Recently, or maybe forever, I’ve been madly re-arranging all the details of my future life. As if I really have some sort of control over the specifics. I cringe and I plan and I panic about Yoga Teacher Training, GRE tests (again), PhD programs, clinical rotations, working part-time so I can start painting again… I plan madly. I look up statistics and salaries and time to completion. I look up pricing and calculate finances and debate the cost of a future career with stalling my biological clock a few more years. I worry about having kids and I worry about not having kids. I try to plan out what kind of career I will have, what kind of mother I will be, what my house will look like, what will happen and what will need to be in place for me to finally relax, and be happy.
That time is not coming.
I have learned by now that whatever magical goal I have: getting a Master’s degree, having an acceptable job, losing weight, eating only meat on Sundays, having a super clean home – these are not things that have fulfilled me. There isn’t an end. When you finally achieve the goal, you already have another in place.
I am a goal-oriented person. I am organized and I am dedicated and when I have a goal and it follows the SMART rules I complete it. I have run two marathons. I have graduated from college – twice. I have multiple fitness certifications. I follow exercise training programs for competitions. I run programs at work. And all of these things have an end date. Once you complete the goal, it’s over. Move on. Do something else.
And now I am transitioning. Running is no longer interesting to me, and I have not run in over two months. I have been focusing on yoga and I am so happy that I have found something I am truly passionate about.
But yoga has no goals. You practice and you do the same things and some days you’re better and some days you’re worse. You follow how you feel. Every day is different and when the progression is so slow – flexibility takes a LONG ASS time – it’s hard to stay motivated. There is no end. Even when you can take the advanced classes and do all of the poses and completely clear your mind, there is still more. I don’t see an end, which is both frustrating and also, relieving.
It’s frustrating because I don’t always know why I’m doing it. I don’t always see progress. And it’s difficult to motivate myself to do it when I don’t have a clear goal in mind – like finishing a 14 mile training run or getting a 20 on tabata burpees. Measurable goals make sense. They’re motivating. But yoga is not always measurable.
But it also means it will never get old. I can grow with yoga. I can improve and I can progress, even if it seems to take forever. But it’s very tempting to quit in the meantime.
Once I was an artist. I was a painter and I painted and I played music and I sculpted (although poorly and I never really enjoyed it), but I had an artist mentality. I think I still do. And recently I want to be an artist again. I miss squishing around paint and I miss being able to express an idea. But art, like yoga, has no end. There’s no goal. Sure, maybe it’s to make a painting or a piece of art, but the real artist knows that it doesn’t end there. The work is never over. Picasso was still painting at 90 years old. Frank Lloyd Wright was designing until he passed. The work of an artist, the work of a yogi – there is no end.
The best part about it having no end is that: this is life. Life has no end until it does. We will struggle and we will be uncertain and we will be planning up until the point that we are no longer here. That’s the nature of human existence. So, in a way, artists and yogis are doing the whole life thing right. It’s the expression of life. The expression of life is not to have a goal and to complete it, it’s the journey – it’s the magic that happens in between. Maybe other people will only see the finished product, or what you can do, or the art that you made or the pose that you hold, but there’s work behind it and uncertainty.
Today I bought a book. I first started reading it in undergrad. I was house-sitting for my glass instructor and it was on her shelf. I read for hours but I never finished it, and I never went to the effort to look it up and find it. Today, because this has been on my mind, I went out of my way to purchase it.
Art and Fear. And it’s describing my entire life, and it’s making references to being an artist but what it is really talking about is LIFE. For everyone, whether they realize it or not. This is my favorite exerpt so far, which is perfect for all over-analyzing, fear-ridden people like me:
Consider the story of the young student, who began piano studies with a Master. After a few months’ practice, David lamented to his teacher, “But I can hear the music so much better in my head than I can get out of my fingers.”
To which the Master replied, “What makes you think that ever changes?”
That’s why they’re called Masters. When he raised David’s discovery from an expression of self-doubt to a simple observation of reality, uncertainty became an asset. Lesson for the day: vision is always ahead of execution – and it should be. Vision, Uncertainty, and Knowledge of Materials are inevitabilities that all artists must acknowledge and learn from: vision is always ahead of execution, knowledge of materials is your contact with reality, and uncertainty is a virtue.
I will always always always be dreaming up what’s ahead. That is a part of me – that is an asset to life. But knowing what I have to work with in the present moment, and really not knowing what will happen – well that’s the bread and butter of life right there. I know I need to get better at accepting that uncertainty, and letting go of the goal-driven mindset that I have. It’s a work in progress.