When the idea came to me to paint one wall in my private yoga studio gold, I had no clue how much I would learn from what seemed like a simple project.
Lesson Number One. Read ALL the instructions available before starting a new project!
Lesson Number two. Even if you, like me, tend to dive right in before reading directions, you were meant to take that dive to learn what you needed to, which may not have happened had you read the instructions first.
I, personally, love learning by mistakes. I do it all the time! I am a true bull in a china shop in starting any home project. I magically find confidence in my ability to figure things out or discover a better way of doing them, even when I have no relatable experience whatsoever.
So by skipping Lesson Number One, I embarked on my journey straight to Lesson Number Two - in patience and mindfulness.
I first painted every other wall a clean, bright white. It went on so well with just one coat, I thought, Heck, this paint is primer and base in one, I’ll just use this underneath the gold wall to keep it bright!
As I carry on in bright white delight, the glittery gold paint can is screaming its text to me, "To achieve the smoothest coat of harvest gold color, use a golden-brown base color to hide imperfections."
In reality, I volunteered to highlight every single flaw in the wall’s surface that I had never noticed before. As I attempted the first coat of thick glittery goop with a paint roller, I immediately exposed every awkward lump, bump, and messy fold within the old plaster wall, concluding a mess of sparkly streaks all over the wall, and an empty can of paint.
This might have been the perfect time to stop and read the full instructions on the can.
Nah, I’ll just buy another can of gold paint and a sponge. If I sponge it, it might create a beautiful texture and smooth out the streaks! And so the spiral of failure continues…
With a giant sponge and another pint of paint, I gave that wall an intimate sponge bath, finding encouragement in my close-up view as I worked around the wall. After, I stepped back in horror to realize I only transformed the mess of streaks to a mess of spots, shifting the degree of ugliness by angle of view.
Here's when I finally decided to read all the paint can's instructions. I am humbled by the specific base color suggestion I had previously ignored, and also the recommendation to sand down any rough surfaces.
Oh. Well. Now I'm 2 glittery goop cans deep into this lumpy wall; there's no going back now! Back to the hardware store to consume the last can of paint in their inventory.
This time, I downsized to small craft sponges, again, mystically confident that the smaller pores of these sponges will fill in the gaps from the larger. Another sponge bath later, I land myself somewhere between satisfaction and hopeless despair. This wall may literally become the price of gold at this rate.
Anxiety continuously rose within me, racing thoughts through my mind that I'm wasting my time, money, and the wall. Before each new layer, I'd procrastinate and pace around my house before beginning. But "Just keep going," said a voice inside my heart.
"Embrace this opportunity as a lesson to slow down and enjoy every spot of the sponge," my heart tells me. "The gold shining in the light is truly stunning; you're only missing it by constantly choosing the views that expose its flaws."
But this wall needs to be perfect! I think to myself. How can I invite clients into this room for a rejuvenating yoga practice if they must look at this horrific wall?
"You are your own worst critic. No one else can see your vision of what you expected this wall to be. But is your expectation realistic? Clearly not, since the wall does not look like you expected. Reading the directions may have led you on the expected path, but you may not have discovered the beauty of the wall exactly as it is, and its valuable lesson in mindfulness.”
But this is taking forever, I need to hurry up and get this done so I can start inviting clients!
"If this is the beginning of the rest of your life, what is your hurry? Do you plan to end it soon? If you finish the wall in a rush to open business, will you also teach yoga that way? Will you race each client in and back out the door? Let this golden wall teach you to slow down and handle each task mindfully. Embrace the opportunity to find joy and presence in each sponge to the wall.”
I am suddenly reminded of Thich Nhat Hanh's words on washing the dishes to wash the dishes. Am I washing the dishes just to get to my cup of tea afterwards? Am I painting this wall to paint the wall, or just to rush off to the next activity?
As Thich Nhat Hanh said, "If I am incapable of washing dishes joyfully, if I want to finish them quickly so I can go and have dessert and a cup of tea, I will be equally incapable of doing these things joyfully. With the cup in my hands, I will be thinking about what to do next, and the fragrance and the flavor of the tea, together with the pleasure of drinking it, will be lost. I will always be dragged into the future, never able to live in the present moment."
As I continued through the fifth coat of gold goop, my anxiety dissolved. By mindfully choosing to paint the wall to paint the wall, a new love grew for this golden masterpiece. Instead of just having a fancy gold wall to show off to clients, I now have a reminder of mindfulness to share with them also. And that's what yoga is all about.
Let's do yoga to do yoga. Not just to get a work out in, become more flexible, and move on to the next task on the to-do list. Let's come to our mats just to be on out mats. To embrace our amazing bodies, minds, and spirits, exactly as they are right now, and enjoy each moment of our practice with wonder and gratitude.