I’ve been having a tough time of it at work recently. Too much to do, not enough time, not enough resources of any description. Necessity might be the mother of invention but all I’m able to create from this is a whole lot of stress. I can feel it in my body. The tight muscles, the sugar cravings, the adrenaline coursing through my body making me impatient and irritable. I’m wired, permanently on, and yet unable to concentrate fully on anything. All I can feel is the fear I’m missing an important task, a vital detail, or a few 000s on the bottom line. Heads will roll, if not today, then tomorrow. The weight of responsibility is the only thing keeping my shoulders from creeping up around my ears!
The inner listening that I practice through yoga is allowing me to feel the physical, mental, and emotional effects more strongly than before. And, thanks to yoga, I can’t now ignore it and just keep soldiering on in the way I used to. I can’t any longer make do with the three C’s from my old life: coffee, chocolate, and codeine. I know this is not good enough. That is just some chemically supported survival. OK for 24 hours at a push, but not a sustainable way of living. It’s not a recipe for live.
So yoga’s given me a new problem. Thanks, yoga!
But yoga’s also given me some solutions, or at least it suggests some possibilities, some change in perspective.
My teacher tells me yoga is all about making space. I like that. It’s a metaphor that works for me. I see obviously how it applies physically. In āsana it’s all about filling out into the biggest space, lengthening the spine, broadening the back, opening the chest. Even fingers and toes spread.
But maybe I’d refine it for myself and say that yoga is a way of exploring space. Because it seems to me that yoga is also a practice of playing with narrowing spaces. Āsana puts us in some uncomfortable straits for sure. We learn to negotiate our way within and through them skillfully, playing the edge, feeling the fear, softening and breathing to create our own sense of space even in a tight corner. And we practice not keeping the difficulties at arms length, avoiding the hard stuff, but rather leaning into it, embracing and accepting it. Sometimes we’re even invited to smile in the face of it! 🙂 If we can manage this on the mat where quite honestly it really doesn’t matter, we can handle tight corners in life, right?
And finally there’s oneness — if yoga is about space, it’s also about proximity, togetherness, one’s space within a bigger whole. Finding commonality and doing it together. Āsana, breathing, work, life. Small self within a bigger expression.
So reflecting on this at work I tried to look for spaces even in what feels like a very pinching situation and see what relief I could create for myself, even if it’s not materially reflected on the bottom line. And in all this spaciness, I spot a habitual pattern: of tightening up and bracing against difficulty. I can control, I can conquer, if only I try hard enough. Oh yeah, I do that on the mat too! But then I have my teacher’s guidance and gentle hand to remind me that there is another way.
So the way yoga suggests at work also involves some letting go. Give up trying to control everything, acknowledge to myself that I am doing the best I can and accept that. I cannot be responsible for saving all things and all people. Sure I can make myself bigger, I can expand to fit a role that’s a stretch or two beyond me, but I am just another middle manager, not a miracle worker.
And rather than retreating inwards I can try to open outwards. Not just the cliched ‘open door policy’ but also maintaining connection with others and asking for help. Let go of the arrogance that I can do it all myself. I can delegate downwards and I can ask for support upwards. Not quite a call to the heavens, just the nearest corporate equivalent who is something of a minor deity to me.
But first there’s probably time for just one more coffee…