Tuesday, September 27, 2011

If It Does Not Serve You

I am not particularly dedicated yoga person. I have been to a handful of yoga classes this year, either because I was going with various friends, or because I got the hair-brained idea that I would ENJOY the class, despite all anecdotal evidence to the contrary. I own a mat and towel and tote for carrying the above supplies (have the right tools, right?). But in general, I am not the bright-eyed, 6:30am, lets-do-this yoga person.

I have to admit I appreciate the exercise, and the hot yoga classes where the room is heated to 100 degrees (also called Power Yoga, of which a particular subset class is Bikram Yoga) in particular are excellent workouts. But the humming before class? The directive to open the heart's eye and similar instructions? Doesn't do much for me, because I don't subscribe to the spiritual side of the practice. 

I do, however, really enjoy the connection between mind and body that is developed during class. You have to breathe, you have to notice all the feelings and sensations in your body, and you have to mindfully carry out the postures and moves in order to complete the various choreography. It's rare in my life dedicated to developing a highly educated brain that I get to step back and focus on the physical instead of the intellectual, and I think there is value there.

I have a Groupon for five classes to the yoga studio just up the street, so for the past three Sundays I have hoisted myself over there and taken a class. And one thing the instructor said this past week has really stuck with me, coming back to mind over and over.

"Get rid of," she said, "everything that does not serve you."

Emotional and mental hangups is what she was referring to - jealousy, spite, worrying, anxiety, etc.

But I like thinking about things this way, and I think it applies to more than just mental states. If something in your life does not serve you - has no purpose - does not bring you joy, or help you learn, or do a useful job, then why are you keeping it? So as well as applying to gossip, procrastination, etc, I think it applies to physical objects, and activities too.

Even dumb stuff. I had old vegetables in the fridge which I was keeping to try and make soup, even though I really don't want to eat them. So why keep food you really don't want to eat? Because it might be worth all of two dollars? Come on. It does not serve me, and I'm wasting mental energy worrying about whether I should cook it, or what I should make, or feeling bad because I shouldn't have let the food go to waste.

So I tossed it, took out the trash, and focused on the fresh beautiful farm produce that I actually WANT to prepare and eat. No regrets.

I have a sweatshirt that is a little too small for me, but I keep it because I feel bad about throwing it away, because there's nothing wrong with it. I have a Tshirt I really don't like wearing, because I think it makes me look like a funny shape. I keep it because there's nothing wrong with the shirt, and I bought it at the store and paid money for it.

But I don't like wearing them, it does not bring me joy, so I gave them to Goodwill. My closet is less full, and I am left with clothes I enjoy.

I had a small side project that I was working on because I felt I had to, or that I should, or that it would be a good idea. But you know what? My time is limited enough, that if the projects I am working on do not truly interest me, I am not going to participate. So I've decided to stop that activity, and even though it didn't take much time from my week, it leaves me feeling mentally more free.

So this week my goal is to get rid of the things which do not serve me. Mentally and physically - both the thoughts in my head, the things that I own, and the activities I choose to participate in.

Perhaps you readers as well might benefit from at least thinking about it - does what's in your life serve you?


  1. Sometimes you need to get rid of people in your life who do not serve you.