Preparing to live

“We are very good at preparing to live, but not very good at living. We know how to sacrifice ten years for a diploma, and we are willing to work very hard to get a job, a car, a house, and so on. But we have difficulty remembering that we are alive in the present moment, the only moment there is for us to be alive.” -Thich Nhat Hanh
 

I think that there is a great deal of truth to this quote, as is always true of the words of Thich Nhat Hanh. So much of our time time is spent just getting through, wishing the day would be over sooner so that we can go home and distract ourselves with toys which ends up with us going to bed too late, only to wake up tired and wish the day was over already again. This pattern makes me infinitely sad, but it’s one that I’ve found myself in: the 8 to 5 grind, the short winter days, weekends spent catching up on everything there wasn’t time for during the week. Watching the clock all afternoon, willing it to be five so I can get out, breathe fresh air, see the sky.

look up

from feather, stone, moon & ivory bone

The new year came right in the middle of an awkward transition for me. Jobs current and future overlapping sloppily (one, coming to an end in an uncomfortable fashion, another trying to be born but I don’t have time or the mental capacity for it yet, a third, mercifully, making things easy for me), plus all of the other obligations I tend to pile on my plate, have left me feeling exhausted. I haven’t been eating well, sleeping well, exercising at all, taking pictures, reading, or writing… all of the things that I know are important for me (1) to feel good and like myself, (2) to feel inspired, motivated, joyful, or creative. It’s kind of one of those ‘put-your-head-down-and-it’ll-be-over-soon periods,’ which we all have. But I’m resenting this one.

I have so many good intentions for this new year, and am impatient for it to really get underway (as signified by the completion of my current job and moving on to better things). Today though, I was sitting at the counter of my favorite coffee shop with an americano and a new journal, the one new year’s intention I’ve been successful at so far, and decided that I’m going to do my best to start despite the challenges. I’m tired of wishing days were over. Tired of preparing to live.

patagonia yoga

from patagonia

My first intention for the year is to start a real yoga practice. Since starting my current job, going to yoga has slowly slid down the list of priorities, ending up somewhere below beer and potato chips (gross I know, but they’re my comfort foods). This morning I did make it to class, only to learn that my favorite yoga instructor will be moving away at the end of the month. And for whatever reason, I found that to be really good motivation to do the work of creating my own practice. Today, while we were twisted into the strangest high lunge variation, she offered us a “fun” way to transition to staff pose–an intense arm balance-plank-jump through sequence that was way out of my realm of possibility–and she laughed as she fell trying to demonstrate it. I really admire the humor and forgiveness with which she teaches her classes. I love it when she says “and maybe if you’re feeling flexible today…” and then laughs a little as she demonstrates the variation. Which makes me laugh a little in whatever pose I’m currently struggling with. See, yoga doesn’t have to be serious!

The main reason I’ve been really intimidated to start a personal practice is a deep sense of not knowing what I’m doing, and that I’m going to mess it up (when no one’s looking, mind you), and that that’s bad. I’ve decided today that it isn’t. I can mess it up, fall over, and laugh myself silly. That’s fine. All that matters is that I’m approaching yoga with some intention and devotion, rather than as a nice thing to do on weekends. I’ve also found a lot of inspiration for this by reading the posts by the participants in this yoga challenge. So many of them are beginners, or work 60 hours a week, or have young kids, but they’re doing yoga every single day this month. If they can do it, so can I.

foggy walk

by kevin russ

My second big intention for this year is to make time for photography. I watched a great video recently about Kevin Russ, a young photographer who has made a name for himself, of all things, by taking photos on his iPhone. No DSLR, no fancy editing. Just him, the beautiful places he visits, and his little iPhone camera. Totally inspiring.

Now, don’t judge me for it (and despite the aforementioned article), but one of my goals for this year is to save money to buy a nice digital camera. I’m just not inspired to use my point and shoot digital (there’s something very different about looking through a viewfinder, something very powerful and addicting almost). And while I LOVE shooting film, film is expensive and I’m judicious when carrying my film camera. I need to really love an image to capture it. A nice DSLR will give me permission to take as many pictures as I want, and to experiment more. I would really love to experiment with portraits, in particular. And with this new camera, if I mess up I can just delete them, rather than feeling like I wasted a roll of film. And if I save up and buy a really, really nice camera, then I won’t trap myself by wanting to upgrade two years down the road. Time to fire up my penny jar and cut back on the lattes.

And so, those are a couple of my intentions for the new year (others: have more small adventures, grow a great garden, cook from scratch as much as possible, share my love more freely). I started today by writing them down. Tomorrow, I pledge to stop preparing to live, and start doing it.

Wishing you each joy, intention, and direction in this new year.

-b

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