What is the Difference Between Doing Our Best & Striving to Be Better?

In between the rain and yoga class evenings this winter, you’ll generally catch me down at the beach, walking the dog and running number two son. I’m rarely disappointed with the vista; lots of beautiful sunsets, amazing colours and a sense of peace and space.

But every day, even from this exact same angle is different right? Some days I feel there is nothing worth snapping or sharing because the light is dull and there are lots of clouds or none at all. And this, I accept without question, because it’s nature and nature cannot be forced.

And this dog still needs her walk!

The Challenge (in letting go of the challenge…)

I was having a chat with one of my long-term friends and yogis after class the other day about the challenge involved in letting go of the challenge! In other words, the difficulty in allowing things “to be” without forcing and struggling. The push and the shove for something more. This is particularly relevant in a yoga class because the essence of the practise comes back to being mindful and accepting.  But lately, everything in life seems to be about railroading ourselves towards some imagined, fantasy ideal of greatness via short-term, intense physical and/or dietary challenges. “So what?”, you may be thinking. “Challenges are important! I WANT to be great!” But isn’t that part of the issue?

I want! (some “thing”)

An important mantra in yoga philosophy, is the Sanskrit phrase, “so hum”.  It translates to mean something along the lines of  “I am that”. However, in our world, the mantra of late seems more often than not to be, “I am NOT”.

Image borrowed from the net with thanks

It also seems that most short-term challenges are about the end of something, “How “did” you go?”  “Are you happy now it’s over?” (Ecstatic! But that high never lasts and it’s not long before we feel lacking again…).  It’s also become a marketing tool based – predictably – on instilling thoughts of insecurity. Realistically though, the effort involved is hardly ever sustainable and neither are the results. Sustainability and consistency have always been the key indicators of long-term health care, contentment, physicality and longevity.

In other words, the short term challenge appears to lure us in on the premise that we will be fabulous and worthy AFTER the event, because right now, we aren’t good enough, healthy enough, thin enough, brave enough or fit enough and ought to be better.  But better than what? Better than whom? What exactly is wrong with us?

Well, nothing actually. All is perfectly Okay. You are as you are.

This stuff is at the core of the on-going struggle with the self. The lack of acceptance for what is. The high expectations we put on ourselves and others. The very idea that we should be more because we are NOT enough. We don’t HAVE enough. There is NEVER enough.  No wonder we often feel disappointed and disillusioned. Discontented, unhappy and not quite whole. 

The Ying & the Yang, the Ha and the Tha

Most Eastern health and lifestyle philosophies come back to that very thing we are often banging on about, but can’t seem to grasp; balance. It’s the essence of Yin/Yang and Ha/Tha (as in Hatha Yoga)

What happens when there is too much yang? For a minute, let’s consider the world we live in. How do things tend to roll out in societies where the feminine has been oppressed and the masculine energy is dominant?  What does it look like to you? Many of us may have experienced that similar, intense vibe in broken workplaces where competition, rather than support is encouraged, and people are treated like dispensable resources with a level of respect (or disrespect) in accordance with  their pay grade. But, by the same token, what happens when there’s a sense of blasé and laziness about nearly everything and we just can’t be bothered to make a stand? Well obviously, on a personal level, nothing will evolve and we’ll just plod along feeling unsatisfied and miserable, but on the larger scale, historically, we know that when lots of people get too complacent, the world has the potential to become a terrifying place. To to counter the effects of that, we then have no choice but to push back hard.

Now I don’t know about you, but that’s something I would absolutely prefer to avoid. It’s why an “All or Nothing” lifestyle philosophy  is a totally unnatural and damaging way of being. “The All” cannot be sustained for long before there will likely be some sort of implosion.

So, back to my lovely yogi friend and why it is totally unnecessary to push and strive and struggle towards a goal, or to get caught up in the desire for something more that what is at that moment. If your intention is only ever to show up and do your best as often as possible, to keep on keeping on, while being attentive to natural fluctuations of mood, health, environment and circumstances, well what is likely to happen? What usually happens when we commit to something and practise it regularly, consistently, in a sustainable way, over the long-term?

A) We get better at that thing. That thing is no longer a struggle.  That thing becomes embedded on our DNA. It becomes  part of who we are.

So Hum. So it does!