Author’s note: I wrote this post on living deliberately and was feeling very zen and proud of myself, so I headed to yoga to celebrate my newfound zen-ness and deliberateness … and then I LITERALLY RAN INTO A WALL. Like:
You guys. I can’t even. I guess the good news is there’s always tomorrow.
I also remembered after I wrote this piece that living deliberately is the actually the first step of Dr. Brene Brown’s DIG Deep process in Daring Greatly, which she describes as being “deliberate in thoughts and behaviors through prayer, meditation, or simply by setting intentions,” so I’m not totally off the mark (this time). Check it out. 🙂
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If you’ve ever watched a yoga teacher, there’s a thoughtfulness and consciousness to their movement–on and off the mat. They place their hands precisely where they mean to place their hands. They position their feet exactly where they need to be. There’s a fluidity and grace, but, more importantly, there’s a deliberateness to how they decide what they are going to do and then how they do it. It’s not militaristic in its precision. It’s more that they’re comfortable in themselves and in the space around and beneath them.
I’ve never been graceful. I once took a ballet class in college, but the only thing I learned was that, despite my freakishly flexible ankles, I would never be as graceful as the people around me… so I decided I wouldn’t bother trying. I was the girl who once fell up stairs in college and had her backup slide up so she was laid out on her face with her backpack over her head, arms flailing helplessly.
I run into walls. I trip over myself and I spill food on myself and I burn myself with the hot glue gun and I generally don’t care. I guess you could say I’ve always been careless–with myself. In the past, all movement came from a reaction to the world around me or from rote muscle memory–but it was never mindful or deliberate.
Over the past several months, however, I’ve noticed a shift in how I perceive myself and the space around me. It started in the yoga studio, with how I moved into certain positions and moved my feet. I started walking toe-heel in the studio, the quiet padding of my bare feet on the wooden floors comforting me. I would never say I that I’ve become graceful, but I have become very aware of the placement of my limbs. For the first time, I’m developing proprioception and have noticed a difference in how I carry myself, how I move–on and off the mat.
The more aware of myself that I am, the more aware others seem to be as well. When I’m moving slowly and steadily, others know where I am headed and make room for me. When it’s obvious I’m taking myself seriously, they know that they should take me seriously, as well.
As much as I’ve never moved deliberately, I’ve also never lived deliberately. Due to a series of early disappointments in myself and in my life, I spent most of my twenties trapped in an attitude of fatalism, truly believing, in the words of the Bard, that “divinity […] shapes our ends, Rough-hew them how we will.”
Looking back, I can see now that I spent most of my twenties not only moving carelessly, but living carelessly. I didn’t think I had any control over what happened to me, and so I lacked that internal awareness of where I wanted to go… and the world certainly didn’t make room for me.
A friend once told me in exasperation that I “lacked integrity.” He didn’t mean I was a bad person, which is what I initially thought, but that I lacked that internal structural integrity that helps us maintain our own shape when the world beats us up. I was reacting to the world rather than responding, and even though I was wearing myself out, no one would have said I was making progress.
In the past year, I’ve realized that, as much as divinity may shape our ends, “our remedies oft in ourselves do lie.” (All right, all right, that was the last Shakespeare reference.)
And it is only by taking a moment to regain our balance and then responding deliberately, by being thoughtful in our actions instead of careless, that we can maintain our internal integrity no matter what “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” may come our way. (Okay, that was the last Shakespeare reference, I promise.)
So how do you start to make this shift into living deliberately? Much as in yoga, it starts with fostering awareness of yourself and your life. Ask yourself who you want to be, and don’t shy away from the answer. Identify your values and live them every day.
…of course, this is all just a goal. If you don’t quite make it to a deliberate life (I know I, for one, certainly haven’t yet), at least you’ll know where you want to go, and the world will know where to make room for you.