“Should” versus “Want”

For the past few months, I have found it challenging to create dharma talks for my classes. Ordinarily, I would pull sources of inspiration from my life – including things I read or random thoughts that would come up on a day-to-day basis. However, lately I have found myself struggling to create anything coherent, or what one would call “good enough” to share.

The things I was experiencing were in their very nature sad, dark, and depressing. That is, the complete opposite of uplifting, motivating, or encouraging. So in the midst of these feelings, I felt that I should keep my thoughts and feelings to myself. After all, an asana class should be light. It should be energizing. It should leave people feeling better about themselves – not worse. Right? 

This belief, in turn created a sense of anxiety and uncertainty when it came to showing up to do my job and sit in the seat of the teacher. There was part of me that just wished that I could say “Hello” and get them moving without anyone realizing I hadn’t actually said anything about the focus of the class until they were well out the door. 

As I have thought about this, I realized that a lot of the discomfort that I was experiencing regarding speaking my truth and holding the seat of the teacher, came from a fear of being seen. Specifically, I felt that as a yoga teacher, as a source of inspiration for others, I should have my stuff figured out and I should always show up in a particular way (i.e. light and easy in order to always be a source of light, support, love, and encouragement to others).

What I failed to realize is that in adhering to this belief, I was failing to show myself any love, compassion, or support. The borage of endless mental chatter that said, “I should be this way. I should feel like ____. I should do x, y, or z. I should not do x, y, or z.” left me feeling depleted and drained. I was “should-ing” all over myself –  everyday within the seat of the teacher and outside of that role.

This revelation allowed me to realize that I was not alone in this. I believe that we are all often telling ourselves that we should do this or that, we should feel this way instead of how we may feel, we should somehow be different than we are. And what I have begun to notice is that if we simply replace “should” with “want” a lot of stress begins to go away and we begin to feel lighter.

So instead of saying, “I should be a source of inspiration to my students” it feels more true to say “I want to be a source of inspiration for my students.”  Instead of believing that “My yoga classes should be up-lifting,” it feels more honest to say  “I want my yoga classes to be up-lifting.”

The question I have for you, the one I am asking of myself this week is: How are you “should-ing” all over yourself? What thoughts are you allowing to enter into your body, your heart, and your mind that are causing you pain? 

Perhaps you are telling yourself that you should have a specific of career, that you should have a certain level of income, that you should have this type of relationships , or that you should feel a particular way within your body,

Whatever it is for you, would you be willing to pause for a moment and experiment with replacing the word “should” with “want”? What do you notice in terms of your qualitative experience of that life around that thought? Do you notice if one word makes life a little bit easer and the other a little more painful? Does one word allow you to be more compassionate with your self-talk and feelings of self-worth more than the other?

Remember: You’re not alone in this. One less person “should-ing” all over themselves (and consequently on others) creates a whole lot less “shoulds” to clean up.