Thursday, June 10, 2010

Work Hard, Play Hard - Inspiration from The Giving Tree

No, not the book The Giving Tree.  Although I suppose it kind of is, in a way...

Let me explain.

So before I start thinking and sharing deep yogi thoughts, let me first announce that starting next month, I will be teaching the Community Classes (meaning donation-based - pay what you can!) at a yoga studio I absolutely love - who did receive its name from the book - The Giving Tree.  It's located off of the Ditmars stop on the N/W (soon to be only the N, lord help us...) and, along with fantastic yoga classes, also offers pilates, personal training, massage, reiki, and new in June - waxing! 

There are also community events every Sunday evening, and at least once a month on Saturday nights they do "Artists of Astoria," giving local artists a platform to perform.  I went to the one year anniversary party of this gorgeous studio last Sunday and still truly can't believe they've only been around a year.  The mark they've made on the community is huge so far and can only get better.

My July Community Class will be Tuesdays in July from 12-1:30pm...this month they're being taught by Cindy and in August - who knows?  (Maybe you!  If you're a yoga teacher.  In New York.)  I hope to see a bunch of familiar and new faces there each week.

It was in a Giving Tree class a couple Fridays ago taught by Anne-Margaret, the owner of the studio, that I got the inspiration for this particular little ramble.  She started off class, like most teachers I love do, introducing a theme for us to think about throughout class and beyond.  That evening she was talking about the old saying "Work hard, play hard."  A lot of people - especially in New York - would say that applies to them, and I suppose I do too.

What does this principle have to do with yoga, you may be asking?  Well, Anne-Margaret started talking about the common problem a lot of people have.  When you're at work, all you can think of is what you're going to do when you're "free," or what needs to be done in your personal life - whether it's errands or an issue with one of your relationship.  Conversely, when you're relaxing or engaging in some activity with family and friends, your time may be stolen by thoughts of, "It's almost Monday," or worries about a challenging project that lays in wait for you.

The way Anne-Margaret asked us to apply "Work hard, play hard' in our yoga practice that day was - when we're in challenging poses, go for it. When we're in a resting pose, completely let go and rest. Essentially - whatever you're doing, do it. Let go of thought and judgment and surrender to wherever you are. It really does apply to everything in your life.


Even (maybe especially?) if you love your job, I feel like this inability to live fully in the present moment at home vs. work is something everyone can relate to.  Some people I know get genuinely depressed on Sunday - every Sunday, like clockwork, because of that feeling of dread at having gear up for another week.  Imagine losing a whole day that's supposed to be dedicated to rest and freedom simply because of thoughts of what's to come on Monday!
During my yoga teacher training last fall, things got pretty busy.  Between work, the various demands of the teacher training, falling in love, adjusting to my new beloved city, and then eventually the holiday season (including my and my boyfriends' birthdays), my every waking minute was filled and scheduled to a T.

The current circumstances and events in my life are different, but the every-waking-minute-filled-and-scheduled part is still there.  I've been noticing, though, that I'm not dealing with my current stressors nearly as well as I was dealing with them a few months ago.  I've become so jealous of my free time that I sometimes resent my activities while I'm engaged in them or plagued with dread and worry during that precious free time.

After taking a look at circumstances then and now, as well as what my main sources of stress are these days, my self diagnosis is: Start meditating every single day...just like I was doing during teacher training.

What I, and so many insanely busy people these days, need is larger more than just the meditation practice itself, although I firmly believe meditation is something everyone should be doing for a happier and healthier world.  What is ultimately needed is some sense of grounding stability - a sense of ritual, of daily practice - of sadhana.  This can be something tailored to every individual if meditation isn't your thing or something you don't think you have time for. (Although you do have time for it - trust me.  But that's another post...)

Your daily practice (or sadhana) could be 5 minutes to an hour to whatever you can spare of some kind of activity that will give you some kind of peace.  Some things that really ground and rejuvenate me include writing, running, doing yoga by myself at home (or outside), reading...you get the idea.  It's time you take for yourself to unplug from the outside world and recharge your internal batteries.

Last year, I participated in Lent for the first time not by denying myself something, but by adding to my daily routine.  I banished the snooze button (so maybe I did give something up) and got up an extra hour to half hour early to engage in whichever activity I thought would help give me focus or calm for the day ahead.
Of course, there are other ways to help yourself find the present moment and avoid the cycle of longing/dreading.  One fun way to play with that is to challenge yourself to identify all the ways you multitask - and see how many of them you can eliminate for a week - or a day - or even just one hour.  I tried that at work a few weeks ago by forbidding myself from having more than one tab open on my Internet browser (I've fallen victim to technology ADD...and it doesn't help that I have not just one but two computer monitors at my desk!)

Another way is simply to have more awareness when your mind wanders away from the present moment.  Notice it and then do your best, without judgement, to release whatever longing or worries are taking you away.

The funny thing is, the expression "Work hard, play hard," always kind of turned me off.  I was very much a homebody as a kid and an adolescent, and that's still a big part of who I am.  I'm not competitive or aggressive or terribly ambitious by nature, and I always thought that expression applied to people much more intense and outgoing than me.  The expression seemed to be saying, "Work yourself to the bone and then stay out and get wasted all night!"  It's odd the way we interpret things.

Looking at it from this way, though - the total immersion of the present moment - has completely changed my view on it.  It's a beautiful mantra and a fantastic way to live your life.

So here's to a great start to the summer!  Work hard, play hard - and despite the fact that many of you may live in the City That Never Sleeps - rest.