Wednesday, May 09, 2012
"What is your intention?"
This is a question that a lot of my yoga teachers ask at the beginning of class.
An intention is different from a goal; it is more of an idea, or a theme. It is about process, and it is a lens through which to examine and experience your journey.
So, today, before my yoga class, I asked myself what my intention was. I even wrote it down in my workout log book; Effort and Surrender.
The idea of the ebb and flow relationship of effort and surrender has really resonated with me lately. I have seen several Facebook quotes from friends about this topic in the past few days, and the idea has been with me as I have struggled to set goals (see my previous blog post).
It is not a new idea.
I have had yoga teachers talk about this theme before, usually in the context of finding the alignment in the pose, and then finding the ease in surrendering to the benefits of the pose once you are aligned.
I learned about effort and surrender in SCUBA certification. They teach you to"plan your dive and dive your plan." Planning the dive is effort, and then diving your plan is the surrender to your plan, knowing that your plan was based on logical, rational choices.
Tony Horton, in his P90X videos, often says, "Do your best and forget the rest." Kind of an effort/surrender mantra, really.
The notion of effort and surrender also comes up in Eastern philosophy. There is a notion that if you take care of the present impeccably, the future will take care of itself. In other words, if I make good choices now, I don't have to deal with the consequences of bad choices later. But it also is about detaching yourself from the results. If you do the right thing today, your goal will be achieved tomorrow, but it is not really about achieving the goal, it is about the journey to get there.
So what did my intention mean for me today on the mat? Well, it meant that I brought my authentic self to the mat, that I was aligned myself in each pose, using proper technique, etc. I did my best. I brought my A game. But I was also surrendered any preconceived notions about how well I would "perform" in class. Instead, I set the intention of surrendering to the practice; to the lessons to be learned from my teacher, from the poses, from my body, and from my inner teacher.
In practical terms, it meant that I found myself in full Hanumanasana at the end of class. Normally, that is a pose that aggravates me. It is a posed I USED to be able to do, when I was younger, but has been elusive for several years. But I followed my teacher's alignment instructions, did all the prep poses, and decided to enjoy the journey, no matter what shape the outer form of the pose took. And suddenly, there I was, all the way in the pose, heart lifted, with a huge smile on my face. I brought my A game. I did the prep work. I aligned myself. And then I surrendered. By surrendering my tight grip on my goal to get back to Hanumanasana, I found myself there. Wow!!! It was a moment. My breath was full, my body felt awesome, and I was so happy.
So what does this mean for life off of the yoga mat?
I am a type A, goal-setting kind of gal. Sometimes I will try to blaze towards an ill-conceived goal, with fierceness and determination, possibly causing damage to myself or others along the way, because, gosh darnit, I set that goal and I am going to achieve it.
There is nothing wrong with bringing your A game and setting goals. But sometimes I need to surrender. I need to loosen that tight grip on my goals, and listen to the cues I get along the way to achieving the goal. If the goal is wrong, there are signals (for me, insomnia, irritability, even depression). Sometimes the path to a goal is circuitous; the scenic route. And sometimes that circuitous route goes to the original goal anyway, with a better ride to get there. But occasionally, the destination is a surprise. The beauty of pulsing with effort and surrender is that your surrender shapes your effort in ways you never expect, sometimes bringing you to a greater destination than you ever thought possible.
Sometimes it is about reclaiming a yoga pose that you used to be able to do, but that really is just a metaphor. There have been so many great joys in my life that I never could have anticipated or planned.
So there you have it.
I will bring my "A" game to the table, but I will listen along the way.
I will still set goals, but I will be open to learning lessons on the journey, and I will allow the goal to be revised or scrapped if the journey is telling me that is what needs to happen.
I will do my best, and forget the rest.