On taking life less seriously

We have all the basic tenants of a happy life. So why do we get so uptight about things?

If you’re anything like me, you spend a really absurd amount of time in your week feeling anxious or frustrated or burdened by things that just don’t matter all that much. Or at all.

When you press the zoom out button on your life, a lot of what weighs on you on Monday is irrelevant by Friday. By the end of the month you probably won’t even remember why you were so serious and intense a few short weeks back.

Sometimes big things DO go down, and when they do, we should respond appropriately.

But that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about when life is pretty good and we’re floating along in that good part. I’m talking about when we have all the basic tenants of a happy life: We’re safe and healthy. We have comfortable shelter and enough to eat. We have people we care for and who care about us. We have the financial security and available time to read yoga blogs. There is ease and sweetness in abundance in our lives.

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Baby S. does not take life too seriously. She just giggles. All. The. Time.

So how do we live with more ease and less consternation? How do we take life less seriously? How can we let go of the little meaningless anxieties, fears, and frustrations? How can we laugh off the moments of annoyance?

I don’t know really.

Maybe the first step is just to remember we have it good.

Maybe the second step is to remember that not much matters.

The last step always for me is to go to my mat. Move and breathe.

In my classes this week, I read a poem by the Sufi mystic poet Hafiz. Enjoy.

 

TRIPPING OVER JOY

What is the difference

Between your experience of existence

And that of a saint?

The saint knows

That the spiritual path

Is a sublime chess game with God

And that the beloved

Has just made such a fantastic move

That the saint is now continually

Tripping over joy

And bursting out in laughter

And saying, “I surrender!”

Whereas, my dear,

I am afraid you still think

You have a thousand serious moves.

 

Hungry for emotional popcorn?

Emotions pop up as quickly as a kernel of popcorn goes from inedible to fluffy goodness.

Every day, all day we’re inundated by emotional responses. Some of these are groovy, sweet emotions and some of these are lame, annoying emotions. (And sometimes all the lame emotions flood in at once, like when you’re on one of those customer service phone calls from hell. Just the worst.)

These little jabs of feeling? I like to think of them as emotional popcorn. Yep.

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I ate all of that. Every bite.

I really like popcorn. At least once a week, I make it on the stove the old-fashioned way: in a pan with salt and oil. It’s a pretty fun snack to eat, and it’s just as much fun to cook. The kernels heat up, the sizzling starts, and then anticipation builds until ping! pop!—the popping begins.

Emotions often come over us as quickly as a kernel of corn goes from inedible to fluffy goodness. Ping! Anger. Pop! Frustration. Ping! Anxiety. Ping! Pop! Pop! When we feel the emotions start to pop up, we get to make a choice: are we going to eat the popcorn?

Much of the practice of yoga centers on this idea—noticing that there IS actually space between provocation and reaction. You can feel an emotion (anger, for instance) and not eat that emotional popcorn. You can feel it and see it and choose not to engage it at the moment. The starting point is to be aware. To notice. To feel the emotion begin and then choose whether or not you’re going to shove it in your mouth. (Sometimes it’s just too damn tempting. Sometimes you eat a big bowl of popcorn, handful after handful. And that’s okay, too.)

But that space? That pause? That path between action and reaction? That comes from breathing while you move. From staying in a pose a smidge longer than your quads want you to. That comes from being present, even in challenging poses. And then really letting go in savasana. Your practice on the mat is a microcosm for your life.

So this week, whether you’re on your mat or on the phone call with Time Warner, just notice. Just notice the pop of emotion. And see what happens next.

Have 10 minutes? Do some yoga:

Simple Yoga Sequence for Waking Up the Body

  • Begin on your hands and knees in Table Pose; play in Cat-Cow: move your spine and stretch your body, finding what feels good
  • Slowly root through your feet and move to Downward Facing Dog; squirm around in this pose, and stay here for 5-10 breaths
  • Move back to Table Pose
  • Rest in Child’s Pose
  • Move to standing and come to Mountain Pose
  • Inhale, lift arms overhead; exhale, clasp your hands and lean to one side. Take 3 breaths. Inhale through center and exhale, lean to the other side. Take 3 more breaths. Inhale through center and exhale, release your arms to your side.
  • Inhale, lift arms overhead; exhale, fold forward
  • Inhale, lift halfway (hands can come to shins or higher; lengthen your spine); exhale, fold forward
  • With your next inhalation return to Mountain Pose
  • Inhale, step your left foot back and move to Warrior I; stay in Warrior I for 3-5 breaths
  • Shift to Warrior II; stay in Warrior II for 3-5 breaths
  • Return to Mountain Pose and repeat Warrior I and II, this time stepping your right foot back
  • Return to Downward-Facing Dog and and move your spine again, stretching any places that still need to stretch, 5-10 breaths
  • Rest in Child’s Pose or transition to Resting Pose (Savasana Pose) for at least 2 minutes.