The secret life of daydreams

The images through the subway window started to blur, like a movie on fast forward, as the train buzzed past the local stations early this morning. Bundled in a leather jacket and a new fuzzy hat, I stared at the same spot on the window that wasn’t the same at all; one second it was dark as night and the next it was a rush of the blue and white of the subway station tile. As the images ran past me they started to meld together, and I found my thoughts wandering outside of the train into the night ahead of me, into the weekend ahead of me, into the month ahead. My meditation practice, while it could use some work, has come a long way in the past few months, and I found myself daydreaming in the present, watching my thoughts like a movie, letting things roll in one side and other the other; nothing stuck and nothing stayed but it was a pleasant way to stay in the present moment during the long commute into work.

I have a terrible attention span on a good day, frequently losing my train of thought in the middle of a sentence and. There’s something about daydreams that keep me grounded in moments where my normally overactive attention would be in overload – the subway being a prime example, with its unique blend of people watching, colorful ads, and random announcements that could be anything from “we apologize for any inconvenience” during a delay (sidenote: DO YOU THOUGH!?), to “if you see something, say something.” Getting lost in a daydream is the best way to pass the time; sometimes you see strangers and you know they’re caught in such a moment, staring off at nothing like it’s the most interesting moment of their life. Daydreams are as unique and telling as real dreams: when you start to notice where your mind is wandering it gives a great perspective on so many pieces of where your life is at that moment.

Last night I taught a yoga class for the first time for C and her coworkers, and the experience was both exactly as I’d expected and like nothing I expected at all. It’s really interesting to be on the other side of the yoga class, observing people in space and trying to cue and change the class accordingly. Something one of my instructors told us during training is to read each class as you’re teaching it and modify what you need to, based on the crowd. In my case, I put a fun class together that I can’t wait to teach in full someday, but this group of people needed a different type of class than what I’d been daydreaming about since the day C became the first person to follow up on my offer for free classes. There was a beautiful moment of intuition that I remember clearly, as we were finishing up the first flow of the class, where I knew everything needed to change on the fly to finish out the hour. That kind of situation is where my constant daydreaming comes in such handy, I think. When you spend so much time with your head in the clouds you realize how silly it is to stay grounded into one idea, or one plan, or one class.

Daydreaming, like so many things, takes a particular set of skills, though. Because daydreaming can lead to a rabbit hole of ego; like sitting on your couch reliving the class you taught for the first time and hyper-focusing on every moment that went wrong, or so you perceive. It’s easy to fall into the trap of focusing on how terrible something went instead of realizing that things went perfectly just because they went; it’s easy to root into the future dreaming of nothing but the worst of every situation instead of enjoying the present moment. Daydreams can root you in the best and worst parts of yourself, because a wandering mind takes you out of right now, setting up a dangerous spiral where you live in the present and in the future, the constant reminders of time passing and our utter lack of control over every piece of that time.

Tomorrow I’m teaching another class, this time to my YTT tribe. It’ll be a different class and a completely different vibe, combining a mini-reunion with the elation of practicing together for the first time in nearly a month. It’s a class I’m so looking forward to teaching I almost can’t stand it, and yet after last night there are all these little pieces of it I need to practice and change. This morning on the train I was listening to the playlist I put together for the class itself, and found my thoughts rooted deeply in fear, now that I know what it’s like to teach a class for a full hour. I noticed them start to drift again between the past, where I have things to work on, and the future, where I’ll put those things in action; in fluctuating between the two I found myself back in the present moment. The moment today where I was standing on a subway train, having taught my first of two classes this week, that beautiful moment where maybe for just a second I felt like a real teacher. The moment where there will always be things I’ll want to improve, and the moment where I put those into action.

It’s funny to think that this internal turmoil took place on a crowded subway. I suppose that’s why and how this is the secret life of a daydream, after all.

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