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Does Life Ever Get Easier?

Does life ever get easier?  Short answer: no.  I realize that doesn’t sound altogether yogic.  Not to mention, I have often waxed poetic on how living through difficulties is the fertile soil of new possibilities.  While these ideas hold true and offer some useful perspective, I must admit, they are of little comfort when the rubber meets the road and the tires are running a bit flat.

Maybe its because I got hit so hard on the taxes last year or because I have been watching too much cable news but I can’t seem to shake this proverbial carrot from dangling out in front of me that says if only I made more money than everything would be so much easier.  Despite the common moral stories to the contrary, it sure seems like more money would solve some issues.

I’m under no illusions about the relative nature of wealth and its relationship to a sense of fulfillment in life.  I know lots of people who make a lot more money than me and they are not necessarily any more at ease for it.  I accept that life is difficult by nature.  When life feels easier its because of a combination of circumstances, often not in my control, and my ability to manage and mitigate the challenges that life presents.

How do I manage and mitigate the trade-offs that come from making yoga my profession with the fact that my wife has to work a job that depletes her well being so we can afford health insurance for our budding family? 

Fact is, the question of whether my life would be easier if I had more money is entirely irrelevant.  We are doing fine and there really is nothing more I can do about it right now.  If there was, I would most certainly take action.

In the meantime, dwelling too heavily on the situation amounts to, what yogis like to call, a big fat “mental fluctuation.”  Striving for some future change that is beyond my control only serves to cast an exacerbating shadow and reinforce the downside of things.

The whole story has to include the countless blessings that are bestowed upon me everyday.  The sun rose.  I am alive.  I have love and friendship to share.  As long as my immediate needs are being met then gratitude is the only appropriate response.

I will continue to do whatever I can, within reason, to make more money so I can spare my dear wife the sacrifices she is currently making on our behalf.  I will make extra efforts to help her in any way I can and shoulder more of the burden at home.  Most importantly, I will express my love and appreciation for her every day.

Before I was a yoga teacher, I spent some time as a starving musician.  I play the electric bass.  There is this turn of phrase I remember from those days that seems particularly apropos here:  When you are playing a song in a band and the drummer starts to lose the beat or the guitar player is out of tune and it starts to feel like the jam could unravel, you just put your head down, tap your foot with a little more conviction and “hold it down.”

Usually, it all comes together in the end.  If it doesn’t, there is always more music to be made.

 

J. Brown is a yoga teacher, writer and founder of Abhyasa Yoga Center in Brooklyn, NY.  His writing has been featured in Yoga Therapy in Practice, Yoga Therapy Today and the International Journal of Yoga Therapy.  Visit his website at yogijbrown.com

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Comments

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sry - forget how to use this format... stuck my comment at the end, where it goes. :)

yes. <3

yes. <3

I relate, but, I'd drop...

I relate to your topic, but I'd drop the "gratitude."  It is a pleasant idea, but quite complicated.

And there is a tad bit of hope at the end of your article--things work out in the end, but if it doesn't there is always something else that'll work out.  I'd leave that out too. 

It is the sense I get that you are at the end of striving that I resonate with in your article.  But you cannot hope that by ending striving you will finally arrive somewhere.

Thank you allowing me the opporunity to comment and contribute.  I too have a number of issues in my life that cause me the same difficulty.

Drop gratitude and hope?

Thanks for taking a moment Robert.  I respectfully disagree that gratitude is merely a pleasant idea or complicated.  Being alive is quite a miraculous thing.  Does not the gift of life warrant appreciation?  Also, I think hope is a perfectly wonderful thing and suggesting that events will continue regardless of whether we are struggling or striving does not imply an arrival somewhere, quite the opposite.

My father sometimes likes to call me an idealist but I think of myself as merely pragmatic.  I think we are each in a position to define life as we wish.  There is nothing naive or optimistic about choosing to color our experiences in a favorable way, especially if we are being honest with ourselves at the same time.  I can be sad, confused, hurt and really pissed off about stuff and still be light-hearted.

