This is a simple reminder to myself and anyone else who might need it: When you are looking to make real and lasting change, it’s the effort you put in each day that makes the difference over time.
In my own life, whenever it has become clear to me there’s work to be done, I want to go all-in, full speed ahead. This is true for me regardless of the goal in mind. It is natural and human to want to get to the finish line quickly, but I have found most of the meaningful things in life are achieved over time, and through dedicated, daily work. If something is important to me, I’m going to prioritize it. There are only so many hours in the day, and we each have only so much energy, so it comes down to choices. If this is important to me, how much time can I carve out for it each day? How important is it and how much do I care?
One of the best ways to get clear on this is to make a list. You can call it anything you like, but for my purposes right now, I’ll call it the Things That Are Most Important to Me Right Now list. Here’s mine:
The health and happiness of my little family.
The health and happiness of those closest to me.
The health and happiness of all people in this world.
The health, happiness and equality of BIPOC in this world because it has become heartbreakingly obvious to me those are the people who need our attention, support and lasting commitment to change.
Finishing my next book.
Relaunching the website.
Being available to the yoga community we have that spans the globe.
This is a lot of things, right? Under each of the priorities on my list are unwritten action items. A list doesn’t do much if there isn’t any action behind it. If I care about the health and happiness of my little family, that means I have to be a present mom and wife. I have to show up for my people and be engaged and care about what matters to each of them and carve out time that is just for them. I have to prioritize and say no to some things so I can say yes to the three people most important to me. If I want to be sure each of them knows how much I love them, I have to show them every single day. Words aren’t enough. Conversations, laughter, hugs, meals together, board games, cuddles, trust, tears, it’s a whole bunch of ingredients that go into a happy family. And my own self-care has to be part of the action I take, or everything else falls apart.
If I care about my close friends, I have to make time to connect. That’s even more challenging under the current social distancing, mask-wearing guidelines. It requires creativity and scheduling and FaceTiming and texting and checking in. These are intense times for everyone, and letting people know you care is not as easy as meeting a friend for coffee or walking on the beach these days, so it requires thought and extra effort.
If yoga practice is about facing reality as it is, then there’s a lot to take in right now. It feels like the world is on fire, upside down, inside out, and spinning on a painful axis at the moment. To not acknowledge that would be to bury my head in the sand, and the whole point of practice is to not bury my head, but rather to open my heart, eyes, mind, hands. To look around and to look within. To figure out my own place in everything, both how small I am but also how powerful I am. To see where I’ve been participating in a system that is unjust. To see where I’ve benefitted from it knowingly or unknowingly. To figure out how to do better and be better. To educate myself in all the ways I do have a voice and can use it. To take the time to re-teach myself history, because a lot of it went un-taught. To re-teach myself about democracy and the importance of an engaged, impassioned electorate, especially at the local level. All of this takes time and effort, it isn’t something I can do in a day, a week, a month. It has to become part of my daily practice, just like rolling out my mat. I am committed to doing something every single day to be a part of the change I want to see, whether that’s sending an email or making a phone call or donating to an organization doing good work or educating myself about an elected official or the policies of my local police department or signing a petition, reading a book, taking an anti-racism course, watching a documentary, having conversations with my family or anything else that helps me learn and grow. It also involves the willingness to make mistakes, to not know, to get it wrong, to think about things from other perspectives, to not get entrenched or defensive. It’s humbling and uncomfortable and that is okay. We do yoga so we can open to discomfort and uncertainty.
If I care about finishing my book, I have to make the time to write. If I care about our yoga community, I have to show up. It all follows the same formula. If I care about something I have to make time for it.
Nothing important, meaningful and beautiful in my life happened overnight. If I hadn’t spent years on my mat opening to places where I needed to heal, to consider, to lean in, to release, to understand, to have compassion…there’s no way I would have been ready for my my children or ready to receive all the love in my life. I wouldn’t have been ready when I met my husband. It’s the things we do each day, the commitments we make, the choices we make, the things we prioritize that lead to lasting change, so whatever it is that’s important to you, that’s the stuff that has to go on your list and those are the things, people, and core values you have to make time for each day.
I’ll end with this – yesterday I was on Instagram and I was scrolling along and up popped an add for a reusable, strapless push-up bra and there were over 1,200 comments under it. Women asking if it really worked and if it was good for big boobs and wondering if anyone else had ordered and blahblahblah and I hid the ad as irrelevant because what could be more irrelevant right now (or ever)? Please tell me you see through this. There are always messages that will keep you distracted and pull you away from everything beautiful about yourself – that will ask you to focus on your boobs and your appearance so you don’t have time to think about how much power you have and how much you could be helping. There are a lot of things I don’t know, but I DO know this – your value does not reside in your boobs or your bank account, your biceps or your car or your next vacation or your big house or your skinny jeans, putting your ankle behind your head, or pressing to handstand – your value resides in your ability to love, to care, to have empathy and to act on all of that. That’s where your value lies. It’s a gift to be here on this strange, spinning planet during these confusing and overwhelming times. It’s a gift to be here because we have an opportunity each day to try to offer something beautiful. If there are about 7 billion people on this planet, but only one you, doesn’t that mean you have a particular spark? Something to offer the world that only you can? I think that’s what it means. So I’ll ask you:
What’s on your list? And what are you doing today to make sure it’s clear those people and values are the ones that matter most to you?
The world is not being gentle with us right now, and maybe that’s a good thing. Nonetheless, I hope you’re being gentle with yourself as you face what’s in front of you.
Sending you love,
Ally Hamilton Hewitt