The following post was written by Liz Beres, a NYC-based dancer, yoga teacher certified by The Perri Institute for Mind and Body, and dance teacher. Liz currently teaches yoga privately and at various gyms throughout the NYC metro area and holds a regular Tuesday morning class at Steps on Broadway. 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.
"Action is everything."
John Joseph, most famous for his work as the lead singer of the Cro-Mags of the 1980s, boldly declares this in a Huffington Post article by psychologist Michael Friedman:
You may have a passion for music, but you need to water that seed with constant practice, determination and the desire to get better at your craft. In my yoga teaching it says that we have a right to work, but not a right to the results of that work . . . You can talk all the crap you want. And I’ve seen all these talkers and all these flappers and all these people saying this is going to be huge and putting their shit on social media. And then you don’t hear a peep out of them six months later. So, the whole thing to me is, I don’t care about talking and flapping . . . Action is everything.
Plenty of colloquialisms within our language today back up Joseph’s remarks:
Just do it.
Practice what you preach.
If you’re going to talk the talk, walk the walk.
Actions speak louder than words.
If verbally and culturally we endorse action, why does it so often become difficult then to step up to the plate, to spark and sustain our discipline, and to align our efforts with the deepest beating of our hearts?
Michael Friedman defines obsession as “a complete and total immersion in one’s life and passions, regardless of the obstacles.” He shares Joseph’s argument that while obsession is commonly charged with negativity, such passion actually drives us out of adversity and mediocrity toward success.
I recently read an article on Medium by a fellow Wisconsinite Peter Bukowski which really got me thinking about the work we do. Bukowski shares bits of an interview he’d listened to in which an actor imparts what acting would be like if he only pursued awards:
If you worked toward achieving such a goal, what work would there be left to do?
It seemed so simple.
If an Oscar is the goal and you win an Oscar . . . then what?
You had to be in it because you loved doing the work. Ultimately, that’s all you had to look forward to.
Ever since I read that, my thoughts on the subject have been spinning—what is it that I spend my time doing? Why do I do what I do? What work do I love doing regardless of the payoffs? Within this actor’s words lies a challenge—a challenge to shift our perspective when it comes to labor and reward. Quite often, product takes precedence over process; ultimate achievements reign over necessarily laid groundwork and considerable effort. While the majority of our time and energy is spent in the climb up the hill, much of our judgment and pride resides in our reaching the summit together with the views we can take in from that loftier station. Is that quite as gratifying as we make it out to be? Our social media profiles may suggest that our lives consist only of extreme highs and lows, yet much of our experience lives between such poles.
If we actually value this bulk of experience that exists between these extremes, we might regard this time as an opportunity to channel our energy into something much greater than the incessant building up or dismantling of our limited egos. To take action, we must let go of the temptation to compare our feats to others’ and rid ourselves of our visions of perfection. In fact, if we can really let our work guide us, how that effort and its results manifest and stack up in the world at large shouldn’t bear so much weight. Could it be that in loosening our grasp over the exact plans we may envision for ourselves, we may foster greater freedom to act from a place of integrity and authentic curiosity?
I suppose the greater challenge often lies in discovering what it is that we love to do, what it is that we want to—no, must—devote ourselves to. Joseph and Friedman define this must matter as an obsession; others might use the word "calling." Regardless, unearthing this mission could seem like an easy predicament to solve, and yet sometimes our passions face off like warring factions. We may overthink or over-rationalize our what, why, or how. Our intuition inevitably showers us with signals regarding which choices most align us with our passions. Still, only in setting aside our fears and insecurities can we drop into that inner compass and greet the power of acting upon such directives. In times of uncertainty, might we begin by literally moving our bodies in order to spur our hearts and minds into similar motion?
If we pull apart work, effort, action, whatever you might prefer to call it, and take a look at it from a Buddhist lens, we must admit that right effort does not inevitably equate to more effort. Our familiar connotations of obsession might make such a distinction seem contradictory, but within obsession exists an incredibly sharpened focus. Such distillation can arise if we’ve successfully filtered out the conventional. What binds groups of people together may live alongside or hint at our path, but trusting and acting upon our individual nature most fruitfully births and feeds our obsession. The yogic principle of tapas, as Lois Nesbitt interprets, absolutely supports this call for originality—“going against the grain of habit, of complacency, of doing what’s easiest, of getting away with things.”
It seems silly to write much more on this subject when it necessitates time for reflection and, even more importantly, efforts that deliver the fruits of those reflections. The struggles and the opportunities that arise in our lives equally afford us chances to break from the patterns that disrupt our passionate work. Even in our most mundane moments, we must determine which steps we will take. We can renew our resolve to clarify and obsess or, alternatively, fall into lethargy. Would our handprints on this world not be more vibrant if colored from our own imaginative worlds? As Neil Gaiman writes,
Everybody has a secret world inside of them. I mean everybody. All of the people in the whole world, I mean everybody—no matter how dull and boring they are on the outside. Inside them they’ve all got unimaginable, magnificent, wonderful, stupid, amazing worlds . . . Not just one world. Hundreds of them. Thousands, maybe.
So why not let one of those remarkable worlds within you take flight? Beginning today.