I took a yoga class today and the teacher talked about how we are each: an archer, aiming for what we want to become; an arrow, the thing that is moving towards the target; and the target, that which we are aiming at becoming. I’ve always found this idea beautiful. The tension between the three subjects and the unity of them feels true to my experience of transformation. In honor of this metaphor, I’m going to write three posts that will focus on how to embody each aspect of this classic spiritual triptych.
So it happens to all of us. Work gets crazy busy, we don’t have enough time to exercise, we can’t see our friends, and things just won’t stop.
Stress can make any of us lose it a little bit and the long term health consequences are real. Stress causes all sorts of chronic illness and leads us to engage in unhealthy habits like overeating, drinking, and using drugs.
Hectic times can’t be avoided, but there are some. Here is one practice that is vital if you want to navigate these waters with as little stress as possible.
Hold your preferences and opinions lightly: Ok, so this is one of the toughest practices to develop as a habit, but it’s probably one of the most transformational.
Everyone, and I mean everyone has some perspective on everything that gets done. Even if that perspective is ‘I don’t care.’ Very often people think there way is the best way.
Usually there are several good ways to do something, but we start to identify with our way and then we get upset when things are done differently. Our way becomes us. An attack on our way, becomes an attack on us.
It’s Not All About You
Now the truth. Our way, maybe it’s the best, maybe not, but mostly it’s just one of many opinions in the universe. Also it’s probably not an especially important one.
Now an opinion on whether or not you should give birth to a child, or kill living beings, that is an important preference. Mostly though our preferences are for the way we put silverware in a dishwasher, or the proper way to put on a roll of TP.
I have learned to let go of many these types of preferences. They just don’t really matter that much in the long run and when they are challenged, I go, “You know this isn’t really worth getting upset about.”
It’s a relief to do it, because then I’m not holding up this big sense of self. I don’t have to lug around my silly ego manifested in 1000’s of little tiny preferences and opinions. Life becomes simpler, but I don’t lose my sense of power or self worth.
As Long As It Matter
When something really matters to me I speak up and I speak up loud. When this happens people listen, because I don’t speak up about just anything. When I speak up I know it’s important because I’ve let go of so many unimportant preferences go. Things that drove me up the wall and things I’ve fought about with ex-partners are no longer a big problem in my life.
So you may be wondering how to practice letting go of preferences. First, just notice when your preferences are coming up and pay attention to if they are really important or not. Next when something rubs you the wrong way learn to breath and let it go. Then repeat until you are getting really reactive then take a break. Finally, learn the difference between boundaries and preferences.
Boundaries keep you safe, but preferences keep you trapped in reactivity. While trying to let go of preferences notice those that make up your sense of integrity and well being. Part of the way you find you boundaries is by letting them get crossed. When I let go of preferences often I find that some preferences think are important, aren’t and some that I saw as silly, are actually important to me.
Experiment and don’t be afraid to talk to someone about getting reactive. It’s not the getting reactive that is the problem, it’s the stewing about it. Letting go of preferences isn’t the same as holding it all in. The key, as always, is paying close attention to the little tricks our mind plays.
Letting go of preferences and opinions is a hard practice, but now that I have done it for years I can stay calm and cool in many situations. People tell me that I’m such a calm person and I’m convinced the reason why is that I have learned to hold myself lightly.
Try letting go of preferences this week. Start with some silly ones and go from there. Put the silverware in the ‘wrong way,’ roll that TP from the underside, and mostly have fun with it. When we see how silly we have been all these years it’s less embarrassing, then hilarious.
Thanks for reading and Be Well
I had a conversation with a friend recently about whether or not she should purchase an IPhone. I listened as she justified and unjustified the purpose of the purchase. She listed reason pros and cons about having or not having one. This is a pattern I have noticed often in my self and others.
It’s funny that we do this. We decide we want something and then our mind goes into overdrive trying to figure out how to make sense of the desire. It comes up with reasons to agree with what we already want, in part to hide that really we just want it. Often we want it for simple reasons like peace, joy, and fun, but we feel we have to justify it.
When I reflect on what this mindset, I can see this little story and it goes: “I’m not that special I don’t deserve x,y,or z, unless I can justify why it might make me special or a least mitigate my unspecialness.
By not letting ourselves treat and reward ourselves we perpetuate the mindset of not being worthy.
This past year I wanted to buy a new fancy road bike, but felt I had to justify it. After listening to me go through this process, my good friend Lashelle told me , “It’s ok to just want something nice.” I realized she was right and it felt so liberating.
I did buy the bike and instead of feeling like I was buying it to fix something wrong with me, I felt like I was buying it to celebrate all the hard work I had done. Just a small shift in my perspective allowed me to let go of that negative self talk just a little bit.
Take some time this week to celebrate yourself. You don’t have to go out a buy something big or fancy, but take a few minutes to celebrate all the things you do to help other and yourself. In buddhism this is called reflecting on virtue.
Very often we don’t give ourselves enough credit. So give your self a pat on the back already.
Thanks for reading and be well,