We are not too far removed from the joyous festivities of the holidays, close enough to remember the stories of reciprocates. Maybe you felt the contagion of needing to do something for those in difficult circumstances. This seems to be a feeling worth carrying on year round and not just seasonally. The concept of “paying it forward” has been around since 317BC when a play had been written with this idea, it – was called Dyskolos. Benjamin Franklin in 1784 stated a viewpoint on this, as did Ralph Waldo Emmerson in an essay called Compensation in 1841. Emmersons quote is: “In the order of nature we can not render benefits to those from whom we receive them, or only seldom. But the benefit we receive must be rendered again, line for line, deed for deed,cent for cent, to somebody.” The idea appears again and again in our culture but it seems to occasionally lose momentum. Maybe it’s because we only think of such a concept as possible through our wallets, or our time. But what about through our energy? Sometimes the things we do are not always going to create huge ripples around us; they might be small ripples. But, no matter – it still create’s movement. It’s about the size of the stone, right?
What we’re used to is giving money to charity, or donating our used up possessions to others. But what about energy? Not everyone has money to give, or time to give; but we all have the energy we walk into a room with. Have you had this experience, where a certain person just seems to drain energy from you? I call them energy vampires. They are like the drain at the bottom of the pool. But we all are swimming in this same pool. We should only be splashing around in the water, not using it up. When the pool is dry, it’s not much fun. On the other hand, there are those people who just seem to draw you in, and lift your spirits when they walk in a room. You don’t want to be an energy sucker, where people are happier to see you go, then they are to see you come. Don’t you think that we could all pay it forward by being more responsible for the energy we create. Sounds easy right?
Easier said then done? It seems like a very usable excuse to do nothing about this. But we can all do something. Here’s the something I have experienced personally time and time again. So it goes like this…you’re having a bad day. You got thrown off your focus, and rhythm early in the day, and you’re starting to snap at people. Tensing your shoulders, jaw, and neck, thoughts are becoming scattered, feeling less patient and tolerant. So people you are now interacting with start receiving the venom you’re exuding. So a simple regrounding point could be, take a breath, take a moment. Ok, well that lasts for a bit, but seems short-lived. So what to do?
I have found that most people come on to their yoga mat’s feeling worse than when they roll them up. In its simplest effects, sometimes a good yoga practice just allows that person to sleep better that night – fall asleep faster maybe, sleep less fitfully. Then they wake up feeling rested, clear-headed. Maybe even getting up an hour earlier, so now they can accomplish more. The first person they greet they might do so with a smile, maybe they will share a good joke with someone, or maybe since they feel so good they’ll forgo the coffee and not have a caffeine crash later, and they save some money in the process, which might lessen their stress level some more. All these good things keep rolling on, all from a good nights sleep. Possible? Sure. Would this be paying it forward? Yes, it would. All the people around you would be receiving the benefits of your yoga practice, because you are now responsible for the energy of your being. It’s good energy, strong, positive and light energy. You might even seem to others to be floating through your day. They might then ask you what’s your secret? Where would you start? You woke up early, or you slept great, or I’m kicking my coffee habit, or that you had a great yoga practice the night before and it created these other opportunities?
Let me give one more example of the reason why yoga is a great way to “pay it forward”. I have seen this one a lot over the years. A parent comes to a yoga class, at their favorite studio and they start to feel guilty for leaving their kids, or having to pay for a babysitter, or walking away from a project before it was finished. This can become a gnawing guilt throughout their practice, or even be the reason they decide to skip their yoga practice. Maybe when you were with your kids before your decision to go to yoga, you weren’t really with your kids (not fully present), or you were being very grumpy and impatient with them. But now, you roll out your mat for an hour. You move your body vigorously, you breathe deeply, you start to feel relaxed, grounded. These things create a feeling of peace, or more simply – calm. The shoulders you were shrugging drop. The tension in your neck starts to lessen, which in turn get’s rid of the headache you had. You overall just feel better. You took a little time out for yourself. So you head back home/work in a better mood, with more energy, and with more patience. This can happen, right? This does happen. How do I know? Well, have you ever had any of your friends or family say “Uhm, you need to go to yoga. I got this. Why don’t you go? We’ll be fine.” You know what that means right? That means yoga works and even your family has seen the signs. The two different versions of you; the one before yoga, and the one after yoga.
If we have more energy, we accomplish more, at home or work. We then have more time for the hobbies that balance us. If we sleep better, we accomplish more and feel better. If we are healthier, no one needs to give up their time to take care of us. We can take care of others. If we are calmer ,we are more responsive and less reactive which allows for reflection before we speak or act, which leads to kinder words. Or better yet, no words at all, because if you can’t say something nice…well you know the rest. These are all great examples of paying it forward to your family, to your job, to society. So roll out your yoga mat for you. But see all the ripples around you that this is going to create. Let’s be more responsible for our energy and let’s pay it forward all year round with each thought, word, action, deed and yoga practice.