Last week I headed up to Portland to participate in The Great Namaste as part of attending a conference called the World Domination Summit. The idea was to get a large group of people to do a series of yoga poses in a wave (like at a sports event, but with hippies). They said the yoga level was super easy (perfect for me – my kind of yoga almost always has the word “gentle” in the class title) and that people of all ages and fitness levels were welcome. Hey, I am kind-of-moderately fit, I can even touch my toes – so, this should be a piece of cake!
Well, not so much. The poses were simple. The people were excited, cooperative and kind. We got free coconut water and free kombucha (seriously, try Clearly Kombucha, it was delicious) . We got a free yoga mat. But the sun beat down on us like it was smacking you in the face with a hot dishrag. More than eight hundred of the kindest, most compassionate people showed up. But 800 kind people still smell like 800 sweaty humans when they are cooking on a brick courtyard in Downtown Portland. I was really glad that everyone seemed to be on board with deodorant that day because, you know, hippies – not always the freshest bunch.
As I lay on my steaming yoga mat, full of free kombucha – I had to pee, I had my sweatshirt over my face to keep from burning and I really, really, wanted to get up and go get a cold beer.
But I didn’t. I couldn’t let 799 people down. We were in this together. We can do hard things. I can make myself stay on that mat. I was actually really surprised that I stuck with it through the 3 and half-ish hours that it took to teach and perform an 800+ person yoga wave of 5 different poses. But I did.
Doing hard things is easier when you are in community. Feeling responsibility to the larger community that you are a part of brings out your inner bad ass, the tough, little nut inside you that won’t give up. Being a part of a big project wakes you up to what is possible when people come together to accomplish big tasks.
I know that breaking a yoga-based world record is not the same as curing cancer, ending world hunger or saving our planet from global warming. But lying on the hot, pavement in Pioneer Square with my knees hugged to my chest will always remind me that I can do big things, difficult things, things that require the cooperation and kindness of a large group of people. Being a small part in a big thing matters. In fact, curing cancer, ending world hunger and saving our planet from global warming will all happen only with many people doing their small part to make a big change.
I hope you know that you, too, can do hard things. You can be a small (or a big) part of making change for the good. You don’t have to go sweat it out on a yoga mat in Portland (although, I highly recommend it) to learn this lesson. We can each take small action, within a large group, to accomplish amazing things. We are so much more powerful than we know.
In my community we have a long-term homeless shelter that, due to the break-up of the supporting non-profit group, suddenly needed to figure out how to come up with $10,000 per month in new funding to stay open. That number seemed really overwhelming to me, where would we find a donor who could commit to $10,000 per month? I was certain the doors would close, until the pastor heading up the fund raising effort turned to me and said, “that’s just 1000 people giving $15, think how many people can easily give $15?”. And he was right, finding one person or foundation to give $10,000 per month is hard – a needle in a haystack. Finding people who can give $15? Suddenly, the number of possible donors was hugely expanded.
We can do hard things. When you are faced with a daunting task or a challenge that feels impossible, break it down in to small parts. Taking small, consistent action can help you chip away at a big task, even when you are doing it alone. Take one step, keep putting one foot in front of the other. Breathe. Take another step. You will be surprised at how much you can do by just taking one small step at a time.
We do them better together. Ask for help or join a group working on the same problem. Having a tribe of like-minded individuals expands our capacity for accomplishing difficult tasks. When everyone is clear on what needs to be done and what is expected of them, big challenges can become easily overcome.
Celebrate your accomplishment when you are done. I don’t need to say more about this, you know the value of a good celebration. Yes, I had that cold beer as soon as I finished my part in the world record. Cheers.