The following post was written by Liz Beres, a NYC-based dancer; dance teacher; and yoga teacher, certified by The Perri Institute for Mind and Body. Liz currently teaches yoga privately and at various gyms, including that of the Federal Reserve Bank of NY through Plus One. She is continually intrigued by and appreciative of the power of mind/body practices, and is grateful for the chance to share her musings on MindBodyBrew's digital platform.
Do not ask your children
to strive for extraordinary lives.
Such striving may seem admirable,
but it is a way of foolishness.
Help them instead to find the wonder
and the marvel of an ordinary life.
Show them the joy of tasting
tomatoes, apples and pears.
Show them how to cry
when pets and people die.
Show them the infinite pleasure
in the touch of a hand.
And make the ordinary come alive for them.
The extraordinary will take care of itself.
- Excerpt from William Martin’s "The Parent’s Tao Te Ching"
I am by no means a runner. But I do enjoy a brisk jog here and there, to brush off the residue of a tough week, or take hold of an extra dose of energy I may have woken up with. The freedom that comes with that tearing through space can, in the moment, rev one’s confidence; with my feet pounding the pavement, I feel invincible, capable of ditching whatever is plaguing me and barreling into a future of abundant potential. Running along the East River just a few days ago brought on this sense of power within me, and also a sense of awe--at the glory of the sun beating down and the salty water’s waves rushing along with the wind. Such beauty packed into one seemingly ordinary, simple moment.
How often do these kinds of moments appear out of nowhere, lasting for mere seconds and yet overwhelming us with gratitude and wonder? Thoughts, emotions, physical sensations of the past, present, and future crashing in like a river’s wave, spilling over your entire being, only to leave you, soaked from the experience yet already part of the next moment in time. These are magical instants, pure and potent in their form and insight. One might even refer to them as extraordinary.
The shaping of the word ‘extraordinary’ suggests that the extraordinary is based in the ordinary--that only from such a common, solid foundation can we reach beyond to whatever else may be possible. So I wonder, why is it that we don’t give the ordinary its due? Why does a stigma exist in relation to what is typical of the everyday? Why are our expectations so frequently tied into extraordinary feats?
I am not proposing that we become complacent, nor am I shaming the act of goal-setting and subsequent act of pursuing those goals. Lately, I just question our society’s tendency to set the extraordinary above the ordinary, as if the latter has no place or value.
In a world where knowledge can be gained in an instant, time spins faster and faster, until the surrounding environment inevitably blurs, and its colors, its sounds, its textures fade. Real presence requires a slower rate of travel, no? What are we speeding towards anyway? If I should hazard a guess, I’d venture to say many of us are racing towards a career that will bring us more prestige and a higher income; others of us are sprinting towards a future filled with more material possessions; and still others of us may be desperately diving towards a larger social network, with the hope that we will feel more supported and loved.
What we do with our time, energy, and resources is of course up to each one of us. Dealing with all that we must to survive in today’s world results in a complex web of decisions and actions. But I wonder if we could – with just as much innovation – do more with less if we recognized what is already right in front of us. I myself have been seeking simplicity as of late – less stuff, less waste, fewer commitments. I joke that I want to be a more ‘normal’ person, who has the time to cook dinner at home or spontaneously take a walk to the park. As I slowly attempt to simplify my day to day, I am recognizing how much of the world I have missed in these last few years. Waking up to a day free of obligations can be so delightful; preparing a meal can become a quieting meditation. My vision, my hearing, my sense of smell, and even my sense of touch are steadily reawakening to the subtleties of our world. The world that I’ve been rushing through always was vibrant; I’m just recognizing its beauty once more.
If there’s one thing my yoga and meditation practices have gifted me with, it’s the comprehension of awareness, and the lack thereof. Broadened awareness brings with it details that otherwise might have been missed. Awareness of how we are or how matters are can lead us to more mindful decisions and actions. Becoming aware of the world draws us back to reality, with all its beautiful and harsh truths. When we become aware of what is, we can dream of what could be. I feel as if a closer relationship to the ordinary, through awareness, actually could tie us more deeply to the past, which can be an expert guide towards our future travel, steering us along the same path or carving us over to another.
When I read the passage above, I became filled with hope that I could succeed at living an ordinary life by the time I have children. To see our routines as extraordinary may be a stretch; if, instead, we can meet more ‘normal’ moments with the freshest eyes we can muster, perhaps the power of what is can emanate more vividly and be shared and valued more widely. If we can experience each moment for what it is--joyous or gloomy, fascinating or boring, harrowing or arousing--how much more extraordinary will those magical moments of our existence become? Before we teach our children of this life, we must first interact with its rawness. Only from there can awareness and gratitude come.