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The Lunacy of Trying to Be Better

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What if trying to be better keeps you from being present?

When I first heard my teacher Ingelise talk about “the lunacy of trying to be better,” I was not convinced. Of course we try to be better, don’t we? If we weren’t trying to be better, then we wouldn’t come to class, and we wouldn’t practice. But that was at least a year ago. Now I see the wisdom of her words.

Of course those of us who love yoga want to improve our poses. But we cannot “be better.” We can only be as we are in this moment. The more you want to “be better,” the less capable you are of being present.

As soon as you try to “be better,” in a pose, you have divided yourself into a mind that directs and a body that obeys – or doesn’t. You’re attempting to live as an improved future version of yourself. But that self doesn’t exist, and never will exist. You will never be practicing yoga in the future, only in the present.

The irony is that if you drop the idea of improvement, and immerse yourself in sensation, improvement is automatic. The more you let go of judgment and attachment to results, the freer you are to experience the pose.

This is why long holdings are so beneficial. We need time to gather the pieces of our shattered awareness and place them in just one spot. We need time to enter the pose, doing the actions we know will take us in, and then, at the end of actions, we need to pause, to stop doing and just be.

I was raised on the refrain: “Good, better best, never let it rest, until your good is better and your better, best.” And although my brother and I fought it off with, “Bad, worser, worst, never call a hearse, until your bad is worser, and your worser, worst,” the message stuck with me.

Now I’m learning to let go of better, and of doing. It’s not easy. But one day I hope to find myself in a place beyond the doer, and become awareness itself, which is, after all, the whole project of yoga.

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Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Nicole Boyd April 25, 2016, 5:05 pm

    It is a message that I will definitely bring with me into my practice as a teacher and student. Thanks for the reminder.

    • Eve April 26, 2016, 8:46 am

      Hey Nicole,
      Interesting how often we need to be reminded of the simplest things, isn’t it? I think that’s why I like writing about yoga – I get constant reminders.

  • Jayne Lloyd-Jones April 23, 2016, 6:05 pm

    Thank you Eve for this lovely reminder to ‘be’ more than to ‘do’. I think it takes years for the words that echo from our upbringing to fade away and be replaced by an intrinsic knowledge. It reminds me of a book I’m reading called Daring Greatly by Brene Brown, where she talks about how we can never have enough these days. Enough time, enough energy, enough stuff, enough money… What happened to Santosha? Which brings me back to your points. So thank you for your thought-provoking words – as ever. J

    • Eve April 23, 2016, 10:36 pm

      Great to hear from you. And thanks for drawing that link to the wise thoughts from Brene Brown.

  • Claire Malone April 22, 2016, 11:16 am

    So nice to see your posting. I have missed you!

    • Eve April 23, 2016, 10:38 pm

      And so nice to see your name in the comments Claire.

  • Ophrah April 21, 2016, 9:17 pm

    Eve, so thrilled to get you emails again.
    You are an inspiration! Thank you

    • Eve April 23, 2016, 10:39 pm

      Thank you. I’m glad to be back.

  • Norma April 21, 2016, 5:22 pm

    Perfect timing, absorption, like the earth and the rain.

    • Eve April 23, 2016, 10:40 pm

      Hi Norma, nice comparison. Thank you for that.

  • Loura Yuen April 21, 2016, 5:01 pm

    Thanks for sharing your wisdom…I was raised with the same motto; good is never good enough, we have to better to get the best. And with my rebellious Nature, I was ever the best and I would be lucky if I ever be good. Got into trouble with my parents often enough when I was young… Through yoga I learned to let go and move from within, listen to what my body tells me at the moment. I may not the best but I am feeling GOOD.

    • Eve April 23, 2016, 10:42 pm

      That is the joy of yoga, isn’t it, the connection from within, and how good it makes us feel.

  • Victoria Henderson April 21, 2016, 2:52 pm

    Eve, what a treat to see Five-Minute Yoga back in my inbox! My home practice has suffered quite a bit while I’ve been travelling, so it’s great to be reminded that yoga is as much about presence of mind as it is about the asanas you practice.

    • Eve April 21, 2016, 3:37 pm

      Hey Victoria,
      Happy trails. Japan must be beautiful right now – cherry blossom season. Looking forward to seeing you back in class.

  • Beth McTavish April 21, 2016, 2:04 pm

    Another simple zinger! Thanks Eve for your insight and beautiful writing.

    • Eve April 21, 2016, 2:16 pm

      Oh Beth,
      How lovely to hear from you. Thank you.