By Emily Hawkins
“I think your favorite type of read could be considered a self-help book.”
My husband was right — and I didn’t like it. He was gently pointing to something deeply ingrained in me. This drive I have to always be doing more, doing better, and just generally improving. But do I really want my favorite books to be the ones in which “experts” tell me ways I can become a “new me” or a “better version of myself?” Ones where someone else profits off of my urge for self-improvement? When I think about it that way, not really.
Of course, it’s not a bad thing to want to grow as a person. This desire led me to yoga, after all. I wanted to evolve, and this seemed to be a path to positive change.
But there’s a difference between growth and an obsession with being better. For me it’s easy to keep going, keep doing, keep striving. The cycle of attempting perfection and betterment could keep me running endlessly towards some future state. And in that way, it’s the opposite of what yoga has been for me: an invitation to stay and be. “Stay” and “be” seem like simple enough concepts, but the first time I tried to sit with my breath and the first time I fumbled through a challenging yoga class, I found myself humbled. I have learned that staying and being are simple, but not easy.
I thought the best version of myself would show up as I packed more superfoods into my blender. I would find her as I accomplished more in a span of twenty-four hours. But that hasn’t been the case. The harder I work to climb the ladder of perfection, the more I realize the ladder doesn’t have a top.
But when I slow down, look at my motives with curiosity, I can stop climbing. Stop striving. I can get quiet enough to begin to feel a change within me. It doesn’t come as a result of moving, but rather, stillness. Not judgment, but curiosity. On the mat, and in those quiet times I sit with only my breath to focus me, something starts to happen. Without force or unrealistic ideals, I’m just changing. A little more open, compassionate, curious about this world I’m in. I know I’ll never arrive, and that’s okay. And who knows? Maybe one day, I’ll choose a different type of book.