I went to a yoga class last night at my new gym, the first in several months with my recent move and all. I love yoga, I love the peaceful environment, the focus, the time away from busy stuff; the busier part of my day, my busy life, even the busier part of the gym. Yoga time is me time, I can concentrate on how I’m feeling, stretch, think, relax, and build strength, both physical and emotional. At one point, last night, the instructor had us all in shavasana, a position where we are lying on our backs, on our mats on the floor, eyes closed, relaxed. I have almost drifted off to sleep in this pose on more than one occasion. After quietly contemplating things from this perspective for a few minutes, the instructor broke the silence and asked us to begin to come back to awareness. She asked us to consider our awareness of self; how is it we landed on the floor, the position of our feet, of our legs, our arms, our hands. She asked us to consider how we landed there, on the floor in that room, at that gym, in that town. My internal response was “that’s a long story!”
How did I land here? On this floor, in this gym, in this town? It certainly was not my intention, not part of my “grand plan”, but did become my intention at some point, more recently.
Life changes, in ways we expect and definitely in ways we never expected or could even imagine. When life changes, one way or the other, often our lifestyle shifts. When our lifestyle shifts we have to consider two things, possibly a paradigm shift and an effort to identify what our purpose is in the situation we have found ourselves in.
A paradigm shift is a change in our ruling assumptions. When life changes, or shifts, our lifestyle often changes, or shifts, as a result. The ruling assumptions that once applied may need to be altered, or shifted, to match, to be relevant. For example, a few years ago, my kids were living at home, attending high school. They had many extracurricular activities. I worked nearly full time in a nearby community and managed work, a home and their activities. We owned a ranch and a second home; we had mortgages and lots of ranch chores and home maintenance and all that goes with that. My ruling assumptions were all grounded in that lifestyle. Now, I no longer have the ranch, the second home, my kids are living in other cities, attending college, I have a different job that requires a great deal of travel. My ruling assumptions are completely different than they were just a few years ago. I have had to shift my paradigm to accommodate my new lifestyle.
Everything that happens to us happens by design, ours. Everything happens as a result of all of our thoughts, actions, and deeds preceding this very moment. It may seem outlandish to assume that we’ve landed where we are because we wished for it, or desired it, or wanted it. But every thought, action and deed has paved the roadway to where we are. Now, it is time to identify and serve our purpose, then pave our way, with intention, to where we want to be. If you have landed somewhere you didn’t intend to, or in a place or situation you really don’t want to be in, it may be difficult to accept responsibility for the fact that you got yourself into this spot. But you did. If you wish to be elsewhere, only you can get yourself there. You are solely responsible for the change you want to happen, and this is done, in part, through identifying your ruling assumptions and shifting those paradigms. It is not something many of us are aware of or even know how to do, but a little bit of knowledge and awareness will help you gain control over the direction of things in your life.
I have moved several times in as many years, all as a result of the circumstances that unfolded in my life, both desired and undesired. Each of these moves has required reevaluation of my ruling assumptions and a related paradigm shift. My most recent move has been one of the hardest, admittedly. I have moved in with my mom; elderly, recently widowed and in declining health. Being the only child and in a position where it is impractical for me to own my own home, it just makes sense. I travel a great deal for work and would have a difficult time maintaining a dwelling and attached yard on my own. She is old and frail and is having a hard time maintaining a dwelling and attached yard on her own. Here we are. I am able to reorganize my finances and save some money and assist her. Before this, I was living with my college-aged son, helping him with rent after his roommates all transferred to other colleges. Can you imagine the shift in ruling assumptions when you move from a house with an active, twenty one year old man to living with an elderly, frail lifelong authority figure? I am in serious need of a paradigm shift! One of the most important factors in my personal evolution, one of my most valuable guiding principles, is freedom, independence, and autonomy. This is not something I am willing to compromise, so I need to shift my paradigm to accommodate this guiding principle and be able to function in this new dynamic. Of course, there has been some frustration, on my part, and I’m sure on my mom’s part, as we work through these shifts. But that’s exactly how it goes; you take stock of the changes, the situation, your guiding principles, the environment you’re in, and you make a plan. That is how you affect a paradigm shift. One way or another, this is a temporary situation and a stepping-stone, a necessary one, for where I ultimately want to be. And where I ultimately want to be is always subject to change, too! That. Is. Life.
