Simple Isn't Easy

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If you have ever asked a yoga teacher a question about the logistics of your practice, you know that the answers can drive you crazy:

I can’t do this pose right.How do I get better at it?

Keep coming to class.

How often should I do yoga?

As often as you can.

I have a really hard time focusing on my breath.

Just…continue to focus on your breath.

So irritating!  Where is the “in two weeks you will be able to grab your heels” or “if you meditate on a candle flame your mind will become clear,” or “I understand all the reasons why you can’t come to yoga.  Two days a week will be enough for you.”

Those are the answers we want to hear, but they aren’t the real solutions.  The length of time, the amount of effort, and the level of commitment are going to differ from person to person.  Nobody but you can make those decisions.

You want to start running every day?  Set your alarm, get up every day, and run.  Nobody is saying this is easy.  Your motivation can wane and your mind’s got a grocery list of excuses ready to deter you at the slightest sign of weakness.  But what’s going on in your mind isn’t the same thing as what you actually have to DO.  What you have to DO stays simple:  Set your alarm, get up every day, and run.

When I first encountered this philosophy, it totally offended my Midwestern sensibility.  Where was the explanation and the letting me down easy?  I took the brevity of the responses as rudeness, and what I considered a refusal to consider my individual situation as insensitivity.

However, hidden in these four-word answers is a silver lining of faith and encouragement.  I know someone who leads teachers for a living.  He tells his employees “You can write down all your excuses for why you fall short in the classroom, and then crumple up the paper and throw it away.  I don’t ever need to see it.”  What?!  I was horrified.  How could you possibly expect to motivate anybody by refusing to consider their needs and their weaknesses?

Through a little more conversation, I realized that he was operating on a much deeper level.  What he was actually doing was conveying to the teachers that he believed in them.  Despite whatever challenges they faced inside the classroom, he knew, absolutely and positively, that they could rise to the occasion.  He was going to push them so they could realize their full potential.    The excuses were still there, but they didn’t matter.

Simple isn’t easy.  But it is straightforward.  And usually what we have to do to meet our goals or take the next step in our journey is a simple action.  Our minds tell us that change is way more complex than it needs to be.  Simple is the breath inside your body and the beating of your heart.  When a situation feels hopelessly entangled, draw yourself back to those two things.  Then get up and run.

Be well.