Find the Extraordinary in the Ordinary

Our wonderful teacher, Anya, recently went on an trip to Ireland. She blogged about her adventure and I asked her to share some of the things she learn on the way. Thank you, Anya!

In early August, I traveled to Ireland. I wrote a blog post about the experience: 10 Things I Learned in Ireland.

In addition to those 10 things, I was reminded of 3 other “things” that I think are good to share with my people at IPY.

11. It’s important to travel.

Obvious, sure. But if it’s financially possible to travel far from home and from what feels comfortable, do it. It’s good to be at the mercy of the travel gods, forced out of your routine and compelled to take moments as they come. It’s also good to be around people whose backgrounds and world-views and priorities may be completely different from or outside of your own. It’s humbling, really. We, humans, do share in an experience: the world as it currently exists. When I imagine that experience, I envision something that looks sort of like abstract art…a canvas on which the artist has pinned thousands of multicolored threads, each disparate and pulled taut, but crisscrossing and overlapping to create something that feels full. It is good to put ourselves into circumstances that require interaction – crisscrossing – with someone we’ll likely never see again.

And if you can’t travel far, travel close. Drive somewhere or use public transit to stretch beyond your usual boundaries and commute. A conversation with a stranger in a community that might not be your own is a great way to expand upon and challenge what you think you know to be true.

12. Try something scary once a month. Or week. Or day.

Trying something that feels flat out SCARY can prove how much we’re actually capable of. There are many examples of this on the mat when we take physical yoga asanas: leaning super far forward in an arm balance when it feels, surely, that your face will plant into and through the floor; going upside-down; balancing on one leg. And, often, when there is no yoga mat near, we’re still able to practice creating and keeping a settled mind – the mental way of being that a yoga practice helps to teach – when we’re doing things that feel scary, like traveling: getting on an airplane; driving on the other side of the road; hiking up a 14,000-foot mountain or down into a gorge or valley that’s beyond the scope of GoogleMaps. Rise above your mat. Step off the road. Trust.

13. Keep the exhilarating feelings of travel with you when you’re back into the ‘normal’ routine.

Yeah, this takes some practice. Since I returned from Ireland, it has been really hard to come back to…work. To responsibilities. Once you’ve reconciled with and accepted and enjoyed the things that felt scary, it’s tough to move into a week where everything feels…basic. Mundane. So then it becomes about a choice – choosing (or at least actively trying) to appreciate things that feel much less exciting. I find that my physical yoga practice really helps with this: we focus in on the tiny stuff like the sound of one breath, the feeling of the texture of the mat, on one bead of sweat moving down the face or arm. This focus on the tiniest aspects of a practice does not, in and of itself, translate into appreciation or utter joy; the choice, however, to actively to turn attention to the small things, the often easily overlooked, becomes a way to find the extraordinary in the ordinary.

Ursula and the IPY Teachers