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Less Is the New More

Many moons ago, I was in a deep forward bend in a yoga class taught by my mentor, Lisa Jo Landsberg.

In addition to having an unusually flexible body (no more or less of a blessing than a stiff body is, in my opinion, though that’s a topic for another time), I also have the willingness to go very deep into poses and test the limits of my body.

Put another way, I also have historically lacked the discrimination to stop where it is appropriate to stop in the course of getting into a pose.

One might say, of course, that this is a subjective matter of opinion.

However, as someone who has been around the block of the art and science of yoga – which is really, to my understanding, the art and science of human potential – for a relatively short but perhaps not insignificant time, there is a delicate balance to how deeply we enter poses, and how quickly we do so, as well.

Like anything, it’s a play of opposites. And, in this case, that play involves a lot more than the flexibility of one’s muscles or ligaments. My argument is that the body is really just an expression of the psyche, thus the predisposition occurs in the psyche first, which then creates the physical form.

Anyhow, the point is, I was in this forward bend very deep. 

And I wanted to go deeper. When my teacher came around, I asked her for an extra block so that I could go deeper still. “Why do you want an extra bock?” she questioned. “I want a little more,” I said. Her response stuck with me:

“You have plenty of more, Katya. What you need is less.”

Less? Could it be possible to need less?

I realized in that moment and in the months that followed that I had always operated under the assumption that more was better, no matter what.

Of course this was clear in my historical binges on food, that was already obvious. What I began to observe was that it was evident in nearly every other area of my life as well.

My relationship to time, for instance, and how many activities I try to pack in a day (truly grandiose). Or my relationship with books (I finally surrendered to re-shelving the stack of books by my bed – 10 high). Even my relationship to discipline. In virtually every area, I had the idea that if something was good, more of it would be better.

It would be one thing if this was a strictly personal quirk, but then I started thinking about it: the mentality of “more is better” is just another way of saying “nothing is enough.” Over time, my obsession with more was proving itself to be a deep inner emptiness – an ever-present poverty mentality – and the way it was manifesting in my life looked strikingly similar to what is happening on a large scale on our home planet.

As I understand it now, the stance of always wanting more is just a mindset, and when we are in that mindset, there’s a quality of desperation to our grasping. We truly believe that we cannot be happy – cannot be ok – unless we have more.

But a mindset can be changed. And just like turning a light switch, we can flip into a vastly different way of seeing things.

Perhaps what we need is less.

When I began to practice less, and invite less into my life, miraculous things began to happen.

I began to enjoy every activity with a vividness I hadn’t experienced in many years.

I began to savor moments and people.

A childlike wonder had come back to me.

I realized that this feeling of contentment was exactly what I had been looking for in my endless search for more.

Ironically, it was only available when I stopped that search and appreciated generously, what was already in front of me.

So today, I am practicing less. Less activities packed in a day. Less spending. Less food. Less ambition about what I want to do, read, learn, and accomplish. Perhaps I can sit here and savor what’s already been done.

Do nothing, accomplish everything, it is said in Ayurveda, the science of life.

In the balance between more and less, we may find the jewel of enough.

Photo by Philipp Berndt on Unsplash

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