Start where you are.

Duh.

Where else would you start?

But these four words, the simplicity of the command, are deceivingly difficult to follow. In today’s superficial world of shortcuts and instant gratification, no one wants to start where they are. Everyone wants to just be where they want to be. Like, NOW.  And because I’m no different, I’m constantly reminding myself of this phrase. Some times more than others depending on how out of sorts I’m feeling, but it’s a mantra that can be heard inside my head pretty frequently since it’s applicable to any situation, no matter how insignificant it seems.

Picture%2013It’s a famous quote by Arthur Ashe, an African-American tennis player whose three Grand Slam titles help to rank him among the best U.S. tennis players in the history of the sport. I’m no tennis fan and I’m not sure where or when I heard the quote, but it stuck.

And now that the kids are back in school, I’m hearing it all the time. It’s a helpful phrase to keep from getting overwhelmed whether you’re juggling three kids and their conflicting schedules, tackling a major home-improvement project or even just a mountain of laundry. It keeps things in perspective and makes everything more approachable.

I say it most often this time of year before I step on my yoga mat. Since my practice goes to the dogs each year for three months while the kids are on summer break, it’s always a challenge for me come September. I practice during the summer, but it’s sporadic–sometimes at home, sometimes in a studio–and with no real regularity. While summer is the time a lot of women are at their leanest and meanest, it’s the opposite for me. My face fills out a bit, my arms lose their definition, and I’m much more jiggly everywhere. But by the time January rolls around and everyone else is making their New Year’s weight loss resolutions, I’m at my best bikini-bod. Right in the thick of sweater season. It’s really sweet deal.

Anyway, it’s intimidating to get back at it. I think of how far I had come just a few months prior, not only my strength and flexibility at their peak but also my meditation and focus. Here’s a snippet of the new party trick I had accomplished a couple of months ago.

I know I’ll be welcomed back to my 8:30 class with open arms from the regulars, but it will be hard not to envy the progress they’ve made in the past three months. As I reach for my toes, my abs will cramp and my hamstrings will protest. My brain will think back to my practice in May or my focus may drift over to the Gumby gal next to me. As I begin to get discouraged at my lack of progress, I’ll once again hear, “Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can,” and my focus will return.

And if it doesn’t return, maybe my brain will bless me with some of the memories made during my three months “off,” and my envy and self-consciousness will be replaced with gratitude and peace.

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