Finding heart center

I’ve been doing yoga on off for the last 15 years and have usually only gone because I like the stretching exercises and detoxifying effects of sitting in a hot room. I mean, come on, who hasn’t on occasion enjoyed looking at their complexion in the mirror after hot yoga? 😜 But I never stuck to it because it was such a time consuming activity where instructors typically encourage you to “take more time,” AFTER already being in the class for 60 mins. And don’t get me started on Bikram yoga, that’s 90 minutes in class! ARRGGHH! How do people have all this time?

Having spent the past several years as a lawyer in private practice, I’ve developed a habit of measuring everything I do in 6-minute increments. During the work day, every tenth of an hour needs to be spent doing something productive for someone else in order to be able to bill for it. Because of this, I’ve trained myself into thinking that any time I spend on myself, which I can’t bill anyone for, as “wasted” time. For years, I’ve searched for activities that would allow me to get physical exercise while minimizing the amount of time I spent “wasting” it on myself. Of all the wellness/recreational activities, yoga is a luxury I could never afford because it takes up so much time. In fact, after I took this picture, I measured that the entire time I’ve committed to yoga on this particular day, including commuting time, is 3 hours.

A few years ago, I would’ve thought this was a ridiculous way to spend a Saturday when I could be working on drafting a contract or making dinner or a billion other things for other people. But as I moved through life this way, I started to lose focus on what I was doing and everything that went on during each day became just a blurred mess at the end of the week. It got so bad that I finally had to stop and ask myself: Why can’t I bill myself for the time I need in order to get centered and focused? I mean, it was either that or I could have a therapist bill me for his/her time. Before I came to this realization, no one had ever told me I had to think of time spent on myself as wasted time, I’ve just conditioned myself into thinking this for no apparent reason. So, I decided to save myself therapist time and re-train myself out of this ridiculous perception.

After I gained awareness on my own thoughts on the matter, I started to notice that my friends also had similar beliefs about spending time on themselves. Recently, I caught up with a friend who is a highly successful career woman raising two daughters. Her and her husband have just started the process of divorce and she was in town for the week on business. Over dinner, I asked her if she wanted to go to yoga, day spa or whatever calming activity she might be interested in while she was in town but she politely declined and told me that she just “didn’t have time.” I took her response to mean that she didn’t have time to spend on herself because she had spent the night before on a date with the new guy she’s seeing and we had already spent three hours dissecting his behaviors when I asked her.  While I certainly enjoyed the girl talk, I wanted to suggest an activity that would afford her the time to spend on herself rather than focusing on the new guy but it was simply not something she was ready to do.

Based on a lot of girl talks I’ve had with female friends and colleagues over the years, it seems that a lot of us tend to value spending time on others more than on ourselves. And this is not because anyone has told us this but we have somehow conditioned ourselves into thinking this way. Eventually, this mindset takes a toll and we can either let it subsume us or we can retrain ourselves into deeming ourselves worthy of spending time on, whether it be doing yoga, going to the spa or whatever else that allows us to find heart center.

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