“Happiness comes when you overcome the most impossible challenge.” -Yogi Tea
Lately, I’ve sort of lucked into a new practice in my journey of self-exploration. About a month ago I found an old note on my phone entitled “Things I Want”. The list contained a few high-tech gizmos, some fashionable must-haves, a ring. Clearly, yoga’s emphasis on the importance of detachment from the material world has been one of the harder concepts for me to embrace. I promise, I’m working on it. Anyway, I found that list at a time when I was particularly susceptible to philosophical thought. I had been reflecting on the current state of my life for a few weeks by then, wondering how I’d gotten so far down this dispassionate path, how I was going to find my way before losing myself entirely in a world obsessed with worry, security and quite frankly, money.
So when I found this list, I started thinking about what I really wanted in life. And what I didn’t want, or what wouldn’t serve me (this part has been tough). I revised my list of wants and created a list of un-wants to include these new things, the things that really mattered. The lists include all sorts of things, from short-term goals to profound life ambition; I do not allow judgment to be present in these lists (and I hope you won’t either!). And here is what I’ve got so far:
Things I want: more yoga, to meditate, strength, peace, self-compassion, water, side plank, side crow, patience, acceptance, appreciation, financial calmness, confidence, interesting books, to blog (one of my most recent additions), committment.
Things I don’t want: judgment, stagnancy, ignorance, anxiety, insecurity, materialism (like I said before, this list has been a lot harder because it has involved looking deeply at what I don’t like about myself and my life).
I try to keep my senses attuned and actively looking for new things I want or don’t want as I go through my daily life. They are constantly growing and changing. Some things are easy to find. Others involve a bit more self contemplation. Sometimes it’s not easy for me to accept that something I enjoy could be a thing I don’t want, but I have been trying to be honest with myself, even when it’s hard.
But this has only been the first step. The true beauty of my lists are in their ripple effect. They have been diffusing through my thought processes. When I am trying to make a decision, when I am trying to motivate myself, when I am on a distant musing, I’ll remember the lists. I’ll ask myself, “How does this fit in with the things I want? The life I want?” and I am able to refocus. Just that moment of checking in – as so many of my yoga teachers have recommended – is all it takes.
Let me give you an example. Today. It’s an overcast Sunday, too muggy to do much of anything enjoyable outside and my plans to spend the day with my aunt and uncle at their pool have been looking less and less appealing. My first instinct was to take to the couch. And I have to admit, I did spend about two hours there watching a movie, but after the movie ended I paused. I knew I could easily spend the rest of the afternoon watching mindless TV. You can’t get much less yogic than mindless. So I thought about what would help me get closer to the things I want. I am now sitting in my kitchen (one of my favorite places in the world) with a delicious cup of coffee, listening to a great playlist, writing this blog post. And it’s great! Why does our laziness sometimes keep us from the best parts of life? Not only do I feel like I’m being productive and proactive in my quest to find the life of my dreams, but I’m actually much happier than I was just thirty minutes ago. Think of how much happier our lives would be if we chose to live like this all the time.
I have also begun to think that these lists may someday help me find what I’m looking for: the career I desire, the life I deserve. Maybe through the process of constantly refining these lists I will stumble upon a career that will give me everything I want. Or maybe not. Either way, I like the path I’m starting to head down. I feel more hopeful and confident that I have in a long time. I feel like I’m getting somewhere. And that’s a lot more than I could have said to you at the beginning of the summer.