As we move through February of this particular year, I’m finding it difficult to escape the emotional roller coaster of the current presidential campaigns. The debates, the caucuses, the outlandish (and from some corners, quite scary) proclamations, the worry about the future. On some days, the more deeply I dive into it, the more I notice a distinct feeling of not knowing which way is up.
To be clear: I am in no way recommending that we stop paying attention. I don’t think ignorance is bliss. I do think, if we are to maintain any kind of sanity or clear thinking at this time, we all probably need some strategies for navigating the onslaught of information that gets thrown at us every day (and hey, this will be true even when the election cycle is finished!)
My favorite tool lately for this lately has been this simple piece of advice: “Be impeccable with your word.” It’s the first in a collection of four mission statements, you might say, in a book called The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz.
Now look, I’ve got very little love for popular new-agey books about how to run your life. I don’t like simplification where complexity is needed. I don’t think a constant diet of puppies and rainbows are what gets us through challenging times. Yet this phrase, “be impeccable with your word,” this idea that focused honesty and integrity are keys to freedom, keeps following me around.
I think it’s because in this time of Great Debate, we all want to feel that a potential leader says what he or she means, and means what he or she says. Seems a tall order sometimes, and maybe on an international political stage it is. But if I take it down to the level of my own life, I find myself warming very quickly to the idea.
When I focus on being true to my word, I find I have to give my speech careful consideration. Even before I open my mouth, there are questions: what am I trying to communicate? What are my goals? What matters most to me? What kind of commitments do I want to give my word to? Do I have the resources to make good on those commitments? If I don’t, why would I say I do?
This is where yoga and meditation come in handy. I’ve found over the years that they provide almost gratingly honest reflections, showing me where I’m in integrity in my life and where I’m just running off at the mouth, saying I’ll do things I don’t want or don’t have the resources to do, or to do well. Or committing to defeating ideas that don’t square with who I am or what I know to be true. I often imagine my yoga mat has a personality like some wise old aunt who invites me over for tea, and when I drag my tired and confused mess of a self to her doorstep, she clucks a little and says, “girl, you sit yourself down and let’s sort this out. You look pathetic. Who are you right now? Talk to me.”
When I’m willing to sit with these questions, there is a feeling of unspooling the structures—physical, emotional, mental—that have come to uphold my worries. And as they unwind and unmesh, I start to see which threads are worth holding to (it’s usually just one or two) and which ones need to be dropped, swept up, and tossed (there’s usually a whole bunch of those.) The threads worth keeping become the ones that, I hope, will weave themselves into my words, and into the bigger fabric of action, interaction, moving, changing, living. Things get more clear.
So this being impeccable—I don’t think it’s about purity or never making mistakes. I think it’s mostly a call to strategy: We live with so much information. Only some of it is useful. Energy is precious. Be judicious. I believe this can be an exciting project.
Much love and thanks for reading,
Erin H/Grassroots Yoga