Sunday, February 15, 2009

Dedicate Your Practice

I'm on the yoga mat, contorting into the challenging pigeon pose (kapotasana) which really opens up the hips. This is a yin yoga class, so we will probably stay in this asana for around 7 minutes on this side, and my breathing is already ragged. I try to relax into the long, steady breath that I maintain throughout class, but the pain in my hip overwhelms me. Then Yogini Saiko Flack gently, soothingly reminds us to breath, suggesting that if we cannot breath for ourselves, to breath for the person next to us. The mind glimmer's through an instant over the impossibility and impracticality of this, before it heeds the advice. Somehow it suceeds, and I am able to dedicate my breath to the person on the mat next to me. My breathing evens out, and I relax, getting so much more out of posture. Maybe I was breathing for my neighbor, maybe my neighbor was breathing for me. Either way, it works.

I've wondered why this might be so, and had an insight just now while reading Daniel Pink's A Whole New Mind while on the treadmill (yes, my tools enable me to read and write on the treadmill). Pink brought my attention to the dedication of the book and suggests that to give everything more meaning in life, to dedicate what you do to someone else. Rather than working for a simple self-centered goal (though this is of course possible to be meaningful also, and I may discuss in a future post), dedicating to someone else often provides more fulfillment.

Who do you dedicate to? Anyone! Dedicate to a family member or spouse, to a pet, to the really nice bus driver, to the angry driver who honked at you, to the Dinka of Sudan, to your third grade teacher.

What do you dedicate? Anything and everything! You can dedicate brushing your teeth, riding the bike, jogging, sleeping, sleeping in, eating, cooking, taiji, yoga, writing a blog post, cutting hair, reading Shakespeare, tying your shoes. This goes especially well with a 100 days of practice
commitment. During your practice, experiment with the power of dedication. Are you able to find the motivation to practice more readily? Does it increase the quality of your practice?

No matter what you are doing (or how bad you think you are at it), offer it in dedication. It does not matter if your performance is incredible or not. There's no reason to be hung up on that. Because you are doing this for someone else, you will perform better in order to make the dedication more meaningful to that person. Just doing something for and being motivated by a person are already two huge gifts.

So, why do we find more motivation when we dedicate to someone other than ourselves? In the December 2008 issue of Ode magazine, targeting the giving holidays, you can find the fresh article on giving and receiving: "Open Hands, Open Heart: The Art of Receiving" by Hilary Hart. Hart investigates why people find receiving so much more difficult than giving and explores how we can and why it's worth it to overcome this. At some point, we are taught by society that receiving is selfish. Tis better to give than to receive. We hear advice like this over and over again. Basically, we're not trained on how to receive. We often don't know how to accept a compliment, receive a gift with grace, or in many cases even do something for otherselves without feeling guilty. The article provides a great exploration on this and an approach to understand and overcome it--maybe a topic for a later discussion. For now, however, let's benefit from our training as gift-givers. Rather than taking action for ourselves, take action for others. Take action with intention for the greatest good, rather than to strengthen ourselves in some way. The true power of generosity, magnanimity, and growth flow from intention for the greatest good.

This post is dedicated to Saiko Flack, my yin yoga instructor with her loving, open heart. May your travels go well, Saiko! We await your safe return to teaching when you're ready.

Request for Comments
  • How does dedication help you in what you do?
  • If dedication is not working, please share.
  • What dedications have you made today?

No comments:

Post a Comment