Have you ever looked around and realized that your real life in no way reflects the life you live in your head? Like, maybe you think of yourself as a wine drinker but really, if you’re honest with yourself, you prefer beer. Which means you’re not invited to parties with cheese and crackers but cook outs. But in your mind, you’re a refined cheese and crackers kind of gal.
Of course, the opposite can be true as well; you prefer cheese and wine but long for the refreshing outdoorsman type freedom of beer drinking, but you just can’t get there. But in your mind….
Two weeks ago began an existential crisis for me. Maybe it was thinking I was gonna die in a truck stop shower with a whole bunch of strangers, maybe it was the change of power at the restaurant where I make my living, your guess is as good as mine.
I have been ruminating on what to do next. I have thought thought and thought until, much like Pooh Bear, I just became bothered. But I thought about it some more. Further, I began taking a walk down the path I’ve already trod to figure out how I got to where I am. Let’s face it, when I was thirteen I was certain I’d have a book deal when I was twenty.
So far, in the last two weeks I’ve made many decisions, none of which stuck. For instance, I thought about renewing my cosmetology license and going and getting a “real job” in a salon for salary or commission or however they do it now. You see, it’s a burden on my heart to know that I have a license that some women are able to make a real living with. In fact, I know women who are quite successful with their cosmetology license and a can of hairspray.
The kick in the pants is that I’m quite good at it. I think, maybe, I’ll go to JC Penny’s and try an hourly wage cutting and coloring hair. Until! I see this Facebook ad for free haircuts for children under twelve for the entire month of August. First let me say, for those of you with children, they can get their haircut for free in August. For me, after I got my goose bumps under control, I decided this was the Universe main lining some reason into my brain without all but saying, “You hate doing hair! What are you thinking?”
(note, I don’t hate doing hair, per se, but I can’t stand the business of it all, which is sort of the same thing.)
I’ve also decided, in the span of two weeks, to get a nutrition certification, go back to school to become a radiology tech, certify in a speciality yoga, add yoga classes to my schedule, subtract yoga classes from my schedule (not to worry faithful yoga class participants, my schedule isn’t changing) start another blog, delete this blog (again, not to worry Icy Exhalers, I don’t have the heart to pull the plug) go into copy editing, become a lock smith and also, maybe, become a mechanic.
In my mind, I’m a writer and I read a lot. I’m a bit of a nerd but okay with that because my God-given talent touches people and also I make a great living doing what I love (people who boast about how happy they are when their passion and profession come together make me want to barf. Dear Universe, if this ever happens for me I promise not to gloat).
In reality, I’ve felt wild lately. I feel chased by mistakes and wrong turns in my professional life that I have ardently pursued in spite of having been given ample opportunities to succeed in a traditional field.
On Monday I go to class at Abhaya Yoga Center in Pensacola. I crawl around on my mat in there and hope for the best. On this particular day, I feel like the Universe has called the cavalry and it’s waiting for me after I settle down.
My teacher, Nancy, hands us sheets of paper with a quote from my meditation teacher, Claude Anshin Thomas, who is currently in Germany leading meditation retreats for veterans. He’s been on my mind a lot, lately. In fact, I’d sent him an email to say hello on Sunday night prior to this Monday afternoon class. So this was like an impromptu visit with him.
“I have to do things differently. But I cannot think myself into a new way of living, I have to live myself into a new way of thinking.” *
I will think myself to death, dear Reader. I will sit down and ruminate and imagine all possibilities. But let me tell you something, I don’t usually do anything differently.
Nancy also has a little line from The Yoga Sutras, which consists of four chapters on yoga practice, but not the standing on your head yoga practice, but the sitting down and shutting up kind of yoga practice. This is, of course, Nancy’s concise summary of The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, “The how to sit down and shut up sutras.”
The Yoga Sutras don’t advocate rumination to the point of bother. I have to quit stewing and just pay attention. From my own practice, when I sit down and shut up, a certain haze lifts. Maybe an idea doesn’t come at all, none of this ceaseless rapid-firing of ideas to fix my life, but instead I’m allowed space to breathe and see things for what they are.
When this happens, I don’t so much have to ruminate and stew over what I’ve done wrong, but what I can do differently. This may mean finishing my English degree, self-publishing or re-submitting. For my yoga classes this may mean offering introductory specials, making t-shirts or hog tying people on the street and dropping them on a mat in the studio (they’ll thank me for it later)
This concept is not different from some advice offered on the late Ma Jaya Sati Bhagavati’s blog last year, “Do one thing differently today.”
I’ve found that by doing one little thing differently, it shakes up the whole scene. For instance, I went to yoga on Monday instead of Wednesday this week and was met with a sweet reminder of my travelling monk and received some life affirming advice from a lady who had no idea that what she was gonna remind me of what I already know; sit down and shut up. I also like the “practice and all is coming” quote from Pattabhi Jois but when I’m in an existential crisis I don’t want to hear that shit.
Dear Reader, maybe you don’t feel stuck in your life, personally or professionally. But if you do feel stuck, and you decide to apply this little offering, please share your experience with me. Maybe for twenty-four hours you’ll shift from wine to green tea or from coffee to whisky. Maybe you abandon weight training and give Zumba a try. Perhaps today you take a break from all activity and watch all of your favorite movies from the 80s (don’t forget Earth Girls are Easy with that fox Jeff Goldblum) thus sort of hitting the re-set button on your life.
Don’t make your life match your mind, but live yourself into a new way of thinking.
* from At Hell’s Gate by Claude AnShin Thomas