By: Stuart White 11-10-2021
DON’T DO WHAT I DO, JUST DO WHAT I SAY!
Sometimes the advice you give to others is precisely the advice you need to follow yourself. I have been judging one of my daughters for days because she hasn’t been doing her yoga practice. I know that yoga is good for her because in times of change and uncertainty, like now because she has just moved to a new city, she does better mentally when she is practicing yoga or other forms of exercise and mindfulness (who doesn’t?). Sanctimoniously I have been sharing my wisdom that there are not only the obvious physical health benefits from yoga but mental well-being too. Even though she knows this very well I belabour the point and chastise her with “you should know better.” It’s an ugly word SHOULD...it’s full of judgment and criticism with a smattering of smugness which says I don’t accept who you are or how you are behaving with an implication of inferiority to the advisor– the ultimate rejection which adds no value lest to induce anxiety and stress in our minds and bodies. The irony is not lost on me that the reason I want her on the mat is to help her anxiety and here is me helping to create even more of it. I can be such a hypocrite!
Unperturbed but more accurately unaware, I drone on about how regular yoga practice creates mental clarity and calmness; increases body awareness; relieves chronic stress patterns; relaxes the mind, centres attention.... yadda, yadda, yadda. It’s all true of course but it dawned on me this morning that I haven’t been to the gym for a while, never mind stepping on the mat. That realisation was not a sudden one. I am quite aware of this and have the physical and mental evidence of its cost to prove it. I realise that that what I have been doing is projecting. As a defence mechanism I have been taking my own unacceptable behaviour or as she would have it, lack thereof, and ascribing them to her.
I think I am one of those people who always have a lot of thoughts, introspection, questioning stuff going on in my mind, a lot of it often to do with effectiveness and impact. I also want to be productive and leading a life that is worthy – and to me that’s often about producing stuff, keeping busy etc. etc.
In light of what I’ve been experiencing and thinking recently, here is some of what I have been thinking about. Firstly, the days are short, years are long. Each day I am as busy as a worker bee, yet I rarely feel that I have accomplished what I want to – I never get through my to-do list which is probably more because it’s unrealistic than it is to do with lack of effort. But when I take a longer perspective, over months or years, it’s amazing to me how much I can get done and achieve. From this I conclude that I can accomplish less than I think in the short term, and I’m capable of accomplishing way more than I think in the long term.
A few years ago I read ‘The 4 hour Week’ by Tim Ferris and I was captured by the notion that in 4 hours you can do more than the accepted normal 40-hour working week... or rather, with 4 hours of intentional, focused, creative work per day over the long term you can achieve a lot. I think there are a lot of people that can support that thinking. Most successful writers (Stephen King, Hemingway, Maya Angelou…) just did their writing in the morning and then they were done for the day. My experience is that that 4 hours of intentional work always beats 12 hours of superfluous, broken, distracted work. There is no doubt in my mind that without being more focused on our intention we make the mistake of confusing the quantity of time spent working with both quantity and quality of output.
My relationship with time is a love and hate one. There is the one part of me that advocates sweating the asset and getting as much out of each day, myself and others and then there is this inner wanna-be yogi that wants to tell myself and others to smell the roses, breathe deeply and be present! Full of fallible, human contradictions. I watched an interview once with the spiritual guru Deepak Chopra and wondered if he is the same. Instead of seeing a wise and philosophical Zen master and together person he was about as attentive as a 3-year-old listening to an audio reading of War and Peace – just as flawed and complex as the rest of us!
In his book ‘10% Happier’, Dan Harris met guru Deepak Chopra when interviewing him for his television programme and said he found Chopra, (as with Eckhart Tolle, the author of The Power of One) to be a baffling mix-tape of the interesting and the incomprehensible. Harris couldn't tell if Tolle was sane; regarding Chopra, he couldn't tell if he was sincere.
So when I tell my daughter one thing and do another, don’t’ walk the talk and spend 12 hours working when I proclaim to believe in the 4-hour magic moment, am I mad, sane or is this normal? Are we a bag of beliefs that we don’t follow through on or just always at war with what we think and act? Seems so.
”The contradictions are what make human behaviour so maddening and yet so fascinating, all at the same time.” Joan D Vinge