These days, I’m very live and let live, just do no harm. I’ve relaxed my perfectionist standards for myself and others and started being less critical and combative. After a few years, a yoga practice will do that to you. I noticed this difference when I was looking though some old tweets, from years ago, before I did yoga. I was meaner and funnier, sometimes at the expense of others. I’m still not a zen monk, but I’ve moved along the calmness continuum to a nicer place.
I noticed that when zero waste bloggers are profiled in mainstream publications, commenters are quick to point out how the person being profiled is not totally zero waste. In order to dismiss the philosophy they point out how the person isn’t vegan or how they’re privileged and must not work a full time job, or how they waste a lot of other resources. These are valid points. As I try to reduce our waste, I question how much of a difference I’m really making because it does require effort.
Trying to reduce waste is not automatic. Trying to reduce waste while trying to level up in my career, maintain a happy home, invest in personal relationships, make time for a regular yoga practice and still have time to cook 3 home cooked meals so I stick to a ketogenic diet and sleep 8 hours a night is hard. Oh and mother’s day is coming up and the car needs an oil change. Grrr…The thing is, I understand the frustration that comes with living in our modern society. We’re overworked, underpaid and expected to broadcast a vision of perfection on social media. Adding a new spinning plate to the mix seems insane and yet another thing that we will suck at.
Before we continue, I need to tell you the story about how I ended up doing yoga. I know I know, how cliche but I ended up doing yoga because I had to, not because I wanted to. Before I started practicing yoga, I did everything: weightlifting, running, swimming, biking, hiking, softball and I liked to win. I wasn’t always the best, but I was pretty good. Then one day I woke up and my lower back was jacked up and I couldn’t do anything. Just walking around for half an hour left me in severe pain for days. Being such an active person, I could feel my spirit wasting away while I sat out on the sidelines. After about a year and a half of this, I decided to give yoga a try because I thought it would be gentle. I signed up for the easiest class and quickly learned how much I sucked. I was the worst, by far. I couldn’t do a chaturanga. Hell, I couldn’t even hold a plank on my knees for more than 3 seconds without making my back angry. I was humbled on a regular basis. The most refreshing part was no one cared. No one pushed me to try harder. No one was telling me no pain no gain. It was the opposite. I was encouraged to take breaks and slow down. It was weird. It took me about nine months before I could manage one push up and let me tell you, I was thrilled to be able to do just one per class. I thought I wouldn’t never be able to do anything active again so I was so a grateful little pony with my one trick.
What I love most about my yoga teachers is that they stress how yoga is a practice. Some days will be better than others and no one ever really achieves it perfectly. I find that the lack of pressure to perform at a peak state all the time, means I show up and do more, more often and that results in a greater sum improvement over time. A week of half ass sessions produces a greater improvement than a couple of amazing sessions. The weak sustained effort over a long period of time also compounds over time.
I like to compare it to a state of nirvana. Do you know anyone who is totally enlightened and perfect all the time? I sure don’t. Enlightenment is like crazy hard. On a scale of 1-10 with 10 being a total state of zen, I’m maybe a 2, but that’s ok. I believe zero waste is also an unattainable ideal. We need to recognize it as such so we can allow ourselves to practice improving at our own pace on a regular basis without judgement from ourselves or others so we can make a greater improvement over time.
I’m sure all the zero wasters realize they’re not totally technically zero waste. No one needs to remind them. They are pursuing an ideal that no one can attain but they’re trying and showing us new possibilities. They are not identifying themselves as zero waste and perfect, or a mason jar away from perfect. Zero waste is the ideal goal, like world peace and just because the name doesn’t make total sense, doesn’t mean we should completely dismiss the idea and not try at all.
I’m here to tell you, that you will indeed suck at it and that is ok. Keep doing it. Slow down if it overwhelms you, but keep going. You don’t need to be a vegan by tomorrow and give up your car by next Friday. You don’t need to tell anyone you’re doing it and convince them do it too. You don’t need to have all the answers and a collection of 200 jars yesterday. You can still make fun of the zero-wasters and be a closeted composter. Do what you can right now and start taking steps today.
I’ve been doing yoga for almost three years now, and it is the longest routine I’ve ever comfortably sustained. I can also do a lot more than I ever thought possible. I can do over fifty charturangas in a single session and handstands. It’s nice when the new people in class look at me with wide eyes and tell me how good I am but I make sure I tell them the truth. I was awful, worse than them, and it took me longer than most and it will always take me longer because I need to go slower because I still have back pain. The goal was never handstands. The goal was to do as much as possible every chance I got because not everyone is lucky enough to get the opportunity.
This week my partner dragged the trash cans to the curb, but he came in to get me and made sure I looked inside.
“Look, there’s a lot less trash in there.”
“Good, we’re making progress.”