Sticking to What Works: Why We Find Things We Love, and Then Drop Them

I have recently become comfortable with the practice of yoga. For years, I watched beautiful people in a light sweat bounce casually out the door of the numerous yoga studios around town. As a child, I wondered about them‒what those rolled up mats were for, how they always seemed so calm and serene, why they all looked like hippies. As I grew older, I began to envy them. What was this strange practice that supposedly quieted the mind while simultaneously strengthening the body? I couldn’t understand how meditation could make someone sweat, let alone present a physical challenge.

Curious and interested in Eastern philosophy, I decided to see what all the fuss was about for myself. At first, things seemed hopeless. I was thin and bony, without an ounce of muscle on my body. My grandfather used to hold up my limp little arms and joke with me, saying, “Look at this sack of wet mice.” I couldn’t even lift ten pounds. As I crouched there on my purple yoga mat, praying the teacher wouldn’t come over and fix my position again, I stole glances at the other people in the class. To my surprise, no one else was looking around nervously like I was. They all had their eyes closed, earnestly breathing in rhythm like the good yogis they were.

At the time, I thought they were all masters. It seemed to come so easy to them, like they didn’t even have to try. I started to wonder what I was doing there, feeling like I had disturbed their meditation, distracting the teacher who kept coming over to pull my arms higher up by my ears or bend my knee deeper into a lunge. I thought to myself that I had been wrong to dream about yoga all this time, that it clearly was not for me.

A few years later, I came back to the practice with a fresh outlook. At my new studio, I realized that not one person in the room was a master. They were all struggling too, in their own personal way. I began to feel like for the first time in my life I had found a form of exercise that I could pursue confidently, without having to worry that I wasn’t good enough. Organized sports had always made me feel inferior‒I didn’t understand why I had been born with noodles for arms, lanky legs and flat feet. After trying just about every sports team in my town, I gave up and pursued the arts instead.

This is another interest into which I have dedicated a substantial amount of time. Though creative endeavors come much easier to me than any form of physical exercise, the pattern began to show up once again. This time, I noticed it in my writing. Since elementary school, I have loved poetry. I would collect pretty notebooks and write my most secret thoughts there, weaving them into rhymes as best I could. For years, I remained proud of my work‒I remained humble, but believed that I was writing something worthy of being read. In my junior year of high school, I went to a weekend conference for young writers. I studied poetry there and in that week wrote my best work to date. I met wonderful people who possessed more talent than I had ever seen. I wanted to be like them.

When I got home, I tried writing poetry again as I had for so many years before, but something had changed. I no longer had the confidence in my work to see it through more than one revision, often leaving poems unfinished, never to be looked at again. It was the saddest loss of interest I’ve ever experienced—the passion that had kept me up at night to write poems had gone suddenly, without my notice.

Back to my new found love for yoga. I bought all the necessary accouterments‒the special padded mat, new leggings, headbands, sports bras and tank tops. I was ready to be like those beautiful yoga people I had watched for so long and for a little while, I was. For a few weeks, I scheduled my life around classes, trying to go as often as I could. I looked forward to the rush of energy and bliss that washed over me as I left each session. It was a similar feeling to writing a poem that explains your feelings exactly as they are in your head.

Then, very subtly, something again began to change. I stopped looking forward to classes and started seeing them as I had seen all exercise in the past—something I had to drag myself to, monotonous and unenjoyable. As the weeks continued to roll by, I went to classes less and less, procrastinating with them like I would with school deadlines. After a while, I stopped going altogether.

As time went on, I realized that this was a trend in my life and that, after speaking to others about this phenomenon, I was not alone. Every time I found something constructive, a goal of some kind to work towards, I would pursue it for a while, then slowly lose interest. Yoga was such a healthy force in my life—it was challenging, fun and made me feel good. I had spent so much of my life feeling defeated by organized exercise and here I had finally found something that worked for me. So why did I stop? I’m still trying to figure it out. I could blame it on my generation as a whole and claim that as a millennial my attention span is naturally short. I could even say that those hobbies just weren’t for me. The thing is, I know full well that I loved doing them and wish I hadn’t let them slip out of habit.

If in reading this you’ve realized that you too are resisting things you are good at, things that you love—my advice to you (and myself) is to jump headfirst back into it. Drag yourself if you must, but don’t let yourself slip out of healthy habits. No matter how rational your excuses may sound in your head, I guarantee you’ll feel better knowing that you gave it your best college try. As I write this, I am resolving to go to yoga tomorrow. might even write a poem.

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