Being a grown-up with a grown-up job and grown-up responsibilities is boring. I’m just going to put that out there. If you’re like me, you wake up at the same time every day, eat the same thing for breakfast, go to the same job, see the same people, eat lunch at the same time, go home at the same time. If you have children, there’s the added bonus of spending every extra ounce of your energy on making sure they’ve eaten, bathed, done their homework, and gone to sleep at a decent time so that you can collapse into your own bed and repeat the whole thing the following morning.
It’s so easy to let this daily grind of real life become monotonous, mindless, mundane. If you’ve ever hopped in the car after work and arrived home only to realize you have no memory of the drive, you know what monotony means and you know that your brain has opted out. If you’ve ever sat down in front of the tv with some chips only to hit the foil-lined bottom and realize you accidentally ate the whole bag, you know what it is to be mindless and make mindless choices. And if you’ve ever dreaded going to bed because the sooner you go to sleep, the sooner you’ll wake up in the morning to another day of this, you know what it means to be living a mundane life.
Oh, This Again
This is where I found myself earlier this year with my yoga practice. I’ve been doing yoga pretty regularly for the past three years and was starting to wonder what was “next” on this particular journey. When I first started, I would go to the most intense Power Flow classes I could find in an effort to burn as many calories as possible. I liked that the class was basically a glorified cardio class so I could “get my effort’s worth” out of the hour I spent on my mat, and I would walk out of each class exhausted and satisfied.
As I learned more about yoga, however, I realized how damaging some poses can be on your joints and I also looked around the class to see so many people practicing with such poor alignment that it was downright dangerous. And so I shifted my focus to my own alignment, re-learning the basic poses I had memorized with a focus on balance and technique. Ironically, as my body became more balanced and I became more flexible, I began to feel the physical benefits of yoga less. If I skipped yoga for too many days, my hips would obviously tighten in protest, but I no longer left class floating on a cloud of endorphins.
Yoga started to become monotonous, mindless, mundane. I could feel myself zoning out in classes, no longer enjoying the routine and thinking of other ways I could be spending my time. I was rapidly losing interest.
Once More With Grace
It finally dawned on me that there’s an ego to be found in always “progressing” and “getting better”–both in yoga and in “real life.” I have generally been pretty good about not comparing myself to others, but I’ve never been good at not comparing myself to previous versions of myself, becoming impatient if I don’t see enough of an improvement.
I had to let go of that drive for physical improvement in yoga–because the alternative was facing a life of endless disappointment. I could tell I would never be satisfied with my yoga practice or my day-to-day life if I was always looking for something new and improved. I finally understand what it means when people say that the physical poses are only the beginning of your yoga practice. Once you have “achieved” the physical aspect, you can shift your focus to the mental and spiritual aspects of your practice.
Now, when I move between poses in yoga, I do it more slowly, more carefully, striving for grace. I breathe more consciously. I focus on trying to keep my mind and spirit as balanced as my body. And in doing “this” one more time with grace, I’ve found a new type of satisfaction.
Oh! This Again!
So what does this mean for non-yogis? Simple. By shifting your perspective on every day life, by focusing on your own breath and balance and striving for grace through the daily repetition of being an adult, you can become more engaged with yourself and the life you are choosing to live each day. Don’t succumb to the monotony.
For those day-to-day activities that are just part of real life, embrace the opportunity to make the most of every moment. Be kinder to those around you. Be more engaged with your activities. Practice breathing through the frustrations of life.
For example, I’ve been focusing recently on mindfulness and gratitude during my morning commute:
- I embrace the feeling of freedom and choice within my real life. I remind myself that I’m choosing to go to work. I could call in and quit if I really wanted to, but instead I’m choosing to be on the road.
- I identify as belonging to a community and pride in being part of that community. I look around at all of the people also on the road and marvel at the fact that we’re all choosing to go to work today. We are all hard workers who are doing our best.
- I acknowledge gratitude. Gratitude that I have a job to go to, gratitude that I can afford a car in which to drive to that commute, gratitude that my commute is shorter than it has been in the past.
- I foster anticipation. I spend some time thinking of things I’m looking forward to at work so that the drive feels more like I’m driving somewhere fun rather than somewhere I “have” to be.
- I reject stress. If I start to feel stressed by traffic or someone’s rudeness on the road, I remind myself that WWIII will not start as a result of me being five minutes late to work and stressing over it will only make my own experience of the day worse.
And you know what? This has made such a difference in how I feel when I arrive to work, which sets the tone for a good day. If we can live our each day with this kind of awareness and gratitude, our lives will be made up of good days–and they will be good lives.
You can do this. Once more with grace.