The Road to Contentment

Today, we bring you a special treat. A guest post from a woman we both love and admire. A woman we owe much of our professional success to and who we’ve been leaning on for years, as our friend, mentor and unconditional cheerleader. Except today, that woman is leaning on us. She’s been inspired by our bravery to look inward and the honest accounts of it that we share here. She’s even gone so far as to call us her mentors in authenticity. We’re honoured to introduce you to her new personal blog, Barefoot in the Snow. We hope you’ll enjoy her debut post and will visit her site many times in the future, we definitely will. —Big L & Wee C

Ooooo-uuhhhhhmmmmm. My breath whooshes out in a loud euphoric chant, giving me my first yogic high of the day. Most likely due to lack of oxygen rather than connection to an all-knowing higher power, but I’m not really one to split hairs.

“Today is the day,” I silently pep talk myself, “The day I will finally stay on my mat the whole time, mind and body. I won’t get distracted, I won’t daydream. I will be present, serene, content and peaceful. Here we go. “

Flash forward 2.2 minutes (exactly how long it takes my pep talk to wear off apparently). My downward dog is staying strong but my mind is gone.

“Seriously, how do I always manage to get between the moaner and the heavy-breather? I feel like she’s auditioning for a bad erotic sound track. So wrong on so many levels. And him with the breathing. They should be a couple. He’s two apples tall and skinnier than I am, how in the name of god can he breathe like a freight train?” (Note to self….I am fairly certain that when one is irritated by others breathing in yoga class, one still has some serious work to do on the whole meditation front.)

And on and on and on it goes. In eight months of almost daily classes, I have made so much progress mastering challenging yoga poses. I can practically twist myself into a pretzel but my mind won’t stop. I itemize my grocery list, analyze the latest family drama and start to get anxious about my afternoon of work to-dos.

I just turned 40. And as milestones often do, it has inspired me to take stock of where I am and what the future holds.  I’m almost afraid to say this out loud, but I am so blessed. I have everything I’ve ever wanted (perfect fiancé, exciting new life in New York, wonderful family and friends). What’s missing is so simple, but yet so hard for me. I want…I need to learn how to be still. And not just on my yoga mat, in my life.

I’ve thought a lot about this, wondering if I ever had the ability to just be. I think so – but it was a long time ago. I remember crouching on my hands and knees watching ants scurry across their hill for what seemed like hours. I remember floating aimlessly in my Grandma’s hammock, doing nothing but watching the sun-dappled pattern the leaves made on my bare legs. I was able to get lost in simple joys. Then somewhere along the way I succumbed to constant motion. And I opened my eyes one day and suddenly I was 40.

Looking back on the last four decades years I imagine I’m like most people. I’ve had some proud successes, some spectacular failures and some awful tragedies. But through it all I kept moving. My life became a flurry of goals, to-do lists and always wanting more…more success, more stuff, more everything. I was compelled to fill every second of every day with commitments. Between work, volunteer and socializing I was scheduled within an inch of my life.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying achievement and ambition are problematic. They have served me very well. But now I’m so tired of running, chasing, reaching. I certainly don’t need any more stuff.  I’m satisfied with my career and community achievements. But I’m tired. I have so many amazing people in my life, but after a 60 or 80 hour week I’m just so exhausted I don’t have the best of me left for the ones who matter most.

So why am I so afraid to slow down or even stop? Why can’t I say no? When did constant motion and crazy busyness become my vision of success?  It didn’t, at least not on purpose. I think I just got so focused on where I was going, I didn’t realize that I was already here. And if I’m really honest, I also think part of me was terrified to stop. After all, quiet and calm tend to encourage introspection and self-analysis. Maybe after several years of heartbreak and tragedy in my 30s I was deeply afraid of what I’d find if I spent too much time looking inward.

But now it’s time. I am 40 and I am here. I’m not rich. I’m not famous. But I am oh so happy. Now I just have to stop and enjoy the life I’ve built, instead of trying to create a bigger, better one. I have to learn how to be still. Watching ants on the hill, hammock-swaying still. I have to cultivate contentment. I have to make room for peace in my heart. I have to stamp out that exhausting internal diatribe that makes me doubt where I am and pushes me to start running again.

Can I just be still, be content? I don’t know is the honest answer. Is “here” enough? Will I get bored without the chase? Can I focus on building a better me, rather than on building a life full of “more”? Can I get off the shiny, sparkly materialistic train (even though I now live in the land of Saks 5th Avenue) and prove that less really is more? Can I stop working so much after a lifetime of defining my personal worth by my job title?  It’s scary. But not bloody horror movie scary, more like trekking solo through the Amazon jungle scary. In other words, doable.

In 2011 I am getting married and becoming Mrs. Kashmir. A new name, a new life and newly 40. Seems like the universe might be strongly suggesting it’s the perfect time for a fresh start, non? Here’s the plan. I am done with work that feels like drudgery. I will work less and do more of the things I love (like writing). I will stop running and be still. I will slow down, do less, love more and have entire days in my blackberry where the only “to do” on my list is something like “have tea.” I am not entirely sure what this all means or how it will actually work. But this much I know. I will live my life. I will be happy and content. I will learn to just be. Actually there’s my new internal monologue for yoga class tomorrow.  Namaste.

I will keep you posted on how it goes with the moaner, the heavy breather and the newly still me. And by the way, if you want to follow all my sweet victories and sloppy misadventures on the road to contentment, be sure to visit my new blog.

{Photo credit}

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One response to “The Road to Contentment

  1. Fantastic guest post! Can’t wait for more

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