I have always been a Daddy’s girl. My father was and still is my ultimate hero. He’s passionate about his work, he lives an authentic life and is the most generous person I know.
But there is a piece of advice he often gave me as a child and as an adult that I wasn’t always so keen on.
This piece of advice has been both beneficial and harmful throughout my life. That is until recently when I bestowed upon it a new and more empowering meaning.
His advice was this;
“Robyn, just play the game”
And he wasn’t referring to monopoly…
He was refereeing to the game of life (also - not the board game). There are many times in life where we need to “play the game” in order to get by and survive. My dad repeatedly said this to me during high school when I complained about busy work disguised as meaningful homework or when I didn’t get the lead role in a musical production and instead was cast in the ensemble. In the context from which he was using this phrase, I came to understand this “playing the game” thing as jumping through the hoops so that I could eventually do or get what I truly desired.
As well meaning as his advice might have been, jumping through hoops is not very empowering and it had the tendency to leave a very sour taste in my mouth.
There were many times when this piece of advice made me think twice about speaking up or using my true voice even when my gut desperately wanted me to. There were also times when this piece of advice encouraged me to fake a smile even though I was drowning in self-doubt and anxiety. Up until a few years ago, I truly loathed this piece of advice. And then yoga entered my life and I developed a new and kinder interpretation for “playing the game”.
In the yoga sutra 1.12-1.16 it talks about abhyasa and vairagya, which means to practice diligently and without attachment.
To practice diligently = game
Not attached to the goal/outcome = playing
In yoga asana, as in life, in order to master something or move closer to a goal we must practice and work diligently. This is abhyasa. We might not always see the benefit of this work or fully understand it’s ultimate purpose in our life in the moment but that’s OK because that’s the game of life. We breathe through it and continue to practice. Remember the Karate Kid and all of the painting and sanding Daniel had to do for Mr. Miagi? Little did Daniel know he was actually learning the basics of a strong Karate practice. Consecutively, the manner in which we do our work or our practice is just as important. When we practice without attachment to the end result or the ultimate goal (i.e. winning, wealth, recognition) we find intrinsic value in the practice itself and we remain patient with ourselves. This is vairagya. This is playing and not taking our self or our end point so seriously.
Putting these 2 concepts together is not only the basic foundations of any authentic yoga practice, but it’s also the foundations of a life where stress and angst aren’t running the show.
So in the end, my Dad was right and was also a Yogi without even knowing it.
Happy father’s day to all you wonderful and amazing men out there. And thank you Dad for not only reminding me to play the game, but for empowering me to make my own rules.