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Letting Go Of “Should Be”

When I first started practicing hot yoga I looked so forward to my weekly Sunday afternoon class with Suzanne Bergen. It was not only hot and physically challenging but also spiritual and sacred. Suzanne always had a message to share with us at the beginning of class and it always seemed to be exactly what I needed to hear at the moment. When I became a yoga teacher I wondered how I would ever be able to message as authentically as Suzanne and while it’s taken me several years of teaching to get really comfortable with it, it’s one of my favorite things about teaching.

In my 60 minute classes there is too much to get done to have time for readings or discussion at the beginning of class but I relish my Saturday and Sunday morning classes because we have time for readings, working on special skills and lots of floor work in addition to plenty of standing flow. I get many requests from my students for copies of readings so I am going to start sharing them here on a more regular basis. I know that many of you might like to read them and my fellow yoga teachers might find them useful when prepping for your own classes. I’ll make sure to list the posts with readings on the “Yoga” page.

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This week’s reading was from Ram Dass and was titled, “It’s Just A Matter of Timing.”

Many years ago I spent time with a Tibetan teacher, Trungpa Rinpoche. In an interview he suggested a meditation technique in which one expands one’s awareness outward. He suggested we do it together. So we sat facing each other and he said, “Just expand outward.” And I started to expand outward.

After about twenty seconds he said “Ram Dass, are you trying?” And I said, indignantly, “Yes!” He said, “Don’t try, just expand outward.” And it absolutely blew my mind. Really. That was an exquisite teaching at that moment. Don’t try, just do it. That’s really what right effort is about. I think the key to right effort is timing.

I used to go to meditation courses and I hated every minute. But I thought, “It’s good for me.” And I would squirm and my legs would hurt and I’d day-dream. I’d count the hours and days until I could get out. And I felt so righteous about doing it. And then I thought to myself “Do you think this is really getting you liberated?”

I mean I’d come out so neurotic and just waiting for a steak and a milk shake. I would have fantasies during the meditation course of what I was going to eat the first day and how I’d drive in the country and how free I’d feel. But I kept going to these courses because I was feeling it was “good for me”. I felt I had to do good in order to be good. Then I decided if this was the only way to liberation, I guess I wasn’t going to make it. So I gave up. And after a few years I noticed that I started to yearn to just sit quietly. And it was a whole different ball game. An Indian Saint, Ramama Maharshi, once said, “I didn’t eat and they said I was fasting.” Same thing!

It has to do with timing. It’s as if our minds see in advance where we’re going, and then our mind-overkill makes us imitate where we think we’re going, which doesn’t give us a chance for our intuition to get us moving in a timely manner. Somebody came up to me the other day and said, “You know, I’m just tired of being ‘should upon’.” Me too!

Mainly I was doing it to myself. You know, “You should do this, you really should.” I almost distrusted that I had a true yearning for God. And that’s where the ‘shoulds’ were coming from, that lack of faith. The more I trusted myself and said, “Well, okay, I’ll just be what I am” the more I began to feel this deep pull towards God. And these methods which could help me, such as meditation started to be a joy rather than a mountain to be climbed. It’s just a matter of timing.

The question is about the balance between inner work (work on yourself) and outer work. I’ll tell you, each person has got to intuitively trust themselves.

We live in a society where many of our actions are driven by “should” instead of want or desire or passion and acting from the place of should can often result in feelings of dread, resentment and lethargy.

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I shared a totally silly example of how this shows up in even the smallest ways by talking about my love/hate relationship with double unders in CrossFit. They are hard and I am not good at them. I am practicing double unders multiple times per week in an attempt to master them…mainly because my ego wants to be able to do them and to RX WODs. Many of my fellow athletes are proficient at double unders so I feel like I should be too. I was warming up for a WOD that included double unders last Friday afternoon. My coach commented that when I was warming up and relaxed I was doing them no problem but the second the WOD started my whole demeanor changed. I got a super serious look on my face, tensed up all over, was stomping around everywhere and looked like double unders were a life or death matter. I ended up frustrating myself, trying too hard, missing a ton and had the lash marks on my back to prove it.