I will forever standby whatever subtle nuances of gratitude and hope that I can bring myself to write.   Nonetheless, I appreciate you holding my feet to the fire.  Cheers.

great post...

thanks for this. i can really relate to the feeling that 'if i just made a little more money' everything would be so much better. in my family, money is a big issue. when i am "in the situation" i can so easily start feeling longing, grievance, victimhood. in our blended family, my husband is quite comfortable financially, and always has been. and he is both frustrated with and uncomprehending of the debt i bring form the financial shipwreck of my first marriage. as a part-time teacher, i can never seem to catch up with the debt, and we end up living a sort of double life with our separate finances, each of us with children to support as our different financial means allow. it's so easy for me to spin in to a sense of unfairness, frustration, self-righteousness, self-pity, blahblahblah... the realities of day-to-day family finances are pretty much the least glamorous and therefore the a PERFECT place for self-observation and practice.

To choose to do something you love, like Yoga, takes courage and a belief that "following your bliss" will ultimately lead to a more satisfying and sustaining life, both emotionally and financially. And yes, that can be difficult for a spouse who may have chosen a job that more practically pays the bills, but is perhaps more difficult. your understading of your wife's situation and commitment to gratitude is profound and beautiful.

When all the stories start spinning round for me, I find it a great time to step completely outside of my narrative and observe. What do i find? oh! the situation can be frustrating sometimes and feel unfair to this ego of mine, and relationship is such a freakin endless struggle... but look! i am in a relationship (didn't i long for that when i didn't have one?), and ohmygosh do i love his skin at night and his arms around me, and the breakfast table debates before the kids descend. and a roof over my head, when that was not always the case. and the sandpapery mirror my partner holds up to me - what a gift to never have my narratives easily validated, but always challenged, wearing away my rough edges - the ones i couldn't see on my own - slowly and painfully and wondrously... and if parenting separately and differently is awkward at times, it also brings the gift of time and freedom with my boys, so precious as they get older and head for adulthood themselves.

and then sometimes, feeling the feelings (you can't run away from them or deny them), but dropping the storyline, you get a glimpse of something inexplicably liberating... there is a chance to be right here now with the wholeness of how rich we are just to be alive and have the chance to feel any of it: joy, disappointment, anger, forgiveness, sadness, gratitude, the astonishing grace it takes to carry a cup full of water without spilling it, the enchanting experience of moving form "inside" the house or apartment to "outside" (i still never get over the basic strange, and startling magic of that transition each morning and evening). The feeling of breath moving in and out effortlessly, which it won't (and doesn't) always do. The sound of birds. The sight and sound of water flowing - in a stream or from the tap. the sight of the city in all its fantastic, gritty complexity. the sadness in a stranger's face, or a smile exchanged. kindness where you least expect it. the sight of my children heading off into their day (why does the sight of their backs as they walk away make such a hot, sad, joyful place in my chest?). the horror of the catbowl in the morning to be washed and not avoided, and the delight in it coming clean day after day. the exquisite smell of shaving cream on my husband's neck as he hands the razor to me to shave the back of it... small fragments of bliss.Then i forget about money and the stress it brings for a moment.

every day is hard, yes. i dont' think it gets any easier ever. one difficulty just replaces another as we go along.

so i am trying to add the moments of forgetting together until there's no more room for the narratives.

i like this quote from Chuang Tzu:

"The right way to go easy, Is to forget the right way, And forget that the going is easy."

great response......

Thank you my friend for sharing some of your experiences.  With all the yoga hype that abounds, the grass-roots realities of everyday practitioners are largely glossed over.  You have provided us a perfect example of a real house-holder yogi. I too will contimue to "add the moments of forgetting together until there is no more room for narratives."

My favorite, less poetic, way of thinking it is:

There is nowhere you need to get to.
Nothing needs to be done.
Now, continue doing what you’re doing.

Useful perspective makes all the difference.  Right?

thank you

well... this morning, washing the catbowl, i told my husband that the day I can approach cleaning the catbowl and shaving his neck with the same tenderness and joy, THEN i will be making a little progress in my practice.

he answered that the day he and the catbowl become equivalent, he knows he's in trouble, LOL! :):):)

but i like this, that a teacher used to say:

"when the ordinary becomes extraordinary and the extraordinary becomes ordinary."

or like my kids love to say to me: "NBD, mom." no big deal.

right. nothing special. just going about business. :)

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