With or without change, there comes frustration. It is a normal part of our daily life. When we are reassessing our ruling assumptions and shifting our paradigm, and frustration happens, the best thing to do, and I am still perfecting this, believe me; pause, take a deep breath, and ask, “Why am I here at this moment in time, experiencing this event?” Just like my yoga instructor asked us as we were prone on the floor in shavasana, “how is it you landed on the floor, in this room, in this gym, in this town?” When we pause for a moment and take stock of where we are, why we are here, and where we are ultimately headed, we can shift our paradigm and act accordingly, with attention and with intention. Socrates is quoted as saying “the unexamined life is not worth living.” We need to occasionally examine our lives, where we are, think about where we want to be, identify our ruling assumptions, shift our paradigm and evolve. Everything we experience, the good, the bad, the frustrating, all happens for a reason. There has to be a reason, a lesson, something to be learned, something to be given. Nothing happens without a reason, and while we are in complete control of our lives, our situations and our happiness, we are put into situations and exposed to circumstances and events designed to teach us, prompt us to grow to evolve. If we’ll make the effort.
A popular business concept these days is “what’s the take away?” It’s the new version of “what’s the bottom line” or “cut to the chase”. Show me the value, what am I supposed to be getting out of whatever it is you are providing. In my current job, part of what we do is design training courses. Now everyone wants to know, wants to us to emphasize what the “take away” will be. So, basically, we restate our “objectives”, calling them “take aways” and the review them at the end to confirm they are “taking those things away” with them. Our daily life should be approached in the same manner. In our daily life with friends, family, at social gatherings, stop for a moment and determine what the take away is. In everything we do, look for the take away. There is value, a lesson, something that fits into or compliments “where we have landed”. Examine your life, each situation and setting you find yourself in and find the take aways. Put them to use in furthering your evolution, in utilizing your guiding principles, your ruling assumptions and in shifting your paradigm, if necessary.
What’s your take away right now, from whatever you’re doing, wherever you are? What’s your biggest take away today? What’s your take away from life as a whole? Are you getting from it what you want? Or are you hoping for something else, something more? It is vital to stop and ask yourself these questions, daily even. Or to keep a running journal on them. You can shape and form your life, you can evolve, with effort, so you are taking away from your experiences, from your life, the things that are going to matter, to make a difference, to fulfill you and your dreams, your goals, serve your values, in a meaningful and lasting manner. This is an examined life and you make it worth living.
To accomplish this in our loud, busy lives; be thoughtful, be meditative, be reflective. Discern, listen, observe, note, and think, think, think. Journal, write your thoughts down, if not daily, frequently. Glancing back on these notes on occasion helps you note the progress you’ve made. Meditating daily is a great practice for clarifying your ruling assumptions, your paradigm, for examining your life. If you’re not good at “formal” meditation, consider yoga. If you’ve never tried yoga, don’t be afraid, don’t be intimidated. Yoga people are the most happy, peaceful, thoughtful, understanding, forgiving and compassionate people ever. There are people of all ages and abilities, so being new is not a big deal. In my class last night, at the tender age of forty-nine and a half, I was the youngest one there. There was one guy in the class who just remained in shavasana the whole time, lying on the floor on his back. And that was perfectly okay. There was a lady who couldn’t even bend to touch her knees. And that was perfectly okay. There was a woman there who was practically a contortionist. And that was okay. Yoga is a practice and it is to each individual what that individual needs and wants it to be. The thing with yoga is that it is meditative without having to sit still and deliberately try to empty your mind. It is a peaceful and soothing environment and you’ll find you are centered and calm and able to think more clearly as you practice. If not journaling, or meditation, or yoga, consider walking by yourself each day. Something, some quiet, contemplative time where you can be alone with your thoughts and examine your life, define your ruling assumptions and shift your paradigm to set you on the path to your personal evolution.
From my yoga class last night, I had two major take aways; the first was to just give pause and consider how I landed here, wherever I am. The second was based on a story the instructor had about the pigeon pose. This is a pose that requires quite a bit of flexibility in the hip flexors and groin area, which many people don’t have. Most people hate the pigeon pose. I actually quite like it. When the instructor was attending a class to learn how to become a yoga instructor, they practiced and practiced and practiced the pigeon pose. She hated it and would ask herself why she was there, in that class, in that horrible pose, pursuing being a yoga instructor. Finally, as she sat in pigeon pose, she just broke down and cried, not from pain or discomfort, she had this complete and total emotional release. From that moment on, she was more physically able to do the pigeon pose. It is often the reflection of why we are doing what we’re doing, why we are where we are, that allows whatever release to occur to illuminate our path to what we want to become.
So, pigeon pose, or not, examine your life to make it worth living, define your ruling assumptions and whether they fit where you are, shift your paradigm if necessary, find the release and illuminate the path to what you want to become. That’s the take away!