My sister and her family, including her 10-month old son, are currently visiting me in Portugal. It has been a lot of fun to spend quality time together, and show them my new chosen home. My nephew is a lot of fun to play with at this age, and I find everything about him cute. When he smiles, cries, laughs, burps and farts, it is all cute to me right now.
This morning while on a walk with my sister by the ocean, she innocently asked me how I feel about sharing my space, and sharing my life in this moment, with all of them.
It was her subtle way of acknowledging that living together can be a lot.
Living with a baby is a lot, as it is also a new experience for me, one that has involved a lot of adjustment of the routines and lifestyle that I am used to. Living with my nephew’s mom can also be a lot, even though it is not as new of an experience for me, I am reminded that she too can be a handful.
Despite it all practically being a lot, it has not felt like a lot to me. And I believe it is because I know that it is temporary.
When I know that something is temporary, my tolerance for it appears to increase.
When my tolerance for something feels unbearable, it is likely a sign that I think it is more permanent than it actually is.
For example, our collective tolerance for COVID precautions 18 months ago was quite amazing, and unimaginable. There is no way that we could have architected the changes that society implemented, however we did it.
Now later into the pandemic, when we were asked to continue similar precautions, our tolerance started to decrease, as we started to think that these might be more permanent than what we had originally believed. The same people, the same circumstance, the same threat, the same precautions, however our response was different. We no longer believed the situation to be temporary, and struggled to tolerate it.
Another example that comes to mind is from my yoga teacher training, which I had done a few years ago in New York. In the training, I noticed how much the instructors emphasized the use of yoga blocks in so many poses. The benefits are countless, including much better support, a chance to work on the muscles the pose was designed for, and of course, reduce the risk of injury.
However, until I had done my teacher training, I had developed the belief that yoga blocks were like training wheels on a bicycle, only used by beginners, and that a sign that I was progressing in my practice was that I did not need to rely on them. It of course surprised me to learn that the most advanced yogis use blocks more, not less, than I was.
When I asked my instructor how to navigate this common misperception that most students would have, she shared with me that the three most powerful words to use as a teacher, a leader, a parent or even as a friend are ‘just for today’.
As a teacher, ‘just for today, I’d like everyone to use blocks for this next pose...’.
As a leader, ‘just for today, let’s start our meeting by sharing…’.
As a parent, ‘just for today, I’d like you to put your phone away for...’.
As a friend, ‘just for today, can you…’.
I got it immediately and continue to be amazed at how effective it is. It works because when I think something is temporary, the stakes feel lower, I feel like I am not being asked to commit to something indefinitely, and I am now more open and tolerant to give something a try.
For example, when I am at a restaurant, I am more open to trying new dishes and cuisines, whereas at home, I cook the same old dishes that I already know.
The more I believe that something is permanent, the more I am fearful of it. The less I believe that something is permanent, the less fearful and more tolerant I am of it.
I can breathe a sigh of relief, as I know that nothing is permanent in life. Everything changes. Absolutely everything changes. Either the thing, situation or person will change, or how I feel about the thing, situation or person, will change.
If I have a desire to live life with less friction and more ease, tolerance is a key ingredient. If I have a desire to increase my tolerance for the thing, situation or person in front of me, I have to remember that it is temporary.
With this understanding, I can tolerate a lot more than I realize, including a baby waking up and crying in the middle of the night four times, which was my experience last night. It is just for today.