ditch the bottom line

I'll try not to be too repetitive in this space, but I'm probably going to be writing about this subject a lot in this space, because it dogs me so much:


The Periodic Table of Elements might be my most favorite in the world. This one is flavors of frozen yogurt, if you look closely. But I like the actual elements of the universe more.

There's been a lot of language in my world about results, about achievement, about doing and being not just my best, but The Best. My parents, growing up, always said that all they wanted was for me to do the best I could, but when the best I could do was perfect, they seemed a lot more jazzed than when the best I could do was a C minus. I put so much pressure on myself as a kid, and when I struggled and failed, it stung badly, especially when the people who were most important to me seemed so disappointed in my efforts. 

I had the great fortune and blessing to attend a lecture with Matt Huish this past weekend. He spoke for almost two hours, and said a lot that really blew my mind, but one of the ideas I appreciated most was a short exploration on karma yoga. 

In the Bhagavad Gita, Arjuna and Krishna are having a conversation about Arjuna's work. He's heartbroken, on the precipice of a great war with his kinfolk, and can't bring himself to go to war. The text is the conversation he has with his charioteer, a deity cleverly disguised, who helps to show him what he needs to see in order to move forward, and there's a lot to say about it, by wiser minds than mine. 

Matt paraphrased Krishna and said, "[your work is to] pick up your bow and aim it. You can't control the outcome, or where it will hit."  In other words: do your job; step to your mat and practice; do the work set in front of you. Don't worry about what happens.

When we charge forward in our practice trying to “get somewhere”, we miss the point.
— Matt Huish

For me, this flies in the face of the Results rhetoric I see so often around me, that rules so much of what I do. To step to my mat and practice without attaching to whether or not I can lift up, or invert, or sink deeper: how will I know if I'm improving? How will I measure my progress????How will I get better?!

But the practice isn't to get better. Is it? If the practice is to stay present, to observe without judgment, to integrate, then "progress" is a red herring. We don't need to lose inches or lift more, to stay longer or press higher; we only need to find our way--perhaps the way of least resistance (and here I'm not talking about wu-wei because a) I'm not really qualified; and b) because that's a totally different post)--into our work and to watch what happens when we do it. 

I don't have the time today to explore this the way I want to; consider this a prelude maybe, or an etude: a study. 

But the thought that clings to me as I wrap is that to do the work I want to do in a culture that is driven by results is a kind of subversion. I step into a results-ruled space, and I encourage all of us to loosen our grip on that, and to observe. 

I like subversion.