“Life is available only in the present moment. If you abandon the present moment, you cannot live the moments of your daily life deeply.”— Thich Nhat Hanh
Another year is coming to a close, and I find myself simultaneously shaking my head in amazement at the rapidity with which it has gone by, while smiling at my surprise because it always feels this way toward the end of the year! My mind starts to buzz with all the things there are to do before the year’s end, yet I’m reminded that today is just that—today. Maybe we can embrace this day, this weather, these thoughts, the one and only breath we have right now, instead of worrying about what’s coming next.
As you may imagine, I’m always on the lookout for people, things, events, that inspire me and make me want to be a better person! I’ll often jot down a quote, get teary-eyed at a happy news story, or feel gratitude for the amazingly generous people in my life. When we witness or experience something inspirational, it has the power to move us—intellectually, emotionally, spiritually, and it opens our hearts to another way of seeing and being in the world.
Just this morning I sat outside sipping on coffee and marveled at the sun’s rays lighting up the lower tree limbs in our yard. It was as if someone had lovingly laid a beautiful golden blanket across the leaves. Truthfully, I’m not often up early enough to sit outside and watch the sun rising; it was beautiful. These experiences lighten our loads, bring us to the present moment, and cause us to catch our breaths, if we allow them. I realized today that a big part of what makes my world go around are the small wonders, the sweet and unexpected gestures, the inspiring moments that find me along the way!
And even though I know that we can find inspiration anywhere at any time, still it surprised me to find such a thing during a spin class at the local gym! I hadn’t been to a spin class in a long time and was looking forward to a bit of a workout. I expected a certain instructor—someone I knew—who was younger and more fit than I am…knowing that she would kick my butt. So when the substitute instructor walked in—an older gentleman with white hair—I was a bit disappointed but thought at least it would be an easier class! His name was Charlie.
Charlie came up to me and asked if I needed help with the new bicycles, and I smiled and accepted. He tweaked my seat height (under minor protest), and it helped. I started pedaling the bike while the music played, and Charlie got on his bike.
As the class proceeded, I was amazed at his strength and stamina…I was awed at his ability to talk and pedal at the same time (while I huffed and puffed)…I was tickled that this lovely, older-than-me instructor was, yes, kicking my butt. Up one hill, down the other, up the same hill (or so it seemed) and down again, over and over, until my legs started to feel like jelly!
But this was only the beginning. It was what he was saying while he was bicycling that struck my heart like a beautiful chord. As he coached us and encouraged us to work harder and push ourselves, he talked about effort and passion. He said it wasn’t enough to bring effort to what we were doing; he said that we should try to bring some passion to it as well. This made me think about my daily life and how much of it is effort and passion, and how much is just effort. Teaching, for me, is effortless effort and lots of passion! That one is easy. However, the “just effort” parts of my life have little color, no real life force. What, I wondered, would happen if I brought more to my tasks than just effort? What if I could bring some passion to the routine things that I do—from cooking to grocery shopping to a walk around the park or learning something new? It may seem silly, but it really resonated with me.
Maya Angelou said, “My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.”
And that’s not all I learned from Charlie that day. In most spin classes, there is the easy part, the not-so-easy part, and the hard part where you push with all of your strength just to get over the imaginary hill. As we were getting ready for the hard part, Charlie said this, “Okay folks, the bad hill is coming up. I want you to get ready, reach out, and rise up!” And he said it with passion and care and genuine concern for our well-being, with the desire that we bring our best selves to this one effort. At least that’s how it felt to me. Suddenly, I loved this guy! I thought of all the times in our lives when we have a “bad hill” coming up—an illness, a tragedy, and unexpected turn—and the advice that Charlie gave was perfect.
“Okay folks, get ready.” How do we get ready for the unexpected, the downturn, the struggle? We start by doing our best to take care of ourselves. We look for the potholes and try to avoid them; we minimize the potential damage by looking ahead and we prepare the best we can.
“Reach out.” Once we’ve prepared, we reach out! We ask for help. We let our friends and our families in on our struggles and we acknowledge that maybe we can’t (or don’t want to) go this alone. We look for the support systems of loved ones, good doctors, trusted resources, and we bolster ourselves up.
And then we “rise up.” We stand with our hearts wide open and our heads held high, we look for inspiration to be better than we thought we could be; we take the moments as they come up and we find our true strength—the core of our being, the place that can’t be touched by all the stuff going on, and we realize that we are so much more than we give ourselves credit for. We rise to the occasion. When we fall, we get back up, and we bring our best selves to the table, over and over again. Sometimes we can do it on our own, sometimes we need a coach, sometimes kismet brings us someone like Charlie.
During that spin class, I pushed harder because Charlie inspired me to do so. And maybe without even knowing it, he taught me a life lesson that I will not soon forget.
And the next time I go to a spin class, I hope Charlie is there, so I can be humbled and awed once again!
Many blessings to all of you during this inspirational time of year.
Mary Boutieller is a Registered Yoga Teacher through Yoga Alliance. She has been teaching yoga since 2005. Her work experience includes 22 years as a firefighter/paramedic and 10 years as a Licensed Massage Therapist. Mary’s knowledge and experience give her a well-rounded understanding of anatomy, alignment, health and movement in the body. She is passionate about the benefits of yoga and the ability to heal at all levels through awareness, compassion, and a willingness to explore. She can be reached at: SimplyogaOm@gmail.com.