ocean“The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.”
~ William Arthur Ward

This quote has been on my mind for several weeks now. This is due in part to managing my fall teaching schedule, preparing for my daughter’s upcoming wedding and even adapting to the changing weather of the fall season.

What I read into this quote is very much about the virtues of acceptance and non-attachment. These concepts that are frequently discussed in the context of yoga practices, largely because they are important to our overall well being.

This quote speaks of three ways we can be in the world. I experience all three conditions in varying amounts at various times. When I am able to be realistic about a situation or my attitude towards it, I experience much more contentment than if I pessimistically complain or optimistically expect things to be different than they are.

When I can change my point of view to realism, it feels like the waves of emotion attached to my perspective become calm. By not attaching to a desired outcome, I’m able to make room for contentment.

I’ve been part of many conversations about what it means to experience non-attachment. A common thread of these discussions has been about equating non-attachment with apathy. To me, they are not the same. Non-attachment is about letting go of my desire for a particular outcome and accepting the reality of a situation. Adjusting the sails, as the quote implies, is about setting a course that is more appropriate for me. This requires effort not apathy. And, it sometimes it even requires an uttanita.

The Sanskrit word “uttanita” means to look at something in a new way and to stretch or open your perspective. So, what uttanita is involved in adjusting our sails in yoga? That depends on us and our circumstances and how we adapt when circumstances change.

Sometimes the biggest effort of a yoga pracitice is getting to the mat or meditation seat in the first place. It may require us to be realistic about our schedules and to make the necessary changes to maintain a schedule we can manage effectively. If we try to do too much, we may get discouraged and give up altogether. If we don’t practice when we have the time, we may lose momentum and won’t gain the benefits of a healthy body, mind and heart.

Once we are on the yoga mat, our uttanita may be about remembering that our practice meets us wherever we are. Each time we practice our experience is different. We may show up tired, stressed, playful or focused. Yoga asks us to be present with and honor who are are in the moment. By being present, we can adjust our sails with ease. We will know intuitively when to challenge ourselves in a pose and when to spend some extra time in meditation. We will be OK with things as they are.

In short, by adjusting our sails, we get real with ourselves. This realism can provide us with calmness and centeredness we need to find contentment. The effort of adjusting our sails is worth this reward.

Happy Practicing,