direction I am supposed to be moving in and there seems to be no inner guidance. It is hard during those times to trudge along or see the light at the end of the tunnel or know that your actions in the world have any meaning. Life can seem overwhelming and even meaningless during these times. How do we get through them? I'm not sure I have a clear answer except that for me, I find meaning in routine and practice. For instance, if you have children, you have to make yourself get up - do whatever you need to wake up - shower, have a cup of tea or coffee, and prepare your kids for whatever is on their schedule that day. Or if you have to work, you have to prepare yourself to go forward and meet the expectations of your work day. Since I currently work odd hours and have lots of time between classes I teach, I have to manage my own time to prepare classes and gigs. Having a dog and a daily yoga practice gives me some routine. I know that no matter what, I have to get out of bed and let my dog outside first thing in the morning. That in itself gets me up! A simple yoga routine of stretching & pranayama in the morning makes me feel more alive and able to face the day ahead. It might be only 15-30 minutes if that's all I have time for. It might just be some alternate nostril breathing and a downward facing dog, if that's all I have time for. The point being is that I make myself get up and go about those daily habits without expectation of anything more. I just show up and be present - without expectation of Divine guidance or inspiration -because sometimes it's not there - and we have to move anyway. By showing up and following our path, we are cultivating faith in ourselves even when it feels like we are simply going through the motions. Overall, I think the most important thing we can do is Just Show Up. The first Yoga Sutra tells us that "Now is the time for yoga" (Yoga meaning unity, harmony, balance, the connection between individual consciousness and the higher consciousness). According to Pandit Rajmani Tigunait, "To gain a direct experience of yoga, you must commit yourself to a methodical practice." You've probably heard your yoga teacher at some point say that showing up on your mat is half the battle. Just getting there - even when you feel like you are going through the motions. Not every yoga practice is going to be awe-inspiring. Not every day of our life is going to be miraculous or wonderful. But by showing up and being present we open ourselves to the world and to community. By making ourselves practice when we feel like going back to bed and pulling the covers over our head, we are exercising our muscles - not just our physical body - but our brain and our heart and our lungs. The simple act of bringing in breath while lifting our arms up overhead can lift our spirits. If you can get yourself on your mat, or out in nature - on a run or a walk - you will feel better afterwards - even if only temporarily. And so we do it again, and again.
Another thing that helps us develop this sense of faith in our actions is by doing for others - getting up for your kids or your dog is an example of this - but making space to do something for a stranger along the way in your day can develop an even stronger sense of our connectedness and our faith that we are on the right path. No matter how small and inconsequential the action may seem - whether it's opening the door for someone, or complementing a stranger, or offering to help someone in need - whenever we connect with another human being and give of ourselves, we feel how we are connected to something so much bigger than ourselves. Finally, getting outside, if possible, and experiencing the world around you can be a huge help when we feel disconnected. Listening to the birds, watching a chipmunk or a rabbit can also give us a sense of connectedness and purpose when we struggle to find it. Watch nature, Feel nature - running water, the wind in the leaves, a bird building a nest or a spider spinning its web. We can learn alot from the natural world we disconnect from all the time by closing ourselves up in a house or an office. The sun comes up every day whether we ask it to or not. A turtle doesn't question it's purpose in life, it just moves. When we observe these things, we again tap into the stream of awareness that there is something bigger than ourselves that we, too, are a part of. The laws of nature say that what goes up must come down. Everything is cyclical. This, too, shall pass. And, while those words may not be comforting when you are in the midst of a "tamasic" day or week - if you keep showing up - the way forward WILL reveal itself. Namaste!