‘Just be where you are’

I’m not particularly co-ordinated. Anyone who has spent any time at all with me knows that I’m prone to trip over non-existent cracks in the sidewalk or crash into walls randomly (and repeatedly) or spill giant cups of coffee all over the place for no apparent reason much to my mortification. After first checking for broken bones, laughter typically ensues because I am just that talented clumsy.

Perhaps because of this awkwardness, I’ve never really enjoyed yoga. Until last autumn, that is. After a friend sang the praises of one particular yoga instructor offering Ashtanga in English at the university gym at a time that suited my schedule, I decided to give it a go. I loved it, immediately and rather unexpected, and went as often as my schedule would allow. As mortifying and humiliating as the course by highlighting just how much less flexible I’ve become in the last… several decades, I thoroughly enjoyed those 75 minutes of focusing on one thing—not falling over. Or falling over gracefully.

My schedule this year so far hasn’t allowed me to resume classes with this particular brilliant yogi, but her words ring in my ears at the most seemingly random and yet appropriate times. Rather than attempt to get an entire class of 40 individuals to do various poses exactly the same, she would say, ‘Be where you are’.

Just be where you are.

This unlikely spillover benefit and phrase is so eloquently simple and something I firmly believe I needed to hear. Perhaps that’s why it continues to pop into my mind from time to time all these months later. In so many ways, this phrase helped me obsess less over all sorts and just get on with the task or goal at hand. Those who know me well, know that this is not a simple task.

As a perfectionist in all things in life, I often put far, far too much pressure on myself to do better than my best. Better than I know I’m capable of just to push myself that bit further. I know it’s infuriated and exacerbated more than a few mentors, colleagues, friends and family members. And, I’ve lost count of the number of times someone has hinted that my mediocre far exceeds the expectations of most. I suspect know all too well that that drive to perform above and beyond what I expect of myself has lead to more than one bout of burn-out in my professional life. My perfectionism in all things has also lead to more than one work-in-progress remaining unfinished.

Just be where you are.

I continue to need this message. Perhaps I’ve adopted it as a personal mantra. Regardless, it appears to be helping. I am less stressed these days, even if I am absurdly busy. Oddly, my productivity seems to have exploded. I’m no longer concerned with always going faster as I build my running endurance; I’m just focused on building that endurance. I no longer care if I spill the occasional cup of coffee, as long as it doesn’t spoil my beloved Marimekko frocks.

I am content with being that work-in-progress that remains unfinished, although completing tasks to deadline even if less than perfect takes precedence over perfection. A quiet and calm focus has emerged recently, and those various to-do lists seem less burdensome and more manageable. Oddly, I look forward to those lists rather than dreading them.

This is where I am, and I rather like this place. And, hopefully, I’ll be back on the yoga matt with my favourite yogi before too long.

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