Lately, I’ve been thinking about this quote by Leonard Koren:
Pare down to the essence, but don’t remove the poetry.
I love that quote, because I fancy myself a writer. And as a writer, my only job is to communicate my ideas in a way that makes readers say Hm… Whatever happens after that moment is none of my business. What is my business, however, is making sure we get to that moment together.
But a strange thing happens when we pressure ourselves to do our jobs well. We get emotional, and we get picky. Maybe it’s a positive thing, and we get amped up and excited. Too often it’s a negative thing, and we worry, doubt ourselves, and resent the work that needs to be done.
The only way to do meaningful work—no matter what your occupation—is to overcome the obstacles that stand in the way of execution.
Yoga confronts this process in real time.
As we flow, we run through checklists.
- Inhale, Mountain Pose.
- Circle your arms overhead.
- Let your pinkies rotate in toward one another.
- Root down through both feet.
- Engage your thighs.
- Roll your tailbone downward.
And so on…
Don’t get me wrong. I’m a Virgo, so I love checklists. And they are fundamentally necessary. We can’t progress through sequences—alone or in a group—without running through certain set-up cues that manipulate our bodies safely and effectively. We must be aware, though, that checklists come at a cost. Focusing on checklists revs up our frontal cortex, and we distance ourselves from flow. We deprive ourselves of essence.
So, how do we pare things done? We breathe. We use our lungs with the intention of calming our minds and bodies. As we breathe, checklists begin to fade away. Muscle memory takes over, and we are free to express our truest essence. We stop extending our arms from front to back, and we start painting the air with the brushes of our fingers. Tense faces soften, and sideways glances stop. We lose ourselves within ourselves.
We pare things down to the essence of movement, and we let our poetic nature shine.