Have a great idea? Or an important project that you should be working upon? Yet, you find yourself planning a month long vacation, taking care of your friend’s problems, drinking a cup of tea or just cleaning the cupboard. In essence, doing anything except what you should be doing? Don’t worry, you are not alone!
So said Kabir…
Amongst my favourite poets is Kabir, though to call him just a poet does not do him justice. As a child, I used to love reciting his verses. One of my favourite verses was:
काल करे सो आज कर, आज करे सो अब ।
पल में प्रलय होएगी, बहुरि करेगा कब ॥
Kaal kare so aaj kar, aaj kare so ab,
Pal mein pralaya hoyegii, bahuri karegaa kab?
Loosely translated, it means don’t put off things until tomorrow because you never know what might happen tomorrow. Simple, right? And quite logical too?
Yet time and again, I would find myself putting off my homework. Putting off studying for an important exam. The results, of course, would be terrible. I would make great vows and tell myself that from next day onwards, I will put into practice Kabir’s words. I’d succeed for a couple of days. And then old habits would return.
And then would start the whole process of questioning my willpower, my ability to understand even the simplest things in life, my laziness…
It wasn’t until that I started on the path of Yoga that I realized the truth.
The main reason for procrastination
The path of Yoga made me understand just how dependent I was upon the vagaries of my mind and my emotions. And it is during that time I realized why I kept putting off things for tomorrow.
It had nothing to do with lack of will, lack of energy or laziness. And everything to do with my inability to manage negative emotions like fear and anger. I didn’t want to face those emotions. I was scared of letting those emotions take hold of me. So, instead of doing what I should be doing, what would bring me long-term benefits, I would instead do things that would bring me a short-term release from those negative emotions.
The only problem was that it was a vicious cycle. While going out to play with friends instead of studying would certainly provide a release, those negative emotions kept getting stronger and stronger. And it made it even harder for me to concentrate on my studies and things I really wanted to do.
How I broke free of the vicious cycle of procrastination?
Yoga! The real Yoga!
Right, that’s the one-word answer. But let’s go a tad more in-depth.
Personally, it wasn’t the asana practice that really helped me. See, I loved doing asanas in any case. They were a release, much like chatting with or playing with my mates.
What truly helped was the philosophical discussions and meditative practices that were an integral part of my Yoga training. It was through those discussions that I realized that I didn’t want to live under the control of my mind and its million emotions.
Initially, I tried to control those emotions. That didn’t really work. Sure, it would work for a few days, but then the frustrations would mount.
But slowly, I stopped being afraid of those emotions. It was alright to have those emotions. It was okay to feel scared and it was quite alright to feel like… well… shit. Those negative emotions didn’t matter. They were a part of life. But neither was I going to let them control me.
I didn’t make an attempt to fight them head on. I simply concentrated upon “what I had to do”. I had my daily practice:
- Asana and Pranayama.
- Mantra japa.
- Dharana and Dhyana
- Contemplation upon a verse from the scriptures.
And of course, my studies at school as well as the chores I was supposed to do. I just did them.
Initially, it was hard. At times, I was really inefficient. There were days (actually entire months) where it felt as if it wasn’t working at all! But the daily routine helped a lot. What also helped was the mantra I was chanting (Om Namah Shivaye) and the meditative practice. During that time, we were just learning the basics of meditation (which lasted a good five years) and our first task was learning to observe without analysing, without interaction with what was happening.
But what truly saw me through the initial frustrations (which lasted for years!) was the study of philosophy and the ability to discuss that philosophy.
How can you do it?
I want to say “do what I did”. But it isn’t that simple, is it? What works for one person doesn’t work for another. Because we all start the path of Yoga at a different place, and so the practice must adapt to our needs of that moment.
But what is certain is that it is only when we stop being afraid of our emotions, when we stop trying to control them, when we accept them without letting them control us, that we can truly break free of their hold upon us.
What helped me is what we teach at Yoga Laboratorium. And it is the main reason why we started our philosophy group on Facebook, so that those discussions can help you much as they helped me.
Nonetheless, what helps you break free of the hold the negative emotions have upon us – only you can decide! The path I followed would have never worked if someone else had forced it upon me. The reason it worked, the reason why I persevered was because it was my idea.
Don’t hesitate to leave your comments and tell us what worked for you and the difficulties you face in your attempts to stop procrastinating.