Off the Mat Yoga

Living a Meaningful Life: Deciding to Stop Chasing Perfection

So, I was sitting on the floor of my shower one evening… if you’ve never sat in the shower before you’re seriously missing out. In my opinion, it’s better than a bubble bath. It’s also the place where I generally do my deepest thinking. Almost every great blog, story, and yoga sequence I’ve very come up with has been written wrapped in a towel.

Something Was Missing

On this particular day I’d had a really full schedule. After CrossFit at 6am, some face wash, deodorant, pulling a wrinkled dress out of my gym bag, throwing my hair up, barely making it to class and two important meetings, I finally had time to shower before heading back out to the gym to teach a yoga class and attend our veterans support group meeting. My mind was still going 100 miles per minute. Everything was sore. I felt that slight tummy ache that exist to remind us that coffee is not a meal… and I was almost nodding off in the shower (okay, I admit there are some drawbacks to my favorite brainstorming spot).

Amidst all of these feelings combined with looming essay deadlines, an ongoing research project, and the “how many different ways can I actually put all these poses together before everyone dies of boredom” burnout that us yoga teachers experience, I realized that I was really lacking something.

On the surface it seemed as though I was thriving. Acing my midterms, planning killer events, teaching highly attended classes, competing in obstacle coarse races, becoming a CrossFit trainer, and writing awesome articles. But on the inside I really felt like something was missing.

Forgetting to Actually Live

I was always so busy and in so much of a rush that I was forgetting to actually live. I was forgetting to slow down and make eye contact with the people I love. I was more interested in checking my email to see what my editor or professor had to say than making a connection with the person sitting right across from me.

Attending yoga classes had just become another part of my training regimen and not a moment to check in with myself and my spirituality (which is why I’d started yoga in the first place)… and I realized that I no longer remembered what it was like to not be overdoing it. I’d been overtrained, overworked, and overstressed for months.

As a consequence, I was constantly putting off checking in with that old friend, or saying hello to that person on the street because I was too busy. Maybe I’d have time when my bed was finally made, or the clothes in my drawer were finally folded. Maybe I’d have time to go visit my grandma when I had everything else together. When my eyebrows were perfectly plucked and my all my emails were answered. Maybe I could finally start practicing self love and meditation again when I’d crossed enough things off of the never ending to do lists at the gym, at the yoga studio, at work, and at school.

When Was the Last Time?

Then I had to start asking myself the hard questions….when was the last time I sat down to read a book I truly enjoyed, or journaled about something that I experienced? When was the last time I ate something really delicious and actually enjoyed it? When was the last time I didn’t feel like a family gathering was another task to add to my to-do list? When was the last time I enjoyed every painful minute of my 6am CrossFit class without thinking of it as something to get out of the way before tackling the rest of my day…

I was holding myself to a standard of perfection — I’ll start enjoying life when it’s finally in order and everything is organized and fits into perfect little boxes (literally or figuratively). I was also glorifying “busy”– the “well look at all this shit I accomplished today my life must be meaningful right?” that is all too common in this Western culture.

Prioritizing the Important Stuff

And I realized right then and there that life was passing me by and it was time to start prioritizing the right things. I’m confident that my family and friends who love me have always loved me even though I’ve failed to meet my own standards of perfection.

So I decided that I’d rather skip brushing my hair or redoing my braid for the millionth time if that meant that I’d have 20 extra minutes in the morning to have a cup of tea with a friend. I’d rather have a messy car and an unorganized bookshelf if it meant I had the time to really listen to someone I care about tell me about their day. I’d rather eat and treat myself well than take the time to read over my essay 17 more times before submitting it. I’d rather take a drive up to the mountains to visit my grandpa and see the changing leaves than take on another class that I’m too burnt out to teach anyway.

Leading a Truly Meaningful Life

A lot of this sounds like self-care, and it definitely is. It’s also a bigger change in lifestyle and a shift towards leading a truly meaningful life. It’s not that all of the other things I was doing weren’t important but they were important not as something to check off of my to do list and add to my resume but as opportunities to connect with other humans and to learn about and love myself. Because at the end of it all I don’t think we’ll remember all of the perfectly dotted i’s and crossed t’s but we will remember sunsets, belly laughs, good books, the smell of rain, tears in savasana, cozy nights, listening to your whole class say “namaste” back, watching the sunrise while flipping a tractor tire, meeting someone who  “just gets you”,  and warm coconut shampoo filled showers where it all just finally clicks.

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    January 10, 2017 at 8:53 pm

    Just what I needed to read this week!! Thank you for the reminder of what it truly means to live a meaningful life rather than just going through the motions and making sure to check off every to-do! It’s very overwhelming at times! I’m a therapist and you would think that I would get that by now but I still need that reminder to just slow down and enjoy the here and now!!! And I definitely agree with sitting in a shower being better than a bubble bath! I really think it is the best spot in the house to think and I swear I have I come up with most of my best ideas there too, hahaha!

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    January 12, 2017 at 6:54 pm

    So glad I found this article tonight. I need to remind myself of this more often!

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    February 8, 2017 at 5:25 am

    WOW.. you are so lucky to figure this out at a young age.. I was just talking to my counselor about this very thing two days ago . I am now 50 and exhausted because I have been living my life like that for the past 20 years. Getting divorced and having twin 5 year olds put me on that train and it has just become the way I live.. by the clock and my to do list.. time with friends and good books hardly exists because I “don’t have time” or am to exhausted by all the other stuff.. this was great and confirms what he and I talked about. At the end of our lives, there will always be something in our inbox.. I am getting off the hamster wheel. one baby step at a time.. already feeling lighter! thank you!

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