By Eric Pettigrew, October, 2018
Do you ever find yourself feeling that there is too much going on in your life? You are caught up in trying to accomplish all you need to do, while still adding more to your “to do” list? It’s easy to slip into that mode, especially in the fall season, that time of the year when we reorganize, getting back into our routine after summer vacation.
Recently, I have been feeling overwhelmed with everything going on in my life. Transitioning from summer to begin a full year of studying functional medicine health coaching (which will eat up a significant chunk of my time), has me wondering, “OK… am I spreading myself too thin? Am I pushing myself too far?” I was overcome with panic, which I didn’t like at all. A friend reassured me, “You’ll see, a year goes super-fast”! But his words had me conjure up the image of a hamster running endlessly on a wheel.
You see, I was feeling overwhelmed because I was looking at the big picture, the goal, the end results and all I needed to do to reach my destination a year from now. My anxiety and tension were depriving me of the pleasure of being open and engaged in my new endeavor. More importantly, it prevented me from being present in the “now”.
I found a strong need to find balance between my work and self-care. I questioned how I could find that balance. The answer struck me: By practicing mindfulness and conscious presence in everything I do. But, is that even possible?
First, I decided to experiment with my yoga practice. I have been doing yoga for over 20 years and, the fact that it is constantly changing and transforming, should help me to be in the moment. So, I used my yoga practice to help me be fully engaged in the present. I concentrated not on the poses but on the transitioning, the journey from one pose to another. Soon, my anxiety and tension morphed into a sort of game of trying to be in the moment in whatever I did. Whether I was practicing or teaching yoga, studying, conversing with a friend, cooking a meal, listening to music, I played this game of challenging myself to be fully present. I began to feel relief and a real sense of accomplishment in whatever I did. That feeling of running like a hamster on a wheel vanished completely.
Discovering that my yoga practice is a precious ally is really comforting. Rediscovering its power to ground is like finding a refuge where I can be at ease and fully connected. This is what the practice of yoga gives us – a sense of embodiment of the present, allowing parts of ourselves to connect with breath and movements mindfully. The next time you practice, try paying more attention in between poses. What is most important? The destination, the end results of a pose or the journey and the exploration of it?
For me, it’s like traveling to a charted destination. Just focus on the journey, the landscape, the parts in between, every detail. Stop and smell the roses. Really be present in the action of traveling, enjoy the process, avoid those impatient “are we there yet” moments.
We all have our challenges and transition periods in life—some are more stressful than others. The way we experience those challenges and transitions are unique and precious to each of us. Learning how to be fully in the experience may combat the harmful stressors in life and be a key to open the way to a more balanced and healthy lifestyle.
As my very first Yoga teacher use to say: “Have Courage!” Training ourselves to be truly engaged in our unpleasant as well as pleasant experiences in life requires diligence and courage. I’d also like to add: Find pleasure in everything you do. Enjoy! Really be present in the journey. Don’t worry! You’ll reach your destination—we all do, one way or another!