My yoga teacher often asks ‘who would you do it for?’ [sic]. This is always hard for me. I close my eyes, and a stream of people comes to mind. My mother who is struggling to find her way after a divorce, my grandmother who is in and out of the hospital, any number of boyfriends past and present whom I hope are happy and cared for. Sometimes I think of the other people in the room, should I do it for one of them? Or maybe someone in a far off land who is less fortunate than I.
Sometimes I think, why not do it for just me? After all, isn’t yoga about being comfortable with what is, with just yourself?
Having someone to do it for is an important concept. It’s the whole ‘if a tree falls in the forest’ koan. Would we write if there was no one to read our writing? Would we work hard if there was no one to recognize a job well done? Would we compose a song if there was no one to sing it to? It runs counter to Buddhist philosophy, to do something for the outcome rather than the purity of the act itself, but it’s hard not to admit that having ‘someone to do it for’ really does make you do it better. While there’s no harsher critic than oneself, there’s often no bigger motivator than the persistent gaze of another.
I think the concept of just one person is also significant. One Real person. Sometimes I’ll institute a challenge with a friend and create a spreadsheet to motivate us to perform on an activity – running, reading, random acts of kindness. It’s customary for these spreadsheets to quickly fall by the wayside, because as mere friends, we are not consistently present with each other, holding each other accountable for what we do and don’t do. The stakes are just table stakes, and we can easily evade any consequence. Reading, ‘Oh you didn’t run today, it’s ok, you’ll run tomorrow,’ in column B4 is lower impact than hearing something face to face.
So I’m continuing this challenge for myself. Picking a person. Who will I do it for? Who will I give this pose to? Who will I write this song for? Who will challenge me to be a better version of myself and hold me accountable? Who will I be present for?
I’m still thinking about this. It’s true that you can get far on your own, that we ourselves are ‘enough’. However, that little extra push, that ‘someone to do it for’ can be the difference between good and amazing.