DAY NINETEEN: Your Future Self

Author: thedancingj /

I think it's safe to say that we all frequently do the things that we don't really feel like doing.  We go into work, wash the dishes, eat our greens, and play nicely with others, instead of spending the day at the beach, leaving the chores for later, chowing down on chocolate cake, and telling that jerk in the next office what we really think of him.

This is called Self-Control, which is also one of the five elements of the mind that we strengthen by practicing yoga.  Self-Control means that we know the difference between Want and Need.  Self-Control means that we don't give into our every whim.  There's also a very positive way to phrase it: Self-Control means doing the things that will most benefit our future selves.

Here's a passage from Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert (which is a fun and brilliant book about the uniquely human ability to imagine the future and our capacity - or lack thereof - to predict how well we will like it when we get there).

"We treat our future selves as though they were our children, spending most of the hours of most of our days constructing tomorrows that we hope will make them happy.  Rather than indulging in whatever strikes our momentary fancy, we take responsibility for the welfare of our future selves, squirreling away portions of our paychecks each month so THEY can enjoy their retirements on a putting green, jogging and flossing with some regularity so THEY can avoid coronaries and gum grafts, enduring dirty diapers and mind-numbing repetitions of The Cat in the Hat so that someday THEY will have fat-cheeked grandchildren to bounce on their laps."

(Yeah, it's an awesome book!)

So Self-Control isn't about self-deprivation; it's about learning to choose the things that will give our future selves the most pleasure.

And you can see where I'm going with this, can't you?  This is why we got to yoga even on the days when we'd rather go out for a beer or stay at home watching TV or just take a nap.  This is why we slog through the early morning classes and the second sets of locust posture.  Because we know that we'll thank ourselves in the future.  We have it on pretty good authority, because when we talk to the people who have been doing this stuff for years and years, they say "oh yeah, it's worth it."  And when we look into the catalogue of our own experiences, we see that yes, we do usually feel much better after we've spent 90 minutes in the hot room, even if the 90 minutes themselves were not the most enjoyable minutes of your life.  We know that we're investing in our futures, and the investment is a solid one.

Bikram always likes to ask, "Would you rather suffer for 90 minutes or 90 years?"  And when a few souls in the class are alert enough to call out, "90 minutes," he says, "Ahaaa!  You're getting smarter.... That is called introduction to Self-Realization..."  And he smiles.


aHappyYogi said...

This post talkes so to me, sitting here in the office after lunch and rough meetings that will continue during the day.
I wanted some comfort-food but took some tangerines instead of going down to the store for candy.

bikramyogachick said...

J~ Your post was soooo worth the wait! Thank you, very well put!

Yolk E said...

Brilliant! I love a good book reference! Gilbert's is so going on my Amazon wishlist.

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