by Eric Stewart

There’s so much to do this time of year! I don’t know about you, but the addition of yard and garden work (or according to some, garden yoga) to an already full schedule has made it hard to stay on top of things, especially given the lateness of spring this year.

Even with longer daylight hours, time is readily occupied by Stuff to Do.

These longer days are yummy in the feelings of opening they promise: less bulky clothing to wear, more people outside, interesting things growing out of the ground. On the other hand, the expansiveness of spring can sometimes feel scattered and ungrounded.

A tricky thing about being scattered is that when it’s happening, it can be difficult to recognize. Kind of like digging several fruitless wells and not really realizing it, as discussed in the post a few weeks ago.

One of the great things about a yoga practice is that it can serve to heighten awareness of where one is mentally and physically, and also to settle and focus attention when things get too busy.

The last week or so, I’ve felt this put to the test, as my own practice has been prodded and elbowed by all the springtime goings-on. It’s amusing because in February I looked at what appeared to be a lighter schedule in April and imagined the increased space I’d have for practice in the spring.

In retrospect, the firm time commitments of my schedule in the winter provided a clear structure for practice, and my practice was solid then. Whereas fewer firm commitments now mean that it’s easy for an excess of activities to fill the available time, and if I’m not careful certain priorities get squeezed to the margins.

The practice still happens. It’s just that conditions are favorable for it to end earlier and not go as deep.

The last few days I’ve made a point to carve out more space for practice. From these sessions I learned a lesson I’ve learned before and most certainly will learn again: the attention spent to ensure the extra time is more than worth it in how yoga lets me be with life.

My experience has always been that when the practice is solid, the rest of life goes smoother. Rough patches are still rough, but they are softer than they would be otherwise.

Everyone is different in what they need for replenishment, and different in what their life will allow.  For some people, spending attention to cultivate something means nurturing a small practice or activity. For others, it’s showing up to class, and for others it involves a greater immersion. None of these is inherently better than another.

What’s more, going to a class, doing a 15 minute practice or a 2-hour practice are exactly the same in how they begin: by paying attention, and acting on that attention. They begin when a person is awake to what’s important to them. They rarely happen (and are impossible to sustain) through guilt or shame.

Paying Attention

It’s an expression that I believe is among the most economical (in more ways than one) and insightful in the English language: pay attention. These two words communicate that attention has a cost. Attention requires energy– not a lot, but it needs some.

Here’s a major reason that people struggle with doing a practice they want to do: the cost of paying that attention appears high. Whether you’re lying on the couch or driving around needing to accomplish 20 errands, the attention spent to make time for something else can seem expensive.

However, what’s gained from the payment can outweigh that initial cost many times over. People who are able to sustain a practice through time do so because they realize practice makes them feel better, connects them, and keeps them sound, and they maintain the awareness that this is the case in their attention.

When attention appears expensive, a person’s attitude toward practice gets easily tangled up with valuations of self worth instead of valuing the practice: “I’ll be good if I go to class,” (and therefore bad if not).

Seeing the practice as valuable instead of regarding oneself as good or bad may appear to be a subtle distinction, but it makes a huge difference in the relationship a person can have with themselves and the things they do.

If you’d like to explore how attention can help your yoga or any other activity, here are two simple things to try.

  • Notice whether your self-worth is tied to doing the activity or not. Do you beat yourself up internally for not doing what you want to do? It’s also important to consider whether accomplishing things within the activity is tied to self-worth.
  • Make a small practice of  acknowledging and remembering what you value about your chosen activity at different times of the day. Consider this as carrying an ember of the practice wherever you go.  

Our job here at Solaluna is to support you in offering attention to the things that nourish you.  Sometimes that payment of attention can seem like a lot. It can appear to be a luxury that’s out of reach.  With support it’s easier to see that a little goes a long way, and the benefits far surpass the cost.