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I love yoga.  Especially hot yoga.  Some may call me crazy, but the peace of mind I get from sweating myself silly, bending myself into difficult positions and then remembering to breath is a phenomenal experience.  Today, the yoga instructor, during our rest in the middle of class, talked about not letting our past practices dictate how we felt about today’s practice.  We must take our bodies at its current state, assess its ability and then do our yoga being compassionate considering how we are doing that day.  We shouldn’t, the yoga instructor cautioned, allow our desire for a future perfect form force us to go beyond our capacity today and thus hurt ourselves.  As the sweat made rivlets down my face and dropped onto my purple towel, I took her words to heart and decided to apply them to more than just my yoga.

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– Think doing this in a 100 degree plus room…now that’s what you call relaxation

I have always been a fast moving person; pushing myself forward towards that gold at the end of the rainbow, or in other words, my future career.  In school, I studied because I knew that if I did well it would make it that much easier to get into a good grad program or get a good internship, where I would suddenly realize that “one” thing I wanted to be and finally reach what I had been striving towards for most of my life.  For me, it would be something in the nonprofit world, something to do with education and culture and performing arts.  Emphasis on the something; I believed that I would know what that dream career was when I saw it.  However, these last two weeks, I have begun to stagnate.  My morning rituals of skimming the job columns or researching grad programs began to be filled with later wakings and longer breakfasts.  I began to justify it by deciding I was tired from working late at the restaurant and a lack of necessary work from my unpaid internship.  But was I just being lazy?

Quotes I have heard and branded into my heart ring through my head as I write this: “always work outside the box”, “push your limits”, “get out of your comfort zone”, “don’t settle”.  Comfort is painted to be the enemy, locking you in a glass palace, allowing you to see what you could be doing whilst surrounded by every beguiling reason why you should not.  Furthermore, advice I had heard when I first moved to DC also echoed in my ear, mostly involving choosing a career/internship: “there will be many jobs, but if they are not what you want, and you have the means to wait, then it is ok to say no”, “if you can pay the rent, buy food and necessities, there is no need to rush into something new that may make it harder for you to accomplish that”.  And I confess, I bought it.  I relished the freedom of not having a nine-to-five and spending free moments walking to Chinatown or Archives in search of green tea fro-yo just for the hell of it.  Insert immense crushing guilt.  Suddenly, I felt like two people, one person who enjoyed enjoying myself and another who felt like I was wasting my time, and every moment sleeping past the alarm was a job I was not going to get.  Every day that I pushed off dealing with this dissonance, was a day in which I had a Hamlet-sized psychological battle with myself: to relax and enjoy myself or not to relax, that was the guilt-tinged question.

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– Who wouldn’t want something so good?

During this monumental yoga class, I began to ask myself questions: Is it a bad thing to be happy in your settled state?  Is it a dishonor to yourself to let yourself stop moving forward?  Could not moving forward actually be moving forward in that you are giving your soul the time it needs to reflect and find out what it means to be and where it wants to go?  Was my comfort bubble actually protecting me from rushing headlong into something I didn’t want?

The answer, I garnered, to most of these questions (and that was inspired by the yoga instructor), was sometimes taking a break, or taking a step back is necessary to move forward.  Finding value in what you have achieved and reflecting on how you achieved it is just as important as going off and achieving the next thing.  Living in the capital of a nation whose very existence hinges on the American Dream, that only by moving forward, going faster, harder, stronger will you find happiness, made me forget that it’s ok to hit pause.  Meritocracy, (in an unequal system, something I will only mention but not expand on), characterizes failure as anything that is not success.  Stagnation is not an excuse and neither is a lack of inspiration.  However, without reflection, without a water break, how can we know that what we want isn’t right just next to us?

For me, and perhaps for others too, the value of stopping to smell the roses or cloud watch were not as emphasized as the need to make the grade.  But it is important.  Very important.  To stop, thank yourself for your hard work, your successes and failures, for letting your feet take you down the path you find yourselves on, and the friends and family and enemies that helped/hindered you on the way…all that is important.

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– so very peaceful…

Today is Friday.  For some that may be the weekend, for others the beginning of a long week.  But nevertheless, take time to look up at the sky, study the shadow and light thrown by the wind tossed trees and take a breath.  You deserve it, and it will make whatever next step in your life be that much more brilliant.

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