Pause. And begin again.

Lately I’ve been a little obsessed with the record What is the Beautiful, John Hollenbeck’s album setting poems of the late and somewhat obscure American poet Kenneth Patchen.  The title poem opens with the question “What is the beautiful?”, spend a few lines figuring it, then says “Pause. And begin again.”  (here’s the full text, warning, it’s probably not for the squeamish)  It’s dark and tender and raw and polished and fierce and lovely all at once.

I’m starting to write this on January 2nd, having taught my first batch of classes in 2013.  And, as usually happens this time of year, I’m suddenly a fair bit more popular than I was three weeks ago.  (to be fair, so is just about every spin teacher, and nutritionist, and life coach)  This is not something I take at all personally; it goes with being in this business in January.  We all see a burst of “New Years Resolutions”.  You know them, this year “they” may be you.  I’ve done it several times.  Sometimes I’ve actually stuck with my goals, other times not.  Sort of like the poem juxtaposing the owlfish with the wounds- it’s all beautiful, ultimately.

I’m definitely for big goals and grand transformations; as someone who has witnessed them in my own life and in the lives friends, peers and students, I’m ALL for ’em.  But, and this is a big but, it’s easy for the big goals of January 2nd to turn into self-flagellation by February 1.  There was an interesting report on NPR today that suggests that people who “motivate” themselves to lose weight with pictures of skinny models are actually to gain weight while dieting.  (h/t Omgal)  If the goal seems unattainable (in this case, at least subconsciously, the goal becomes to look like that model) we’re more likely to give up on it.

I have some big goals for this year- asana goals, professional landmarks, to write more music and cook better food.  But my real resolution is to work day by day, in increments.  And if things go south once or twice (or two hundred times), just like in the poem.  Pause.  And begin again.

For what their worth, here are the tricks I try to use, and which my students tell me they like:

Dream big.  Then take small steps.  Remember the kid in the Dr. Seuss story “I can lick 30 tigers today!”  That didn’t take him very far.  Design one tangible, manageable little goal that takes you closer to a big goal.  I’m trying to write more music.  Right now that means committing to 20 minutes at the keyboard five days a week.  I won’t have my spiffy new big band chart immediately.  But it’ll come.

Stand up.  And breathe.  If you follow my teacher Jill Miller on twitter (and I recommend it), you know she is on a crusade to change Americans’ posture.  And she’s right; when you slouch, you can’t breath as deep, you collapse in on your heart, metaphorically and literally, and those things combine to create stress in the body.  So periodically regardless of what you’re doing, stand, stretch, breathe big.  It’ll make all the other goals feel a little easier.

Be Nice to Yourself.  A goal can be something to slog towards or something to skip towards, and headspace has something to do with it.  So do things that are nice to you.  Get a massage.  Give yourself a massage.  (Visit me on Saturday mornings or at my ball rolling workshops to find out how.)  Sing songs you like at the top of your lungs.  Find reasons to laugh, and people to hug.

Because in the end, goals and resolutions (I hope) aren’t so much about losing the weight or hitting the gym, they’re about being happy in your body and spirit now.  And that we can always start now, as is.  And when it drifts away, we can pause.  And Begin Again.

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