By Marije Paternotte
Recently I saw an Instagram post from a befriended yoga teacher, in which she shared all the plans she had made for herself last year, at the beginning of the pandemic. Things like cleaning out her basement, learning to speak Italian, committing to journaling and meditating every day, getting in the best shape of her life, and so on.
But, she concluded, after more than a year has passed, none of those things had actually happened.
I felt like I could have written that post. Yet I hadn’t. One more reason why I completely identified with what she was talking about. Simultaneously, I was wondering why it is that we think we need to make all those plans, if we don’t carry them out?
Now that we’re a year and a half into the pandemic, I’m finally getting to a point where I can let go of the ingrained ideas about the way things supposedly ought to be. Which is why I decided to have chocolate cake for lunch. I felt like a rebel, flunking every standard imposed both by my own mind and our slightly health-obsessed (yogi) society.
Yes, I my weekend can start on Monday, because I taught classes (read: I worked) on Saturday and Sunday. Yes, I can leave emails unresponded, because even when I do respond to them right away, the things that seem so urgent actually are not. Yes, I can take a nap in the afternoon after I got up at 6 a.m. to get some work done. And no, I don’t need to have a super food smoothie for breakfast, a salad for lunch and vegan soup for dinner every day. Especially if I don’t feel like it – and sometimes I just don’t.
Most of the time, when we make plans, we conveniently leave ‘the now’ out of the equation. Plans inherently take place somewhere in the future, and we assume that the things we plan will still be a good idea at the time of execution. Which, naturally, is untrue. Now is now.
I can decide today that I want to go for a walk tomorrow, but when the time comes, it might be raining. Should I still stubbornly force myself out the door, simply because I made that plan? Or do I go another time, when the sky’s clear? And if I decide to postpone my plan, does that mean it has already failed? My intention is to meditate every morning. However, I’ve been feeling quite fatigued lately. After my alarm wakes me up, I often fall back asleep and consequently run out of time to do my meditation practice.
I am getting to terms with adjusting my actions entirely to the moment. Now. So, when I feel that the best thing to do may not be meditating, but sleeping, I sleep. And not feel bad about it.
Plan + The Moment = Skillful Action
Plan ≠ Action
We can have all kinds of intentions, but if we are not in the now at the moment of action, our actions are not skillful. In fact, we may want to take into account that a plan doesn’t necessarily need action.
After realizing all the things above, my recent practice consists of: Loving What Is.
When I embrace all that happens as a reality that is unchangeable – if you allow the notion that our control over what is happening is rather minimal, you can save yourself from quite a bit of stress and frustration.
Trying to be Zen isn’t really about sitting quietly in one place all day. Zen is being with the moment as it is. Sometimes that moment is going for a walk when you feel like it, or not. Sometimes the moment is managing rambunctious kittens when you are teaching a live yoga class. Other times the moment is sleeping a little longer because you are tired. And most of the time it is dealing with this pandemic life the best we can. Cake, anyone?
Marije was born and raised in Amsterdam where, after her training to be a professional ballet dancer, she studied law and worked as a corporate lawyer. A yoga retreat in Bali led her to the United States where she took her first yoga teacher training. She currently lives in a small beach town in New Jersey with her husband, and teaches yoga workshops, retreats, and teacher trainings around the world, as well as locally. Read full bio