Don’t get stuck on Peace

I was in a funk last week. It would have been easy to blame it on travel and jet lag, but I had to own it. Sometimes I simply feel utterly inadequate, incompetent and unsuccessful. Scrolling through Instagram obviously doesn’t make it any better. Everyone else seems to have their sh*t together. Yet, I know this is not true. The super flexible yogi is rude to other people. The model with the gorgeous body has an eating disorder. The successful blogger is exhausted and wishes for a day without her phone and computer. The seemingly ‘spontaneous’ picture took two hours to stage. Nothing is what it seems. But still. Here I was, wondering if I should find a ‘normal’ job with a steady income. Wondering if what I do is really making a difference in the world. Wondering if enough people find it of interest what I have to offer.

As I was reading a book about Zen mind training, I was reminded that life is what it is. Sometimes life is fun. Sometimes it is not. The more we practice mindfulness, the more we may think that we always need to feel peaceful. We may think there is something wrong with us when we feel down. Fortunately I have moved on from that idea, but I’d still rather feel inspired than depressed. The Zen teaching suggest, however: Don’t get stuck on peace.

You think that your yoga and meditation practice has made you ‘a better person’ who doesn’t let herself be slapped in the face by life. You are now so mindful that you don’t let yourself be bothered anymore. However, when you think that way, you are caught all over again. You have merely exchanged one set of erroneous thoughts (“I am a victim of life”) for another (“I have everything under control”). Thinking that you have everything under control and, therefore, will no longer be affected by your outer circumstances, or your own thoughts, will lead to trouble. The point of Don’t get stuck on peace is: don’t get hung up on the idea that you’ve figured it all out. Don’t get attached to the idea that you know what it means to ‘be aware’. This is only a conceptualization, an idea, which may not have any bearing in reality. Instead of trying to make the moment peaceful, make peace with the moment.

Practicing with the phrase Don’t get stuck on peace, in conjunction with the knowing that everything changes, I accepted that this funkiness was how I was feeling. I didn’t have to do anything to make me feel better again. Life presented itself, and with new events my feeling slowly shifted.

This past weekend was packed with yoga. One of the things I love about yoga is the sense of community the practice brings with it. Whether I teach in Amsterdam at Delight Yoga, at Inlet Yoga at the end of my street, or take classes at the VibeWell Yoga Festival yesterday, the energy of the people is always the same: loving kindness, non-competition, acceptance, and an intention to make this world a better place. In one of the classes at the festival I offered up my practice to our President. Not because I love him, or in any way agree with the way he is leading this country, but because he is also a human being who is suffering (even though he probably doesn’t realize it…). This feeling of belonging, of being around inspiring people, of being reminded that the change in the world starts within, and that we have a duty to practice compassion, lifted my spirit again.

Life is messy, and sometimes we get dirty. We don’t have to run through the ‘spiritual car wash’ right away to make us feel ‘better’ though. Just make peace with the mess. And when life tidies itself up, you will come out even cleaner.