Something not working? Just try harder! That’s the advice our culture seems to offer. Grit and determination are highly valued. You HAVE to try harder to reach your goals, because life is a big competition and you’ve got to fight for everything.
I politely decline. I will not try harder. But I will keep trying.
For years, the message I absorbed from my yoga teachers was to try harder. Stretch further. Keep pushing to the edge. Wanting to be a good student – a good yogi – I tried so hard. I pushed through pain. I kept stretching.
And I kept getting injured. I didn’t understand why. I seemed to be a victim of random events but in fact I was one beating myself up. A couple of years ago, I finally realized pain was my body telling me to stop and listen. So I did. And amazingly, when I stopped pushing, I started receiving. I found space within. Yoga became fun again.
Then in 2013 I moved to California. Since all the changes were positive, I didn’t prepare myself at all for how stressful they’d be. As much as I wanted to deny it, I was incredibly stressed. My back locked up. This time I knew pushing wouldn’t work, but I was also afraid to try at all for awhile. But slowly I came back to my practice. The start of my daily commitment was just doing a couple of stretches and then practicing headstand, because headstand was the scariest pose I could safely challenge myself with. I veered from ashtanga and took some restorative classes at a different studio for a few weeks, which is where I finally felt just how much anxiety I was carrying around. Strange how panic inducing lying in a softly lit room with a gentle teacher and your own breath can be!
It has been about 2 months now that I’m back to a daily ashtanga practice with the amazing community in Dana Point. Practice is practice. It is fun to make progress. I’m committed to trying but I will not try harder. The difference in wording is slight, but in perspective is huge. To keep trying is to accept yourself as you are – a perfectly good being who wants to learn and grow (just like everybody else). To try harder is to believe that you aren’t okay right now, but that if you can only reach your toes, make the bind, get the job, earn the degree, then you will be worthwhile. So you had better hurry up and get to the destination so you can be happy.
But you won’t be happy. You’ll still be the same judgmental, anxious, unhappy self with slightly upgraded packaging. So just relax. Give it your best effort, consistently, but stop the “try harder” insanity! It is easy to forget, but we are all part of nature.
“Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.” ~ Lao Tzu
I’m writing early today because instead of mysore practice, there is a later led primary series class and I can’t sleep in! This former night owl would rather get up at 5:30. Will wonders never cease.