Practice Makes Perfect

The universe doesn’t know the difference between what we want and what we don’t want. The universe only knows what we focus on and invest our energy in. It assumes we want more of that. Therefore, whatever we decide to practice is what we will become good at.

What are you practicing today? If the answer is anxiety, worrying, or negativity you’re going to get good at it. Would you rather practice empowerment and abundance instead? If you believe in judging and beating yourself up, you are practicing the art of hurting yourself and you will become a master at it. It reminds me of the unattributed quote, “If our strengths are not determined to be valuable, we spend our lives shoring up our weaknesses.”

Notice what you’re focusing your energy on and choose what you want to become good at.

Yoga And The Ugly Christmas Sweater

While there may be someone out there, I personally, do not know anyone who doesn’t have some form of an addiction. Our addictions can take a variety of shapes ranging from an addiction to a paycheck, a process, a person, food or chemical. As we prepare ourselves, and our homes, for the holidays two addictions that often surface are competitiveness and perfectionism. In my house the drive toward both was at full speed as we prepared for the neighborhood Ugly Christmas Sweater Party.

I first noticed the competitiveness between the four of us as we covertly acquired our ugly Christmas sweaters, refusing to admit where we were shopping or give hints on available inventory. I chose cyber shopping to find my brightly colored, dizzyingly busy item. I was particularly proud of the fact that it was a previously used and repurposed purchase! While good naturedly boasting to my daughter of my fashion find, and hoping for an extra points for the eco-friendly add-on, she advised that I cover my tracks by deleting the website from “history” on the family desktop. That was an early sign that our family had successfully cleared the bar for standard competitiveness and was racing toward cutthroat.

Perfectionism is so deeply rooted in many of us that some people describe themselves as “born perfectionists”. I realized The Ugly Sweater Party was triggering my husband’s obsessive compulsive disorder desire for thoroughness when I caught him sneaking glue, tinsel and a strand of Christmas tree lights upstairs. Not satisfied with his off-the-shelf gaudy sweater, he set about embellishing it with a resolve that comes from having stepped onto the slippery slope toward compulsiveness. With intimidating determination he spent his afternoon rigging his sweater with flashing lights and gluing tinsel to inappropriate places on Santa’s reindeer.

Perfectionists and those with a strong need to be the best, often set unrealistic standards for themselves and when they fail to meet these standards, they beat themselves up. The holidays offer plenty of opportunities for these tendencies to be triggered and enhanced. As the craving for perfectionism invades the holidays, our ability to take pleasure in family and friends can be overlaid with anxiety. Our enjoyment can be dampened by a sense of dissatisfaction and striving. The Ugly Christmas Sweater party was a great laugh, but our approach toward our preparations reminded me of the necessity to not let the fun of the holidays be overshadowed by those qualities that only bring tension. Softening our approach and allowing ourselves, our homes, our gifts, and our meals to “be as they are” invites everyone around us to also be comfortable with what is.

Learning the Street Value of Letting Go

Yoga has changed a lot about how I interact with the people around me and how I react to situations.  It’s very fulfilling to realize I’m not taken off balance in a moment when I might have become fearful or angry in that past.  However, there are other times when I find myself to be decidedly un-yogic.  Hurricane Irene gave me a week without lights, air-conditioning, internet access or hot water.  Living in a town with huge, old, oak  trees that loose branches in wind, rain and snow storms; we’ve had plenty of power failures.  In the past we’ve been dark for 10 minutes to 2 days.  A week is a record.

My immediate reaction when the lights went out was to sit and wait for my world to re-illuminate.  Any minute now.   Ten minutes later, resignation set in and I followed through on the preparations I’d made: grab the flashlights, light the candles, pretend to read Yoga Journal…..but my real focus was on waiting for the lights to come on.   Surprised that the lights were still out when I went to bed, my first cogent thought the next morning was, “I HAVE to have power today.”  The next two days became a pregnant pause of tension.  A void of waiting, and thinking “I HAVE to get power this morning.”     “ I’m sure I’ll get power this afternoon.”   “ Pleeeease let me get power tonight.”   “It’s not possible that I’d have to take another ice cold shower today.”  As each deadline passed without success, I felt my non-yogi nerves fray.   Finally, on the third day I stopped resisting.  The fact that the power was not coming on in my timeframe, and that I had no control over when it would come on, sunk in and I accepted it.  Immediately, the tension melted and I could get on with the details of life without lights and hot water.

It occurred to me after the fact that I had just re-experienced an old lesson.  It wasn’t the lack of electricity that had caused me to feel frazzled and frustrated.  The tension was the result of my resistance.  Every moment spent wishing things were different caused anxiety, discomfort and suffering.  When I finally settled in, and accepted the situation, I could move through each day, making whatever adjustments were necessary, and still feel centered.  Another opportunity to break-through.