Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Average, schmaverage

I love Lake Wobegon from A Prairie Home Companion... where everyone is above average. This idea beautifully describes the way we see the world both on and off the mat, doesn't it? A silently screaming mass of people attempting to be above, or in the case of weight, just below average. Does this seem silly to you? An arbitrary benchmark that you try like hell to stay close to?

It should.

There is one area where we settle for average and hope for normal: our health. If your cholesterol is above 200, or your blood pressure above 120/80, or waist above 30" your doctor will tell you to eat less fat, sugar, salt, cholesterol, etc. If you manage to squeak in below these magical numbers, your doctor may not tell you anything at all, because you are normal.

And you're fine with that?


If you are like me, you go in for your yearly physical and they tell you that your iron, weight, blood pressure, cholesterol, sugars and everything else are normal. You tell them that you are tired, you worry about things, you wonder when the rat race will end and you can just live life again. They tell you to take a multivitamin and keep doing what you're doing, and that this is the way that life is. You should feel fortunate for being normal. There should be some level of comfort in knowing that everyone else feels this way too.


So then we go home and feel tired, and cranky, and icky. We drink eight glasses of water a day, sleep eight hours at night, get 30 minutes of exercise three times a week, and go through the life motions grateful to be in the company of a culture who is also tired and cranky and icky.

What would happen if we started with yoga? If we started with ahimsa for real and didn't allow ourselves to wake when we were still tired, didn't force ourselves to drink water when we weren't thirsty (subsequently waking us in the night to use the facilities and lose a bit of sleep), didn't drag our bodies to the gym when we were exhausted or let ourselves off easily because we had finished the prescribed run for the week?

What if we tried to get as far away from average as possible? What if our goal was to feel above average? Ask yourself (no one else is watching): do I remember what it actually feels like to be well rested? Hungry? Full?

When we do violence to ourselves, we do violence to the world. If we offer help from a place of illness, work from a place of apathy, or extend compassion for others in a void of compassion for ourselves, we do nothing of service. Conversely, if we do anything from a place of rest and intention, we do it mindfully without room for error.