I’m not Catholic, but I love Lent. (I love Mardi Gras more, of course.) I don’t take a strictly traditional sacrificial approach to Lent. Instead I use Lent as a time to give up an unsavory habit and add in a new one. We could call these Mardi Gras Resolutions? It began a few years ago when I gave up Facebook and started flossing. Unfortunately, I didn’t quit Facebook permanently, but I have managed to become a daily flosser in the years since that first Lent.
I had never been a flosser. I don’t remember if my parents made me floss when I was a kid, but I certainly never had a habit of it in my adult life. For several years prior to the flossing Lent, I had made it my New Year’s Resolution to floss daily, and had failed each year. But with my Lenten resolution, I didn’t have to commit to a lifelong love of dental hygiene. I only had to floss for 40 days. This smaller timeframe, along with the encouragement of my very clean-teethed housemates, created the conditions for success.
At first flossing was hard, like, I found it difficult to do. It was awkward to get the floss to go between my teeth, and it cut the circulation off in my fingers. And it was GROSS. Have you seen the kind of stuff that comes out of there? And it smells like swamp death. Plus it hurt and made my gums bleed relentlessly. I hated it. But I persisted.
My roommate would floss with me, aimlessly pacing in the bathroom as she effortlessly glided the minty thread between her gleaming teeth. I couldn’t understand how was it so easy for her. Her gums didn’t bleed. Her fingers didn’t turn purple. She didn’t even have to look in the mirror to figure out where to put the floss.
I was reminded of when I first started practicing yoga, and I would look around a class full of people whose hands lay flat on the floor in Standing Forward Fold, or heels touched the mat in Downward Dog, or who could find effortless balance in Tree Pose. I felt frustrated with how easy it seemed for them to do these poses that were, for me, challenging at best and annihilating at worst.
You can’t compare your beginning to someone else’s middle.
It’s a recipe for frustration, failure, and defeat. LEAPS+BOUNDS classes are designed to help you practice one pose (or set of poses) consistently enough to feel like you’re making progress. That way if you must compare, you can compare yourself now to yourself in the past, your own beginning to your own middle. Rather than feeling inadequate and defeated, you’ll be able to celebrate the diligence of your efforts and all your small victories along the way.
Anything worth pursuing, be that a yoga practice or a flossing habit, requires a consistent effort over time (remember Abhyasa?). And with that consistency comes an ease that seems unimaginable at the outset. I can balance in Tree Pose now, and my heels long ago found the floor in Down Dog. My gums stopped bleeding. I don’t have to look in the mirror to find the space between my teeth. I floss like a champ.
P.S. For Lent this year I’m giving up lying and making a commitment to meditate every single day. How about you?
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