There are times when I’d like to step out of the stream of my life. Step back and let go of all the tasks I have set myself. Six months to a year always has a nice ring. This thought usually comes when I want to pursue an idea to a greater depth and I think my life is just too cluttered to find the space and time.
Going to the coast for a few days felt like stepping out of the stream. All the distractions that I use to fritter away my time, diffuse my focus, were on pause. There wasn’t anything clamoring for my attention. I felt free to do my yoga practice, write a lot, take a walk when I wanted rather than in an allotted time slot, and eat when I was hungry. I was happy, peaceful and satisfied.
I feel a little spoiled writing this as I don’t have a full time job, my children are out of the house, and I can make choices about where to put my attention. This is so reasonable. The problem is that this wish doesn’t arise from reasoned thought. It is about the nebulous experience of freedom and space.
Here’s an example which might clarify. I have Doug Keller’s two new books, Yoga As Therapy Vol I & II. I would like to read them at a pace that allows me to practice what I’m reading so I can bring it into a deeper understanding. I’d like to attend a few of his workshops and get a direct transmission. What’s stopping me you might ask? Nothing, of course. But….since I teach yoga every week I have a hard time allowing the information to distill. I want to bring it into my teaching as I read. This leads to a scattered reading as I jump around the book picking up tidbits. This is my own shortcoming, a product of how my curiosity works, and my wish to contribute. What I want to do is read it in order and allow it to sink in. So the thought follows, “If I could just stop teaching for awhile, get away from all my commitments, then I’d have the time and space to do this.”
Should I take a sabbatical?
I don’t have six months or a year to take off. Well I could. I could sell or rent the house (a major distraction), find a place that fosters a retreat-like experience, and put my job on hold. Even if this option is viable it’s not likely to work. Chogyam Thrungpa Rinpoche once said,“It doesn’t really matter where you go if you still bring your confusion.” Meaning that even if I find the idyllic place I am still me. I will bring my habits wherever I am. If I’d stayed at the beach longer I would have found distractions to pull me away from my intention.
How then, can I meet my own need? Let me start with what I want:
Read Doug Keller’s books and at a steady pace and give time to integrate his information.
Attend a weekend workshop with Doug Keller.
Read Ken Wilber’s No Boundry and find a discussion group.
Design a yoga practice that I do consistently for a month and observe how the practice changes from the consistency of focus.
Work on poses I’m not that fond of: shoulderstand, revolved side angle.
Have a daily meditation and pranayama practice.
Slow down enough to bring NVC into my listening and speaking.
Develop and write an Indian Primer Cookbook with my friend Sudha.
Get aerobic exercise.
Walk my dog, Henry, on a regular basis.
Work in my yard in a way that nurtures me. Ask for help when I need it Find others to enjoy the vegetable garden work and bounty.
Make my sleeping and waking habits support the changes I want in my life.
In general live a more sattvic life supported by my eating habits, sleeping patterns, and what I choose to listen to and watch.
I’m going to dispense with the reasonable, solution-oriented aspect of my question. This is all doable, that’s not the issue. As I said, this is about the nebulous experience of freedom and space. The tools of Non-Violent Communication would better penetrate my situation.
In NVC the process is to make an observation, identify the feeling(s), and connect with the need(s) I want to meet. From this I can make an actionable request or just see if I’m connecting with myself. Eventually come to a strategy.
So here I go….
When I write my list of things I want in my life (observation)
I feel scared, nervous, excited, and overwhelmed (feelings)
I want ease, growth, health, space, and spontaneity (needs)
Can I hear myself? (doable request)
I am hearing myself. I am excited to pursue my own wishes but also nervous that I will be overwhelmed and not stay clear in my intention. I’m concerned that I will give up spontaneity. I’m nervous that I will fall into my usual habits and miss my own opportunity for change.
With more space around my subject I notice I forgot FUN on my list. I suspect that without fun I will soon make this a list of ‘should’s’ and want to rebel. I’ll forget that this was my idea and make it something ‘I have to do’.
The way my mind works: I don’t usually think it is someone else that makes me do something, but rather, that there is some necessity in the world that is driving me. An example might be: I planted that garden and now I must do all these things (whatever they are) to maintain it. The task itself becomes the slave driver I must resist or submit to. It’s all a big ‘have to’.
I know that the paired couple, rebel or submit, is not the path I want to travel. They are a familiar trap I fall into. There is another option.
So here it is:
I am commited to: choice. I’m committed to remembering that I am the one who said this is important, that this is what I want. I’m commited to remembering that I can reevaluate my list at any moment to see if it is life-serving. I’m commited to see my challenges as an adventure. Finally, I’m commited to translate the thought, ‘I’d like to step out of the stream of my life’ to: I am stepping out of the stream of my conditioned consciousness and I’m willing to find the freedom and space I want right now in this situation.
As always, I’ll keep you posted.