I’m reminded of a quote from the book Holes by Louis Sachar: “The second hole’s the hardest.”
In the book (and the movie) the idea is that these delinquent kids are supposed to go out to this reform camp in the middle of nowhere to dig holes which are supposedly going to build better character (and accomplish another task, although you should read the book to find out). The main character remarks that it’s not the first hole which sucks the life out of you – it’s the second one (and then another character goes on to say that it’s actually the third, but we’re going to ignore that).
That’s kinda how I felt this week.
It’s weird: I’ve gone on for longer stretches of daily yoga before (30 days, 60 days, whatnot) but all of a sudden, I look at this task I’ve set out for myself and I think, why am I putting myself through this?
Not to say that yoga is a painful or even negative ordeal. In fact, it is mostly positive, except on days when my muscles are particularly tight and I’d just rather lie in corpse pose for a while than do another downward dog. But finding time to show up on my mat, and being truly present, has been a challenge for me this week.
I figured I’d find myself here eventually. I just didn’t think it would be this soon.
But here I am, at the end of week two, and thinking to myself: the second week’s the hardest. And it’s over. But the third week…oh boy.
This week, then, it seemed appropriate to think about dedication. When you dedicate yourself to something, what does that mean? Why does setting standards for yourself have a lasting impact your life? How can following through on a commitment, whether to yourself or other people, make a difference?
Here’s what I discovered.
Dedication is discipline.
I like to think that I lead a disciplined life. I get up at (almost) the same time every morning. I make my bed, brush my teeth, and eat a good breakfast. And then I feed my guinea pigs. Assuming all goes well, I hop on the mat for about half an hour, and either go to one of my guided practices (YouTube is a gem) or a feel it out for a while. Then I pack up, slip into my shoes and head to class.
And I do this every day…theoretically.
But there have been days where things haven’t gone to plan. I’ve slept in. I hit the off button on my alarm. I flip through Pinterest for a few hours instead of doing something useful. I eat cake for breakfast instead of something better. I’m human, like the rest of us, and some days I just hold myself to the standards I’ve set. Let me tell you, from first hand experience, that on those days, I see a measurable difference in my life.
For one, I tend to be moodier and more prone to anxiety attacks on those days. Whether the sloppiness of my morning is the cause of those anxiety attacks or vice versa, I haven’t yet discovered, but one thing is certain: there is definitely a correlation between the two.
Another thing I notice is that on those days, I don’t get anything done. I feel stressed, scrambled, unfocused, and unable to be productive. When I let myself go, so to speak, and don’t discipline my habits, I feel terrible. It’s not that sweet release we imagine when all of our responsibilities fly out the window – in fact, when I haven’t disciplined myself, I feel out of control and unable to function in a very loud, very busy, hectic world.
Stepping onto the mat at the same time every morning feels really hard. Dedicating half an hour of my day to it – every day – feels like it takes an eternity. But there’s something really wonderful that happens afterwards.
Unlike in Holes, there’s not extreme soreness, dehydration, sunburn and fatigue (although, if you do it right, you may be a little sore on ab-day, tee hee). Instead, there is a feeling of accomplishment. Empowerment. If I can manage to get myself through my yoga practice, and be truly present, and be disciplined, I begin my morning with a win – every day of the week, no matter what else is happening in my life.
I can’t really think of a better way to feel first thing in the morning. In the past, it has set up my day to be a positive one, even if I have something stressful going on, like a test or a presentation or a large project at work. It helps me to live in the moment.
So this week, when I’ve felt the urge to throw the alarm clock out the window instead of getting out of bed, I’ve done my best to remind myself of this one thing: in dedicating my time to this one thing, I am taking authority of myself, my actions, and my mental state, and setting a standard of excellence in my life, one day at a time. And that little thought is usually enough to get me to the mat, no matter what.
Does anything here resonate with you? I can’t wait to hear from you!