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Resist jumping to conclusions in conversation, yoga

October 10, 2017 Updated: October 10, 2017 at 4:15 am
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Jennifer Mulson staff mug Thursday, June 12, 2014. Michael Ciaglo, The Gazette

I've been working on this habit for years.

I'll call it "filling in your blanks," and it involves me and my ego thinking we know everything, including how you intend to finish your every thought. There was a time when, if you took a little longer to finish your sentence during a conversation than I deemed appropriate, I would finish it for you. I'm not sure if this aggravated my conversational partners (nobody said anything or appeared outwardly upset), but I decided it was a habit I didn't like and was going to eradicate.

This impulse to fill in the blanks didn't come from malicious intent. Sometimes I simply wanted to move the conversation along, and at other times it was to show people I was right there with them, on the same page. "I hear you, my friend! I hear you so much that I know exactly what you're feeling and thinking."

Alas, here's what I noticed after years of doing this: Whenever I filled in the gaps during a conversation, it was invariably inaccurate. The other person would almost always say something like, "Well, not exactly. It's more like this..."

Working to eliminate this habit is a work in progress, though I'd like to think I'm getting better at allowing the silence to stretch as widely as it needs to for my friend to find the precise words.

Sometimes, as I wait, I play a game with myself. I predict what they might say and am once again humbled when I realize I'm wrong yet again.

I've linked this practice of patience and ego resistance to yoga practice. I often see students rush to "fill in my blanks" as I teach class. Before I even have the chance to say, "Inhale and extend your right leg high behind you," they're off to the races. Legs are flying, poses are being sought and I'm still taking a drink of water and adjusting the temperature.

I say hold your horses, little yogis. Slow down. Practice listening, resist anticipating. It often feels as if students are about three postures ahead of me and in a race to savasana and the end of class, where they can roll up their mat, hightail it out of there and check off yoga practice on their long list of to-dos. I encourage you to take your practice one pose at a time. Stay present by listening carefully and inhabiting each pose fully.

Do this off the mat, too. Resist the urge to rush or anticipate and notice what happens.

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