Humility and the lounge chairs

My second week living in Chicago, I started a new job. I was hired to teach a private yoga class on a roof top at a luxury high rise… At 6am. I decided that I had to give myself at least forty five minutes to get there and factor in the high possibility that I could get lost. On the first day, I sprang (well, sprang is probably an exaggeration) out of bed before five, grabbed my travel mug of coffee, and drove with vigilance out of my alley and toward the strange new highway to my strange new job. The drive was easy and I made it there in less that ten minutes. I spent more time looking for parking on the street.

I walked into the building and a sleepy doorman handed me a folder with a key to the janitor’s closet to grab the yoga mats and told me it was on the 44th floor. It was still dark when I walked out onto the rooftop. The deck was impressive, though I didn’t see any open space for the yoga class. Just a sea of cushy lounge chairs arranged in perfect rows. I stood there to survey my options. Class was starting soon and there was nobody in sight to assist me in setting up. It occurred to me that I would have to do it myself. I suppose that this would not have been a big deal if my ego did not decide to pay me a visit at that moment. As I crouched down to pick up the ends of a chair, I had a mental invasion: a stream of self-mitigating thoughts.  Great, Tracy I heard myself say. You went to fucking Columbia and now you are hauling lawn furniture?

It went on like that. I was like Sysyphus with those friggin lounge chairs. Rolling them away one by one and feeling the worst kind of burden: Self Pity.

I stopped for a moment and took the pause I needed. It had been only two weeks since our move and as the adreneline started to wear off, the reality of my new life came into focus. A new life that looked so unlike the life I was in only weeks before. I kept lifting each chair and piling them onto the side of the pool, feeling more vulnerable than I had felt. Feeling the free fall of the unknown I had stepped into. Feeling pathetic.

I was reminded of the time I spent at a silent meditation retreat two years ago. I was awkward and homesick and self-doubting and they told me I had to have a “yogi job.” I chose vacuuming. Every morning before sunrise I had to grab this heavy vacuum from the cleaning supplies closet and carry it around two floors. I remember what my teacher said about the jobs. “Be with the vacuuming,” she said. Just be with the task at hand.

Why is that not enough? How is it that I allow the beauty of the simple things to be obscured by some fantasy that somewhere out there lives another more special life? Where does the beauty live if not in the ordinary tasks?

The lounge chairs. The coffee making. The car pooling. The dishwashing. The dog walking. The sitting. The standing up.  The making the lunches. The practicing. The picking up. The dropping off. The pauses in between. The vacuuming.  The dailiness of my life? Why is it that when I am clearing away the furniture I am simulatneously lamenting over a life I think I should have had? What is this other life I am dreaming about?

Perhaps this is the connundrum of our seeking. My pride looked around that roof top and shook it’s head. I thought you would be further along by now, said my pride.  But then my soul. My soul looked at the roof top and instantly saw the sun rise. This is beautiful. This is all so beautiful. 

And it was just like that. I no longer felt diminished by the task at hand. I no longer saw my role as just moving furniture aside. I no longer perceived that this was not good enough.  I saw it as an opportunity to create sacred space.  I saw how the teachings of our practices are everywhere.  The students walked onto their mats just as the sun was rising over Lake Michigan. It’s amazing how our self-importance could have the power to ruin a perfectly miraculous sunrise. It’s wonderful how humility can put things in their proper place. I was grateful I caught myself in time enough to get over myself.

Caroline Myss once said that “the most fabulous life path you can choose is both ordinary and invisible.” It’s so easy to miss the boat on what makes our life special. It’s so easy to blind ourselves to what is right in front of us and lament over this belief that we are not where we thought we would be in our life.

And then if we are lucky enough to be awake when there is a sun rise over a maginificent waterfront, we remember that what makes our life’s path the most beautiful are the ordinary things we do day in and day out.

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