Anna Wardwell is a writer and yoga teacher based in Bennington, VT.

Now, the Practice of Yoga

Now, the Practice of Yoga

I think we all hold an image in our mind of who we would like to be. A version of ourselves that would make our lives better. For some, it’s a sexy 20-something, filled with potential and free of worries and cares, that we would like to return to. That image could be of your current self, but modified: a promotion, a nicer house, a nicer spouse, bigger this, better that, ad infinitum. Personally, I imagine my 38 year old self. This future self is living her best life: teaching yoga in exotic locales, drinking green juice, eating vegan, not drinking alcohol or coffee or soda or eating candy, potato chips, or watching Netflix for 5 hours in a row. She’s financially stable, happy, living in a fabulous apartment, doing a handstand in the middle of the room, and meditating for an hour a day. Doesn’t she sound great?

Here’s the problem with the sexy 20-something, a modified current self, and the green juice drinking, hand-standing, vegan future me: they’re not real. The old you is gone. It’s like holding onto that pair of jeans that you fit into 20 pounds ago: sure you looked great in those jeans once, but wouldn’t you look better, and feel better in the present moment, if you just loved yourself enough to buy a new pair of goddamned jeans? And I hate to break it to you, but in your twenties, you probably weren’t happy then either. Your were naive, confused, and lost.  

And the modified current self? I’m sure I don’t have to tell you how that goes. Have you ever actually gotten that promotion, or maybe those granite counter tops you always wanted? Yeah, have you? And what happens next? Actually, I can answer that for you. Either the blissful feeling is short lived, or it never comes at all. The you wonder “why aren’t I happy? This life-modification was supposed to be my key to happiness”. Then you feel ungrateful and guilty, and you wonder how you could have ever wanted this silly thing in the first place. I see the resentful glances you’re giving to your granite counter-tops.  

And what about future me? This not quite 40, modern day goddess that I’ve imagined? All the things she does, I don’t currently do. And all the things she doesn’t do, I’m doing regularly. I probably did all of those things today. So how do I hope to embody this fantasy me in four short years?

I don’t fucking know. But I’m learning to let go of her to make room for me now. Actually, instead of “Now, the practice of yoga” I want to flip it: The Practice of Yoga NOW. To fully embody the present moment. Loving yourself as you are RIGHT FUCKING NOW. The ugly, nasty, mean, irritating, rude bits need love too. Give that to yourself now. Because the present moment is about to be… Oh wait. Did you hear that??? Yup, it’s gone. And you weren’t embodying love. You weren’t feeling anything; you just let that moment pass you by. So cut that shit out.

Because now? This is it. The past isn’t real. It’s just a recording of a past-now that’s in the ether. It’s a story you tell yourself. And the stories you tell yourself don’t have a fact checker. So live in the truth of this very moment. You feel Joy? Fuck yeah, that’s amazing! You feel Sorrow? Fuck yeah, that’s amazing! Do you feel just ok? Well, fuck yeah, that’s amazing, too! Because all of these feelings are impermanent. So when you feel something, really feel it. Even if it hurts so bad that you think you might die if you really let yourself feel it. Even if you feel so happy that you’re scared you’ll never have that feeling again. And let it all go, knowing that something new will be along any minute.

So, I’m eliminating my future me. I invite you to join me in getting rid of whatever image of yourself you hold on to. Because that image is a fiction. And the space where that image once was you can fill up with gratitude: for the gift of consciousness, for this earthly body that allows you to feel, for the awareness you're cultivating. Fill that space with whatever you want. But do it in the now. I’ll meet you there.