When you say you are going to do something, do it. I long ago stopped using the word “promise” when telling someone that I would do something. It’s an empty word that is often overused and frequently broken. So instead, if I agree to do something, I do it and if I am not sure or cannot, I say it. But it took several years to put this into practice as did creating a daily Ashtanga Yoga practice.
I failed myself many days on the path to a six day per week practice, but I never gave up trying to attain it. At lunch time in Mysore when the Ashtangis gather, we often joke how most of us are “Type A” personalities. But maybe we weren’t always. Maybe we needed to discover the discipline of Ashtanga yoga to see things clearly, in a straight line and how we could create that type of organization in our lives. The path is clearly laid out in Patanjali’s Eight limbs, and the sequences of asanas are perfectly ordered to create healing and growth withing the body.
Get up early, every morning, do your practice, all is coming. This is true, if you get the difficult part of your day out of the way, and face your inner self first thing in the morning, then the rest of the day becomes more linear, clear and the path before you unfolds without confusion. With practice the body does not start out the day with confusion, and the mind will follow.
But teaching this to people, in a society where so many think that I should “just do what feels good” and “I should be able to do what I want when I want to do it,” with no consequences to their prior commitments; which in reality, were their prior “wants”, is difficult. People move from job to job, from state to state, from partner to partner and from “commitment” to “commitment”. This in essence is the monkey mind at work in the physical vessel. The mind saying, “Oh look! Something shiny over here! Oh wait, something shinier over there.” And, “I didn’t really want that to begin with, I just thought it would be fun/interesting.”
The monkey mind can also have us clinging to an abusive relationship, a codependent family member or a dead end job, swinging emotionally in the wind of the other person’s problems or desires. But if you wake up early every morning and make that commitment to yourself, first, then the monkey mind is clear to see the choices that you have made, and whether or not you are sound with what you have chosen to do.
Making decisions without a clear mind can hurt others. It may mean that you were not honest with yourself, that your desires took over and now you abandon them to seek out other pleasures, leaving those who depended upon you empty handed. Especially when the other person made a commitment to you. This can often happen in a marriage, a teacher/student relationship, a volunteer opportunity, or a job you just took for the money.
Ashtanga yoga has taught me that we cannot simply do what feels good. That most of what makes life worth living is doing what is difficult and challenging and sometimes feels yucky. Ashtanga yoga has taught me that when an opportunity comes up, I am not going to simply say yes because it may satisfy me in the short term. I now ask myself these questions:
1.) Is this something that I am going to do half ass or wholeheartedly?
2.) Is this something I really want for the long haul or something I want right now?
3.) If I decide to do this, can I complete the task?
4.) If I take this opportunity, will it prevent me from working towards what I really want, or will it help me move closer to what I really want?
5.) If I do not complete this task, who will suffer?
Ask yourself these questions the next time you are considering a commitment to someone or something. It can make all the difference in not only your conscience but in your relationships.