What’s Next?

Today in Yoga, my instructor (and friend) Suzanne called to attention a very common human habit … looking beyond the now for what is next.

Throughout our lives, we do this. We are impatient creatures. We want a glimpse around the corner into our future. We want to know if Something Is Coming and what that Something might be!

What’s next dangles before us like a carrot … luring us on with its potential to be better or more exciting or just a release from the boredom, mundane day to day, stress or perhaps sadness we are experiencing in this current moment. But as we look around the corner, we neglect the opportunity to make the most of and learn from what is currently before us — be it good or bad, challenging or smooth sailing.

This happens more often when situations are challenging. We want to get past the difficult or uncomfortable moments into the fun and happy. Into the easy.

In Yoga class today, Suzanne brought this up when we moved into our first Chair pose. Well, I bruised my tailbone last week ice skating and have been a bit stiff since, so I wasn’t at all sure how my body would react. Once settled in, I felt a strong desire to get to the next pose. And though I could blame my initial concern on my injury, my longing to move had nothing to do with a bruised tailbone and Everything to due with the difficulty of the pose. It was hard. My muscles were shaking. I wanted to move desperately.

Of course, Suzanne knew that. Heck no one is ever “comfortable” in Chair pose. But she encouraged us to stay there … to focus on that moment and maintain our calm and focus … to breathe through whatever discomfort we might be experiencing. To find strength in the shaking and in ourselves.

Last night, I participated in a CycleBar challenge that raised money for a Scholarship Fund. Good cause and amazing, healthy activity too. We rode for 45 minutes, increasing speed, using weights and adjusting the bike’s tension based on the directive of the instructor. Music played. Videos flashed. The instructor encouraged and challenged us constantly during the ride.

There were many times in that 45 minutes that I wanted to stop. That I wanted to know that after a certain amount of time we would do something else — something easier. But, I didn’t have the instruction manual. I didn’t know what was next. All I could do was draw on my own inner strength and keep pedaling. Keep breathing.

So when Suzanne brought up this idea in yoga today, it hit me. This is a philosophy that extends outside of yoga — or the CycleBar — into daily life. When faced with difficult times or struggles or dissatisfaction with wherever we are, our instinct urges us to get out of that moment. To seek what is next. We want out of the pain or sadness. We want excitement or a new challenge. We hurt so we want the next pose or the next project, job, opportunity, relationship, play etc etc. We just want what’s next.

And, what do we do with instinctual urge?  Sadly, it’s not always good.

When the “now” struggle begins to take its toll, we tend to seek a quick fix. Instead of breathing and staying calm, we self-medicate with pills and alcohol in an effort to cope with anxiety, stress, or emotional pain. We bolt away from relationships and isolate ourselves. We escape into television programs to lose ourselves. We regret and practice self-judgement. We shop and buy “stuff” to make us happy. We overeat. We run away and lack conviction to confront and deal with our inner dialogue and struggles. We look ahead instead of settling into where we are and allowing whatever transformation has begun to complete the process.

We want what’s next. What’s next is inevitably better than what we are in now … or we think it will be.

In Slow Flow yoga, there are many common poses. However, the order differs with every class and every instructor. When we begin, I don’t know what’s next. And, after side one is over, I do my best to forget and allow myself to be guided to whatever is next. I let go. And it feels so good and so affirming when I make it through challenging poses. When I truly let go and flow.

I shake. I even fall sometimes. And there is a temptation to crave what’s next. But I keep breathing. And that’s really all that matters because when I can do that, I can keep my calm even when I don’t know what is coming my way. I hope one day I can truly bring this technique outside of class.

Me, I am a planner. I like control. It’s soothing to know what’s next. Organizing and lists are daily tools. But when I look back over my life so far, what I expected and what happened next, well, they weren’t necessarily what I had on the list. But, the good, the bad and the ugly have made me the woman I am today. I’m honestly not sure I would have wanted to know all this in advance. It might have impeded my adventure.

What’s Next? I don’t know. Life has a way of throwing curve balls and putting a wrench into the most idyllic of plans. When it happens that way, it IS still a Grand Adventure despite bumps in the ice that cause you to take a tumble or two. Sometimes what you find when you slip on the ice is strength to get back up and keep moving. Sometimes you laugh at yourself and find new joy. Sometimes you meet a fellow adventurer who becomes a life-changing presence in your life, whether around for a few years or a lifetime friend. But, if you knew you were going to get hurt, might you have avoided the ice altogether? And thus, might you have missed out on something truly amazing?

What’s Next? I don’t know. On the mountains and in the ravines, there is always change, You never stay in the same place. In yoga, Chair Pose is temporary as are the difficulties, challenges, and even joyful moments we experience every single day of our lives.

My advice is to listen to Suzanne. Just keep breathing and stay present …

— Jenni


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