Thursday, June 10, 2010

Running in Blindly

When my kids were little, the first day of anything went swimmingly. It was always the second day that gave us trouble. It was easy to hype something new - going to a new class at preschool, dance lessons, art day camp - and get them excited to go.

On the second day they knew what they were in for. The second day was when they had to be dragged, crying and clinging, back to the thing that was so exciting before the previous day.

Those second days have always been a problem. I, myself, fall for the first day hype even if I'm the one doing the hyping. The 21.5.800 challenge looked great, and I looked forward to the first day. I'd been really good about my yoga, so that was just a matter of continuing. I was excited about the writing. I thought the challenge would be motivating.

The first day I wrote 800 words in 15 minutes, just typing away. Then came the second day, and I knew what I was in for. I just had to sit down and type for 15 minutes and something would come to me. Except it didn't. I stared at the computer screen for a long while. Then I gave up and started watching the 5th season of Weeds on Netflix. An hour and a couple of episodes later, I tried again. Still nothing. I ended up writing a bunch of ranting gibberish about not having anything to write about and how my life was going to fall apart around me as a result, with Weeds playing in the background.

So what's the deal with second days?

I think there are two things that come into play, but they both stem from expectations - those attachments to outcomes that we always try to set aside when we're on our yoga mats. Leading up to the first day, all that hype is building our expectations. We make a picture in our minds of what we think something is going to be like. Quite often, the actual experience doesn't match the picture. Unless the experience was so much better than we imagined, we're likely to feel a bit let down.

The first day's experience leads, of course, to expectations for the second day. If the first day didn't meet our expectations, then we might not even want to try again the second day. If the first day was great, then we'll expect the same again. We forget that the second day can't be the same as the first. We are not the same people we were 24 hours ago. We have another day's worth of experiences, emotions and thoughts woven into the fabric of who we are. Yet we approach the second day expecting more of the same.

The only way to avoid the second day trap is to adopt what yogis refer to as the "beginner's mind." Imagine approaching every task as if you'd never done it before and all you have to do is try it and see how it turns out. Think about how freeing it would be if you could explore something without any expectations, running in blindly and just allowing the experience to unfold. Then the next day you could do that same thing again completely fresh and maybe have completely different results.

What a great way to be on your yoga mat - practicing without worrying about the results leaves you free to focus on the process. Breathing your way into an asana, feeling your body take on the position, becomes more important than the way the final pose looks. Your ego is on vacation and you are really being present, which is what yoga is about, isn't it?

To be honest, when I committed myself to write 800 words a day, I had visions of myself writing a book in 21 days. I was going to sit down and write, and everything I put on paper was going to be so brilliant that I would just have to print it out and send it to a publisher. The first day I sat down and wrote and got to 800 words, then read it and realized that the ideas were there, but it sounded like crap.

Day two had new expectations. My confidence was in the toilet, yet I was telling myself I would be able to write for 15 minutes and produce something better. None of the thoughts that came into my head during that second writing session were good enough to meet those expectations. There should be no surprise I was so easily distracted. It was either distraction or a bunch of beating myself up. Or both.

Pity party over, I am going to try to approach today's writing like I am running in blindly, free from any attachment to the outcome. I'll feel my way into it, breathing and being present to my thoughts and ideas without judging them. I can always go back and edit later.

Besides, I finished all the online episodes of Weeds.

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