By Alexandra Werle
“The best way to make your dreams come true is to wake up.” - Paul Valéry
Let’s just say it again - there’s so much to read. There’s so much to learn. A young child once told me, “There’s just so much to be done!” and I thought, wow, she’s two and a half years old and she’s already looking ahead. There’s no hope for me! <Insert Face Screaming in Fear Emoji>.
If you’ve ever felt this way, I hear you - I often feel like I’ll never catch up. Lately, however, I’ve been trying to check myself when I find that I’m riding on a runaway thought train about how I’m already behind and there’s just no time and I’ll never have the energy to accomplish my goals. Seriously, I can’t think of a better way to self-sabotage than to trap oneself on that merry-go-round.
I began with that Valéry quote because I feel that it gets to the core of the issue. I’ll speak for myself here, but maybe it will resonate with you: we want things, and we have needs, but we often expend a lot of effort trying to escape or disassociate from our reality. And yet, the things that we want and need exist in our reality.* So, we end up dissatisfied most of the time. And still searching. Or yearning.
For example: that thing we sometimes do with Instagram where we think everyone else is having more fun and getting more done than we are. And/or we internalize the sneaky idea that a filtered photo series is a complete illustration of someone’s daily experience. If that happens, we’re spending time and energy lost in a story we’re writing in our heads about what may or may not be true for someone else in some other part of the world. Which doesn’t do much for our own thoughts and dreams.
I would say, on a good day, scrolling through my Instagram feed brings me one or more of the following: a little dose of joy, humor or inspiration, a feeling of connection, or information that I find useful. If I don’t get those things, and instead I end up with a feeling of inferiority, I know it’s time to take a break from it for a few days.
I’m not trying to prove that early twentieth century French symbolist poetry is directly related to FOMO, but for the purposes of this post, let’s just agree that because I was thinking about both this morning they’re now connected in my brain. If you find that you struggle with FOMO (I do), try meditating! Or perhaps some simple mindfulness exercises are more your speed. (A good one I’ve heard lately is to try eating or brushing your teeth with your non-dominant hand - it’s hard not to be in the present moment when you’re doing that! And you might even get a good chuckle or two out of it.)
Yoga puts you in the present.
If you’re constantly in the past or the future, you are, sadly, going to miss out on now. I would say: don’t be worried about missing whatever shiny, curated life installation you may or may not be following closely on Insta. Be worried about missing out on your own life. Yikes! I don’t want that for myself, and I imagine that you don’t want that for yourself either. Maybe your yoga practice feels great one day, and not so great another day, but the point is it’s your experience and you’re experiencing it.
Yoga can be a lifelong undertaking. Your practice grows as you do and it’s never too early or too late to start the journey. Young children are inherently suited to beginning a yoga practice: they are creative, they revel in the present and they’re ready to try. They’re all about the journey, and we’re happy for them. (If only we could give ourselves the same grace and space!) Things matter to them, and they matter now. Sometimes that’s tricky and difficult for us, as adults, to understand. But it’s still a good reminder, and I’m grateful for that. Even with all of their superpowers, however, children get stressed out sometimes, just like we do, and they can benefit from the same mindfulness practices we work to develop as adults.
Sometimes when I’m feeling overwhelmed, I think about what a gift it is to work with children; it’s a gift to witness their experience of the world and to be reminded that it is, in fact, a place full of magic. As an artist and as an educator I am often reminded of how important it is to value magic, and that it’s there for all of us. If we can wake ourselves up, that is.
*I’ll include a quick disclaimer here: I do not consider the use of one’s Imagination to be a form of disassociation - I think it’s crucial for humans of all ages to exercise their imaginations on a regular basis.