The other day I had this (homemade) chocolate cake for lunch. I am so tired of the “shoulds” and “shouldn’ts”, both in my own mind and what society thinks.
Yesterday I read an Instagram post from a befriended yoga teacher sharing all the plans she made last year at the beginning of the pandemic: cleaning out her basement, learning to speak Italian, journaling and meditating every day, getting in the best shape of her life, etc., etc. And now, a year later, none of that happened. I could have written that post. I felt so heard! And on the other hand I was also wondering: why is it that we make all these plans and then don’t carry them out? Why do we make plans ahead of time to fill up our future, not leaving any space for the unknown? Why do we feel we should be doing something with our time?
After a year of this pandemic I am finally getting to a point where I can let go (at least a little) of the ingrained ideas about how things should be.
Yes, I can have my “weekend” on Monday because I taught classes (read: I worked) on Saturday and Sunday.
Yes, I can leave emails unresponded because even when I do respond to them right away the things that seem so urgent are actually not.
No, I don’t have to have a “super food” smoothie for breakfast, a salad for lunch, and vegan soup for dinner if I don’t feel like it (I may if I want to, but sometimes I just don’t!).
What I am realizing is that when we make plans we leave “the now” out of the equation. We think that what we plan to do in the future will still be a good idea at the time of execution. I can decide today that I want to go for a walk tomorrow, but when it is actually the time to walk it might be raining. So do I still go because I made that plan, or do I go another time when it is dry? And if I decided to go another time, does that mean my plan failed? My intention is to meditate every morning. However, I’ve been feeling very tired lately and when my alarm goes off I often fall back asleep, and then run out of time to do my meditation practice first thing after getting up. Am I wrong for not meditating and not following my “plan”? Or am I simply feeling in the moment what the best thing is to do, which may be: sleeping?
Plan + The Moment = Skillful Action
Plan ≠ Action
As the famous quote goes: Planning is priceless, plans are useless. We can have the best intentions, but if we do not take the moment into the equation when we are taking action, our actions are not skillful. Even more so: we need to take into account that a plan does not necessarily (read: cannot always) lead to action.
With this in mind, my practice of late is: Loving What Is*. Of course, this is easier said than done. Yet when I begin to embrace all that happens as reality that is unchangeable – in the sense that you don’t have control over what is happening, not even when you make a plan – it saves so much frustration and subsequent stress. Instead of trying to change the moment, I ask myself: How does this moment want me to be with it?
Zen is not sitting quietly on our meditation cushion. Zen is being with the moment as it is.
Sometimes that moment is going for a walk when you feel like it, or not. Sometimes the moment is managing rambunctious kittens when you are teaching a live yoga class. Other times the moment is sleeping a little longer because you are tired.
And most of the time it is dealing with this pandemic life the best we can. Cake, anyone?
* This is also the name of a book by Byron Katie.