I asked my classes this weekend to let their practice come from a place of intention and intuition and not to attach any “it should look or feel like this” to it. Just about everything in life feels better when we’re not gritting our teeth and forcing our way through it because it’s what we should do and instead allow space and how it feels to guide us through.

{ 17 comments… add one }
  • Katie @ Live Half Full April 6, 2014, 1:54 pm

    This perspective is soooo true- thank you for sharing!

  • Lauren-Kate April 6, 2014, 1:57 pm

    Beautiful post Jen. This really resonates with me right now as I am trying to drop the should out of my life 🙂

  • Tiff April 6, 2014, 2:05 pm

    I’m sure anyone who reads this can relate. Great point!

  • Jessica April 6, 2014, 2:17 pm

    At the end of every class, my favorite yoga teacher always reminds us to be gentle with ourselves, that we always handle babies so carefully and gently but often forget that sometimes we should approach ourselves the same way. It has always resonated with me, but not so much as this week after I saw a documentary on HBO about the parents of child athletes. The parents were incredibly hard on them, telling them that they weren’t trying hard enough or that they failed, one even told the cameras that he was proud of his daughter but couldn’t tell her that until she “made it” because he had to be so hard on her for her to succeed. I was astonished by the way they were bullying their children, but then realized that it’s often the way we talk to ourselves when we aren’t able to run as far or as fast as we think we should or can’t quite get that tricky pose in yoga that we were able to hit last week. I decided before practice yesterday that I was going to approach it with a supportive tone, being truly happy for what I was capable of and talking to myself the way that I would talk to a 10 year old playing a sport she loves. It completely changed my perspective and I truly believe I was able to accomplish some things that had been previously plaguing me. And I am SO sore today, just adding to the point that you don’t have to be hard on yourself to accomplish your goal, and you’ll have more fun by having a more positive attitude too.

    • DkotaGirl April 6, 2014, 7:13 pm

      That’s so true about it being the way we often talk to ourselves. Thank you for the reminder to be gentle with ourselves, Jessica.

  • Sara @ LovingOnTheRun April 6, 2014, 2:36 pm

    Wow this is so true! What a great perspective to have and one I definitely need to work on!

  • Jojo @ RunFastEatLots April 6, 2014, 3:27 pm

    I love it when my yoga instructors share a message with us during class. Thanks for sharing your reading!

  • Cat April 6, 2014, 3:51 pm

    This is exactly what I needed to read right now – thank you!

  • Linda April 6, 2014, 4:12 pm

    I just took my first class with Suzanne yesterday! She is amazing! Can’t wait to go back!

  • Michelle April 6, 2014, 8:52 pm

    Thank you so much, Jen!! You continue what you love.

  • Christy April 6, 2014, 9:20 pm

    Thanks for sharing this in writing Jen. Today’s class was awesome! I was also wondering if you could share some of your play lists as well. I know I am supposed to be completely on my mat in yoga but sometimes the music is so awesome and I can’t possibly remember it all by the time class is over. Thanks ~ ch

  • Rebekah {aCricketSang} April 6, 2014, 10:11 pm

    Thanks for sharing this!

  • Suzanne Bergen April 6, 2014, 10:13 pm

    Jen thank you so much for mentioning me in your blogs and coming to my class when you can. I am honored. When you walk in the door it always makes me feel so good and happy to see a familiar face! I love talking to the students as well in the beginning of class. In the beginning I felt so vulnerable opening up to students. With time and practice, it gets easier and becomes natural. Last week I read the quote “What could be more important than the health of your soul.” ~ Gary Zukav ~ To me that’s the essence of YOGA. See you soon. Love, Suzanne

  • Kaylea April 7, 2014, 8:38 am

    I love this post!!! Thanks for sharing!!

  • Tamara April 7, 2014, 12:28 pm

    Yes!! Amazingly well said. Thank you!

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