By Julia Jonson
“If peace comes from seeing the whole, then misery stems from a loss of perspective.” This reflection by Mark Nepo, author of the New York Times bestseller The Book of Awakening, is a pointed reminder that even when most things in life are going reasonably well, misery is a moment of suffering that is allowed to become everything.
This rousing observation reminds me of Richard Carlson’s 90-10 trap. Carlson, who wrote, Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff for Teens, encourages young readers to become aware of how easy it is to focus on the negative parts of life. In his book he writes, “the 90-10 trap stems from an observation I’ve made (that has been verified by hundreds of people) that most of us tend to focus our attention, thinking and conversations on the worst 10 percent of our lives. The 90 stands for 90 percent of what happens during our day, which is usually pretty good, and the 10 stands for the remaining 10 percent, which is usually problematic and filled with hassle.” Carlson says he calls this a trap because it’s our human tendency to focus on what’s wrong rather than to put what’s right in the spotlight.
For me, yoga has been a catalyst to help me to acknowledge, accept and process what’s not going right and to celebrate life’s little blessings (which are often really the big blessings). A friend once reminded me during an intense personal struggle, “don’t let anyone steal your peace.” That simple yet profound advice combined with my daily ritual of yoga helped me to navigate that tough situation and, of course, many others. So now, when I’m feeling low, frustrated, agitated or suffering in any way, I will pause, reflect and challenge myself to look wider than my woes to the bigger picture. Taking a yoga class or simply pausing to pay attention to my breath always helps!
The daily, off-mat practice then becomes: What defines my day? Is it that one thing that’s going wrong, or the little miracles of life that are there to be enjoyed if I just observe them?