As much as we creative entrepreneurs live, love and work by the passions that drive us, the passions that ground us are just as important. Yoga is one of those.
In the Instagram post above, yoga instructor Lindsey Simpson talks about artistry and storytelling through yoga. She got it right when she posted: “I went to film school to become a storyteller and express myself though art. Practicing yoga gives me a medium to express myself with my whole body and mind while teaching allows me to share my stories and inspire others.”
As well as being an avenue of self-discovery, my lifelong yoga practice has helped me as a creative entrepreneur. I didn’t realize it until I started noticing how people around me dealt with changes in business and life. They were easily rocked off center, or became obsessed about small things, issues that shouldn’t have been big deals. At issue was the lack of a core foundation. I’ve come to believe now that the principles I learned 20 years ago and have been practicing every day since, gave me a foundation as solid as any business course.
Being a creative entrepreneur takes a lot of focus, passion and self-motivation. It means being able to move with fluidity through changes, embrace discomfort, stay focused and flexible.
There is a lot to glean from yoga … and truly, I could go on and on … but I’ve honed it down to three key tenets that can help creative entrepreneurs right now, without ever having to hit the mat.
1. Approach everything with the beginner’s mind
“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s mind there are few.” — Shunyru Suzuki
Yoga is called a “practice” for a reason. There are no higher levels to achieve. There is simply the mat, and you, every day. And every time, one or all of it will be different. Every time I get on the mat, I adjust something, mostly my ego!
Approaching every day with a beginner’s mind takes the ego out of the equation. This Zen principle has even made its way into design think tanks. Stanford University professor Bob Sutton noted that the “beginner’s mind” approach plays an important role at Stanford’s d.school conferences at which they bring together masters and neophytes. “At places where intense innovation happens, they often combine people who know too little and people who know too much,” Sutton said. The goal is to foster tension “between massive expertise and the ability to see with fresh eyes.”
2. Just Breathe
Futurist Jason Silva calls himself an epiphany addict. I love that! But as far as epiphanies go, this one is low-hanging fruit — living in the present is the key to happiness. And the best way to stay present? Breathe. There are times when this isn’t so easy. The fight-or-flight response that happens when something goes wrong, or fear is involved, is one of those times in which we choke and forget to breathe at the very moment when breathing could really help. Many studies have shown that by breathing, and specifically in yoga, matching one breath to one movement activates the relaxation response, reducing stress on the body and mind.
There are many times during the day when we forget to breathe. Meetings, deadlines, traffic, all contribute to this. By simply taking a deep breath, we give ourselves the space to think, refresh and refocus, which brings me to No. 3.
Our energy flows where our attention goes. The physical part of yoga hones our ability to focus on one thing at a time. The present is all that matters as we do a pose. This is not so easy to translate into our creative lives. So, every morning I clear the clutter in my mind to focus on my “poses” for the day if you will.
Truth … I actually have two planners – one for my road map of the year (I use the Passion Planner that I learned about from Lara McCulloch) and another for day-to-day appointments. But I start by first getting out my trusty Sharpie and colored index cards (there is a lot to be said for small rituals likes this). After quieting my mind with a short period of meditation, I make a list of the three things I will accomplish that day. Those make their way into my day planner and I block out time for each in the day. Plain and simple – they get done! By writing them down, by assigning importance through a ritual, I can achieve laser focus to prioritize and act.
Living and working in a creative business means there is less structure. And that’s OK! It may be easier for a day to get away from us, for little things to potentially knock us to the floor. But what I’ve learned through yoga is that with a stable foundation the recovery time is so much less. And I also like to think that I now hit the floor with a little more grace! Or, maybe it’s now that, when I am there, I simply roll out my mat and do a little yoga. Staying in the present and taking advantage of whatever is there just may be the key to happiness, in life and business. As Einstein said, I never think about the future; it comes soon enough.
Yoga is just one pathway to mindful working. What are some of the ways that work for you?
Photos by Mikayla Mitchell