For a while now I’ve been using the word “advanced” to mean doing whatever feeds my body, mind, and spirit in the moment. Advanced for me means living naturally in acceptance of my true self rather than powering through life trying to fulfill some abstract ideal of what I should be doing.
In other words, if I’m tired, it’s “advanced” for me to nap. If my knee hurts, it’s “advanced” to not run. If I’m touring somewhere and I want to skip the museums in favor of people-watching all afternoon, it’s advanced to do that. If I want to eat a bowl of pineapple, you get the idea.
There’s also of course permission to be advanced by sticking with stuff that’s challenging but nourishing, financial stuff, creative stuff, keeping boundaries with situations or people that damage me stuff. It’s advanced to talk to myself in my preferred self-motivating voice, the adoring Auntie voice, the Coach Tommy voice, “You can do it, just a little, stick with it, and then a nice bath for you.” In my world it is not advanced to beat myself into accomplishments. Beating and meanness – not advanced. Kindness, acceptance, patience, love – advanced.
The inspiration for this new way of thinking about what was advanced for me, for me, came one day at my favorite yoga studio in town. It’s much less of a scene than the New York and LA studios I haunted for years before moving here, meaning there are people over the age of fifty and people wearing loose clothing, and people with dreadlocks, and people wearing make-up too, but they are the minority.
It also means there’s some humor about the whole thing, like who really cares about becoming a perfect pretzel? Which seems obvious and we know it, we know it but then you get in some rooms and all of a sudden you – I – am willing and even eager to tear my kneecap off if I could just get into full lotus. So I need a lot of reminding to be myself. Myself is someone who cannot do full lotus without injury despite being an otherwise healthy and worthy person.
So at my regular class we were all lolling around relaxing on our mats waiting to start when this high-energy spandex guy kind of boomed in, clutching his tightly rolled mat, looked around the wide open space filled with bodies and said, loudly, to no one in particular, “Is this the advanced class?”
And no one answered but someone may have giggled or coughed and then Lenny, the teacher and studio owner, looked up from fiddling with the stereo at the front of the room and said something like, “I don’t know. Is this the Advanced Class? Do we even have an Advanced Class?” And then more awkward looking around at each other and then Spandex left to go check the schedule in the lobby, which would not tell him much.
And then Lenny said, “Ok then well let’s all take a breath,” which is how we know class is starting. And then we moved our bodies around in some poses, all together, in this big pretty room, with wooden floors and warehouse ceiling and tall windows and surprising, sometimes silly, music. I don’t know whether or not Spandex came back, I’m thinking probably not. But I was there and it was advanced, for me. For a couple of hours I did what I could do, the way I did it, and felt good about it. And I did not injure myself.