Leaving yoga last weekend, my daughter, a relatively new practitioner, noted with pride that she had not taken a child’s pose “the whole practice.” And she had not. Hearing this, I was struck by multiple emotions simultaneously. I felt proud of her commitment to this new activity and her willingness to dive right in to difficult poses. I felt a little envious that her nice young joints and muscles had cooperated with her this way in her first real Vinyasa class. And, I felt a little chagrined to realize that I had probably contributed to her belief that taking child’s pose during a practice was some sort of failure. The moment passed and we went on with our day, but it came back to me with a vengeance today.
Sunday was devoted to celebrations and family time, so my yoga moment consisted of some mindful meditation. Today, Monday, I realistically could have worked in a practice after I came home and made dinner for the family, but I didn’t. I’m just plain tired and having some sciatica, and the house has been in a bit of an uproar – so, I didn’t. And now I feel guilty and uneasy and as if I have “copped out” on my practice. And, thinking about it, I know that I do not always (or even often) take a child’s pose in class that isn’t instructor led, and when I do, I feel a sense that I’m doing it wrong – even though my wonderful instructors always are sure to mention in each class that child’s pose is a good thing and a perfectly valid pose and not a failure in any way.
So, what’s the problem? We (and by we, I guess I’m speaking for the entire U.S. and a good portion of the industrialized world, so please pardon my complete presumptuousness) don’t do rest very well. We are much much better at busy. Busy busy busy. Even when we are resting, we stay busy. We watch TV, chat on the phone, text our friends, surf the internet, write emails, jot notes, scrapbook, crochet, shop. We can’t make it through 10 minutes of waiting at the doctor’s office without picking up a magazine or checking our work emails. We seem to have a constant underlying feeling that we shouldn’t be “wasting” time; we have to DO something with it.
But, how can we waste our own time? It’s our time. We cannot store it away for later; we are always “using” the time – regardless of what we do in any given moment. And, fundamentally, my moments are only mine. Yes, my actions are part of the interconnected stream that is the living world, but my individual moments of behavior and being in my body are mine. There is not some larger goal that I have to meet in this lifetime – no minimum number of emails that must be sent, no particular amount of books that must be read, no afghans that have to be crocheted for the good of humanity. Our time can be wasted only if we mindlessly and thoughtlessly engage in behavior that does not -in any way- serve us. Sometimes it serves us to surf the web and text with our friends. But, sometimes we do it almost as a reflex action as part of our urge to stay busy busy busy. Does this serve us?
Look at your dog. If you don’t have a dog, run down the block and look at your neighbor’s dog. Go ahead, I’ll wait – I have time.
Ok, so what was that dog doing? Chances are pretty good that he or she was resting. Not texting or surfing the web (unless you have a VERY talented dog). Not reading the stock report or looking in the mirror for his latest wrinkle – just resting. And, don’t we all envy the dog (or the cat) sometimes for that ability to just sink into a rest in the blink of an eye? Yet, though we envy it in them, we find it so hard to do for ourselves.
I don’t know how to fix this culturally – though I’m pretty sure that we aren’t headed in that direction (do you remember nap time in kindergarten? – they don’t have that any more – too much to do). Maybe we need to teach children, and adults, Balasana and schedule it into our days until we get accustomed to recognizing what it feels like and how to stop resisting it. As for me, I guess it’s just one day at a time, one rest at a time, one moment at a time. And for you, just remember that even on Gilligan’s Island there was “the rest.” (ooohhhh)