The following is an edited and revised version of a piece I wrote in May 2011 to inaugurate my very first personal blog entry. The topic of “next vs. now” has been on my mind again so I dug back in to revisit these thoughts. In honor of graduates everywhere, especially our Mind Body Dancer Pedagogy Course class of 2013, enjoy!
(May 7, 2011)
I have been putting off beginning a blog because I wanted to have a great first entry topic. What would be the perfect lead to kick off this writing project? I have even had it named since last summer and have probably written at least 100 blog entries in my head since then. Earlier today, I taught a yoga class to my graduating NYU Tisch Dance students and realized today was actually the perfect day to start. More precisely, it was no more or less perfect than any other day to begin. Instead of waiting for the next opportunity...what about now? After all, this was my subtle message to them through a series of mindful walks and detailed transitions. What kind of teacher would I be if I could not take that approach off the mat with my own desire to begin a regular writing practice?
We all tend to look to the next big date or obligation - the future - as more important than this moment. (Even as you read this, your mind is simultaneously talking to you about what you have to do later today or what you forgot to do earlier.) My students are currently thinking about their finals, thesis papers, Graduation Day, auditions, summer jobs, and start dates as their next big moments. Meanwhile, they are still in school and wishing those days away in order to get everything checked off their lists and arrive at those important dates. I know they will find themselves next September embraced by nostalgia for the eternally long days at school with their classmates. One of life’s little cruelties…The past is that other favorite space our minds like to occupy. But when they are finished with college, what will they do next?
I have a friend who is going through several big changes in a row. Admirably, she is quite aware that she is having trouble dealing with day to day obligations because those next changes are looming over her and pressuring her to just get there already. The mind's habit to plow into the future is so strong that she can't even be in a 5-minute Savasana, a rest her body so desperately needs, without thinking about arrangements and to-do lists.
We have all been there.
Full disclosure: I am an expertly practiced future dweller. In fact, it should just be listed on my curriculum vitae under my name: Future Dweller. Or what about a more exciting title, Future Dweller on Fire? Fire should absolutely be part of the title because that fury blazes me onward into the future. Because I like to plan and be prepared, and because I was raised to so highly value the organizational skills it takes to think ahead, I can often get stuck there. I certainly have more project ideas than days on this earth, so this mindset does not get them done any quicker. It only makes me feel like I am always behind. And who sets this fiery pace? Me. Or, is it my mind? I think I control my mind, but my mind clearly has control over me.
With a constant flow of next cycling through my brain, it is even more maddening to know that I know better. It is painful to try and enjoy a moment snuggling with one of my cats and then have a thought pop into my head that has me up at my computer sending off an email about a meeting next week. The pain is not in the thought popping in but the fact that I listen and feel the visceral need to react to it time and again when I know better and missed out on one of life's joys as well. I have been trained to see this behavior in others and teach them to make more mindful choices. I do not know all the answers and I do not advocate the possibility of quick fixes for this human dilemma. I just support the importance of daily practice, incorporating mindful choices on the mat and in short periods of meditation each day. My personal practice will certainly be a lifelong one. Progress does not factor into the equation. Only process.
Our culture engineers us to look at next status updates, next projects, next subway trains, etc. but when we live like that, what happens to all the moments in between those road markers and events? We throw them away waiting and planning. After the event, we look ahead to the next one and then wish for time we wasted waiting and planning. By the way, some other words for next are refresh, update, new, inbox, send, and:
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