|Posted on November 24, 2013 at 4:45 PM|
Around a year ago I moved to Boston to take a job as a research fellow at Harvard Medical School, where I study the effects of yoga on youth. My initial contract (and work visa) were for one year, so I told my family and friends that if, for whatever reason, the job didn't work out, I'd move back to Canada in 12 months. My contract is currently being renegotiated, and I have every reason to believe that it will get extended. Still, people keep asking me:
My typical response involves staring at them like a deer in headlights, not knowing exactly what to say. Then I start to babble on about how my contract is probably going to get extended. For some reason this isn't a satisfactory answer for many people. So they reply,
"Ok, but then what are you going to do? Are you going to try to get a faculty position at Harvard? Are you going to write a new book? Are you going to teach yoga? Are you going to keep living in Boston?"
"What if your contract doesn't get extended? What's your Plan B?"
At this point I usually get even more flustered. I talk about various options that I might pursue in either of these two cases - but my answers always leave me feeling uncomfortable.
So, I decided to sit with these questions for a little while to try to figure out why they generate so much discomfort for me, and I came up with a couple of reasons that I think are closely linked to our human obsession with time.
Being in the Moment
One of the main goals of the styles of yoga and meditation that I practice are to help bring my mind into the present moment. Like a form of mental exercise, I use yoga and meditation to train my mind to stop being so obsessed with the past and future, and to simply be in the now - regardless of whether right now is easy or difficult. So, when people ask me questions like "What's next" and "What's your Plan B," it takes me out of my present moment awareness. These questions remind me of how, as humans, we have a lot of trouble feeling satisfied. We're always wondering how to get better, faster, stronger - so much so that we often forget to notice all of the things that we have to be grateful for right now.
To be honest, part of me wants to scream,
"Isn't Harvard enough? Why do I already have to be thinking about what's next?"
Don't get me wrong - I do think that having plans and goals is important - but it's equally as important to be careful that we don't fall into the trap of being plan-obsessed (a trap that's had me in a headlock for most of my life). I've worked really hard to break myself out of this future-focused mentality - but when people ask me questions about what's next I snap right back into my old patterns.
Similarly, when people ask about my "Plan B," a large current of fear runs through my body. At first I barrage myself with scary thoughts like,
"Oh my god - I don't have a Plan B! If my contract doesn't get renewed I'm going to end up penniless and deported with no place to live. Why haven't I thought of a Plan B?"
But then, if I give myself the time to listen, the voice of my True Self starts to come through. It soothes my fear with thoughts like,
"Your next step will appear for you at the exact right time. Stop trying to control everything. Just keep doing your heart's work, and pay attention to the signs around you. You'll know exactly what to do when you need to do it."
My false self hates these types of wishy-washy thoughts. My false self wants to plan and control and have everything figured out. My false self is terrified. But my True Self knows the way. I just need to listen.
As an example, when I quit my corporate job over 3 years ago I didn't have a Plan B (or a business plan, or a golden parachute - or any type of parachute!). But my intuition was begging me to focus on what I loved. I knew I loved to write, so that's what I did. I wrote voraciously for 3 months and published my book. From there, doors started to open for me, and somehow, one way or another, I was always able to pay my bills and stay afloat. During this time I also started volunteering for the Harvard professor who is now my supervisor. If I'd let my fear over not having a Plan B keep me from quitting my job back then, I wouldn't be where I am now.
So, to everyone who is interested in my next steps, I'm sorry, but I don't have any answers for you. I know that your questions are coming from a place of love, interest, and curiosity about my life, so I'm sorry if my lack of answers is unsatisfying. I promise that you will find out the answers when I do - as they unfold in their own perfect timing. I've decided to live my life in a way that involves following my heart, which means that I don't always have everything figured out ahead of time. But then again, do any of us?