As ours is a world (and a city) chock-full of information, and distractions, and informational (or information-less) distractions, it can be useful to distract ourselves towards what’s most important. Sounds like a bit of a paradox, but I stand by it. One method I have is a lovely little app on the smartphone (again, a paradox: the smartphone, locus of mindlessness). The app is named “Buddha” or “Buddha Thoughts” or something similarly simple and enjoyable. It provides daily mindfulness quotes, set against a tranquil backdrop of birds and reedy plants. Once a day, I look down to see the icon of Buddha with a notification. Unlike my email, the notification number mercifully never rises above 1. The thoughts are usually not listed as having a particular author, probably because they belong to a fount of wisdom arising from many traditions. Generally, I feel calmed even before reading it.

Today’s thought was, “We only lose what we cling to.” Ahh, non-attachment. There are many times in life, maybe even most, when this yama seems a tall order. Our lives are, to an extent, formed around attachments. Who we are, what we do, who we love: all the things that define us can also confine us, in a gripping love for the things that we consider an essential part of an identity. We cling to romantic relationships, pet ownerships, personality quirks, even food preferences. I am scandalized by a caramelized onion anywhere near my plate, and dismayed if expected to eat rice without soy sauce.

My recent major non-attachment challenge has been, of course, opening a yoga business. Attachment and focus are required for successful business launching, even if the business’s intended business is to help promote non-attachment in its clients (getting into yet another paradox, indeed). Once you see students walking through the door, you are lovingly attached to them immediately. And, of course, you want the business to succeed, all the more so when you know that the service it provides is uncomplicatedly good. (Parker and I repeated this over and over to each other as we got closer to the opening week: “Opening a yoga studio doesn’t hurt anyone. All it could do is some good.”)

Despite all my yogic intentions, the first two weeks we were open, I exuded attachment to Shaw Yoga. I checked email every ten minutes, dreamt about blocks, blankets, bolsters, and missing music speaker cords. I mused on success and failure. I obsessed over what made us distinctive, whether we were distinctive enough, and generally kept a worrying, whistling teakettle on the back burner each minute that I wasn’t doing something specifically for the studio. The poor little Buddha app didn’t stand a chance of yanking me back to the right perspective.

Three months later, I’m not sure exactly when things changed, but they have. I still want the studio to do well. It is doing well. We remain dazzled by the independence and diversity of our teachers: we’ve loved seeing cosmic Aqeel join the teaching line-up, we’re delighted by the addition of a Sunday morning prenatal class with the effervescent Jeanette, and a midday Monday class taught by the radiant Gina. We relish the friendly camaraderie with neighbor businesses like Lost & Found, Wagtime, Longview Gallery, Reformation Fitness, La Colombe, Xtend Barre DC, Pekoe Acupuncture, Calabash Teas, Dacha Beer Garden, Jrink Juicery, and others. Most of all, we love meeting new students every day. We love being part of a neighborhood, and have learned what it means to be a neighborhood business. It means you are offered a microcosmic slice of the world-- for us, the neighborhood of Shaw. In it you see an example of the variety, struggle, inventiveness, industry, and loveliness of humankind. It’s an utter gift to be wedged here in the midst of our bustling 1240 9th Street building, in the midst of this bustling city, upon this bustling planet.

I still want the business to do well. But now, more specifically, I know that I am focused on a desire for Shaw Yoga to do well by spurring positive change in the lives of our neighborhood folk, and I believe we’re off to a good start.

  • Elizabeth