25 August, 2013

Do more or do less? That's more or less the question...

Today was Gentle Yoga with Elizabeth McElveen.

Yoga is an opportunity to be still... to do less. And it teaches us to slow... down...

That's something Elizabeth discussed today. There's a paradox in our lives, though. I feel that most of the rest of our world is always demanding that we go faster and do more. Our work life certainly demands that. I once had a manager tell me that I should continue lowering my bar for quality until someone tells me my work isn't good enough. His point, albeit oddly stated, was that I could do a lot more if I weren't so perfectionistic. And that attitude is absolutely considered to be virtuous in the professional world. "Good Enough" is as good as it needs to be. And yet, in yoga (and in meditation, which I can only say I am just beginning to do) we are trying to slow down and pay attention to the details, create space, do less, find peace, step away from urgency.

It makes total sense that yoga is of great value to our well-being, especially in the juxtaposition with a world that is revving us ever faster, winding us ever tighter. And I can see that quieting the mind, making ourselves more effective, could increase productivity, decrease stress, and all that good stuff. But I sometimes feel that, in the corporate world (and perhaps even in the world of modern media), the last thing the "Powers That Be" want is a peaceful and enlightened populace. They don't benefit from contentment, even if we are more effective when content. I would assert that they benefit more from frenzy, panic, competitiveness, fear, coveting. If you are striving to have more, then you will likely work harder, spend more, etc. If we all decided we didn't need useless stuff, and that we could be content with just simple food and shelter, there would be no demand for large salaries, and our economy would at the very least need to reorient itself (if not implode). What would BMW do if, suddenly, humankind decided that spending $40,000 (or more) on a mode of transportation was just a frivolous thing to do?

It seems like if one marches far enough down the path of yoga and meditation, one's values begin to align with that philosophy on and off the mat, and one starts letting go of a lot of the worldly quests, jumping off the moving train, so to speak. And not many people do that. Most of us who are in the rat race are using this practice as a way to balance ourselves out from going too far into the black hole of material aspiration. We straddle the two worlds, but I think most of us tend to keep the heavier foot solidly in the "I still want to have my cool stuff" mindset. That's just based on the observations I have made. Rarely, though more than never, we do see people give it all up to take this path less traveled. Some of the most inspirational people I know are those who have done just that (some of whom are the teachers that I so often quote in this blog).

Furthermore, there's the irony that to run a yoga studio, in fact, requires a business mindset, and a certain degree of "Type-A-ness" just to keep it afloat. If you don't have any of it, ends won't meet. It's a challenge.

It's almost like, here we are, in Western culture, with the nearly cardinal rule of "money talks..." and we are trying to get the best of the Eastern philosophy, which operates according to an entirely different set of rules. To try to make those two worlds meld, in itself, takes a certain degree of striving and determination that, unfortunately, again, is at odds with the entire practice. If I don't try to be "Type A" about fitting yoga into my days, it would eventually get squeezed out by all the other options vying for my attention.

Can you see the predicament?

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