I like to keep things fresh: sharp mind, clean laundry, crisp produce. Stimulating new experiences. The first (and, admittedly, only) time I watched the movie Groundhog Day—in which Bill Murray is stuck repeating the same day over and over again—I had to fight every impulse to turn it off and walk away. I felt frustrated and claustrophobic and antsy just imagining having to drudge endlessly through the same twenty-four hours. What a...nightmare.
So much of life, though, is repetitive. Day in and day out we travel the same route to work (do you even remember the drive?), converse with many of the same people (were you really listening?), pick from among the same few culinary staples (did you taste every bite?). Similarly with our yoga practice: we move through the same series of sun salutations, hold the same asanas, traverse the same inner landscape with each inhale and exhale. At times, our routines can be comforting, grounding. They give us something to hold on to—a constant rhythm to ride and point of reference to return to. Other times, though, the familiar starts to feel like the tedious, the repetitive like the redundant. It all tastes a little stale, bland. Ordinary. What we do and say and see on a daily basis becomes something we long to escape.
It’s really easy to check out—to get so lost in where we wish we were, whom we wish we were with, what we wish we were doing, that we lose sight of the places, people, and pursuits right in front of us. We start to hold our real lives in contempt and resign ourselves to believing that they’ll never be anything more than paltry versions of our ideal, our wish, our dream. It happens on the mat, too. The more we practice, the more the poses and pranayama become second nature, and the easier it is to just “go through the motions.” To get complacent. To make the grocery list and replay last night’s argument and lament the weather outside rather than focusing on this posture, this breath, this moment.
And that’s when we need to recommit. To reawaken. The goal of yoga, after all, is to recognize life—to feel the wonder of immortality as a mortal being. When we recognize something, we see it, we taste it, we imbibe it. We relish in its flavors—its rasas—and discern the nuanced tang of each ingredient. But we also re-cognize it—we literally “return to knowing” it again and again. We learn how to look at something, speak to someone, travel somewhere and shed a new light each time. Even on the same never-ending Groundhog Day.
Our “ordinary” lives are not tedious or dull or illusory or glum. In fact, they’re not ordinary at all. And that’s what yoga teaches us—that every moment is extraordinary so long as we recognize it as such, cherish it as such, live it as such. Yoga isn’t a vehicle for resolving something because—in spite of what fear-mongering newscasters and apocalyptic headlines would have us believe—our mortal existence, our “ordinary” life, is not problematic. Once we remove the imperative of problem solving, we’re left with a universe of infinite possibilities. What we do on the mat becomes the connective power that brings our inner world and outer world closer together, until eventually our “real” life becomes our spiritual life, our “ordinary” day becomes our extraordinary, sacred ideal. We wake up to our dreams.
One of my favorite yogins, teachers, and mentors starts every morning with a short and sweet affirmation: “Today will be the best day of my life so far.” With that mindset, how could a moment be just “ordinary”?
Wipe away the cobwebs, peel back the covers, and live your dream. Make today the best day of your life so far.