The Emptiness of Success

 At various points in your day to day life, I hope you experience a feeling of success – from an accomplishment, creating happiness for others or finding personal fulfillment.

I love feeling successful. Sometimes, I purposely seek out opportunities to feel good about what I’m doing. Lately, though, I am finding more satisfaction mentally, physically and spiritually from being relatively poor at something. That’s right. I am regularly subjecting myself to an activity where I am mediocre, at best. And it feels great!

Why? Because it’s both humbling and challenging, and it comes with tiny improvements that build over time. And when one small mountain is conquered, you get to the top, do a happy dance, and then realize you’ve only reached the top of the first foothill in a massive mountain range.

This thing – this sweaty, torturous, glorious thing I do – is yoga. Hot yoga, to be exact. I find it rather addictive from beginning to end, from the smell of the heated studio when I walk in right through to the fabulous shower I treat myself to when I come home.

At the beginning of class, most instructors ask participants to leave their stresses and worries on the mat and focus on something they want to acquire during class, such as strength, flexibility or balance. These things can be taken as physical traits or character and lifestyle traits. Depending on the day, I toggle between what I seek and how I view these gifts.

Now, I would not claim to be good at yoga. I have hip and knee issues that plague my practice and prevent me from getting the full benefit from some poses. I’m not very flexible or strong either. But, I keep trying, and I can say that I have improved in many respects over the nearly two years I’ve been practicing yoga. In the yoga realm, two years is not a very long. It takes time to physically adjust and change, and mastery of one pose merely opens the door to the next stage of the same pose.

And that’s what I love. There is a constant challenge staring me down, and I must once again push myself through attempts and failures until at last, I can hit and hold a pose for quick few seconds. Now I know I can do it … and I must continue to try until it becomes easier and better with time. Sometimes it’s just a little focused introspection about how I am positioning myself that makes the difference and makes me stronger, more balanced and flexible. 

I also like that yoga is referred to as a practice. It’s a good perspective to consider in the studio, as well as in life. If we practice something and try hard to improve, isn’t it just the best feeling when you feel you have made a difference?

I hope you have a “yoga” in your life to give you challenges, failures and successes. Otherwise, it might get boring and lonely sitting on top of a single mountain all by yourself. Press on – there’s an entire mountain range to conquer.

This article was originally published in Senior Voice America, June 2013.

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