Monthly Archives: December 2009

It’s not about the pose.

Natalie Morales Koundinyasa“It’s not about the pose, it’s about your reaction to the pose.”  Over and over I hear this in from my yoga teacher.

When my standing leg turns to jelly, when I quit while the rest of the class keeps going, or when my arm strength gives out and I plop rather than float to the floor, my wonderful yoga teacher, Natalie Morales, softly reminds me, “it’s not about the pose, it’s about your reaction to the pose.”

When I lose my balance and topple sideways, Natalie cheerfully calls across the room, ”nice dismount, Terry!”  Encouraged, I grin and quickly return to the pose. With her good humor and gentle guidance, I can focus on my present efforts, rather than grumble to myself about what I didn’t do, how impossibly hard it is, or how I’ll never get it right.

When I can  remember this, it’s so much better. If my arms are weak and I don’t pop up into full wheel effortlessly, or at all, it’s fine.  My inability to hold chaturanga becomes almost as interesting as my graceful execution of a fully extended dancer’s pose.

I can stay strong, moving forward with less and less effort, steadily improving even as I topple, wobble, and flop.

Slowly and surely, I progress physically.  Little by little, my balance and stamina improves, my leg lifts higher, my headstands last longer and become more stable.

But the most empowering aspect of this practice is the transformation of my attitude, from one of competition and judgment to a powerful attitude of acceptance and persistence.

It’s not about the pose.

It’s not about what happens, it’s about our reaction to what happens.

When, despite your very best efforts, life’s challenges still arise (as they always will), what will your reaction be?  When the weather changes and your eagerly anticipated plans have to change with it, when loved ones let your down, when life just doesn’t cooperate with you, how will you react?  Will you gnash and thrash and struggle? Will you mutter under your breath that it’s too hard, not fair? Will you regretfully scold yourself, tell yourself you should have done better or you should have handled it differently?  Will you give up?

Or can you smile, tell yourself “nice dismount,” and jump back in, renewing your efforts?

Can you remember what you did well, how you showed up and reached out, how well you communicated, how you stayed calm under fire, took a risk, stayed in your truth, took responsibility, and aligned with your values?

And just as important, will you forgive yourself for the times you didn’t.

When you fell out of the pose, when you didn’t reach out when you could have, when you were thoughtless or didn’t say the right thing, can you still move forward?  Can you let it go, and simply acknowledge that it’s not about what happened?  Can you remember it’s always about how you respond this time, right now?

Over and over, we will have the opportunity to answer these questions:  How do I want to react?  How do I choose to respond?

By remembering this simple truth, we can stay empowered and eager to jump back in, ready for the next challenge, and fascinated by the wonder of it all.

Guilty with an Explanation

gavelAs a new lawyer, I worked in Miami’s county courts of where kids with blaring stereos and cars without mufflers, unruly boaters who sped across manatee habitats, and petty thieves faced time in the county jail mostly for their unrepentantly boorish behavior.  The courts teemed with emotion, illogic, and, not infrequently, chaos.  The defendants and their families waited alongside long-suffering neighborhoods seeking their day in court against louts whose dogs ran through their gardens, digging, pooping, and terrifying cats.

In addition to the legally recognized pleas of guilty and not guilty, the shrewd judges allowed a third alternative which had absolutely no legal significance but served as a practical and efficient way to keep the heavy docket moving.

Over and over, the court clerk sternly demanded of the defendant, “How do you plead, guilty, not guilty, or guilty with an explanation?”  “Guilty with an explanation” was the overwhelmingly popular choice

The defendant was then given a few minutes to offer his excuses, justifications, and rationalizations for doing what he did.  But he was still guilty, and treated accordingly.

How often we do this in our personal lives?  We behave unreliably, sometimes worse.  We break rules, ignore the twinges of conscience that tug at us, then plead “guilty with an explanation,” stammering out our excuses.  It feels lame, because, in the end, it is lame. We’re guilty with or without an explanation.

What if we simply admitted it?   “I’m sorry. I apologize. I hope you’ll forgive me.”  An apology without an excuse.  Guilty without an explanation.

It’s a risk that takes courage, but, in the end, a far more truthful and satisfying  choice.