Photo by Monica Felix @

Quieting the monster inside your head

Photo by Monica Felix @

Photo by Monica Felix @

Parkinson’s law, which states that work expands to fill the time available for its completion, creates an interesting predicament for artists. Because most of us work alone. And so, if we have a problem, we have all of the time in the world to obsess over it. There simply aren’t enough structures and constraints to keep our minds occupied.

Whereas people working a more traditional career path, complete with bosses and employees and offices and performance reviews, can’t afford to spend their entire morning walking a hole in the carpet, mentally tormenting themselves about what a worthless piece of crap they are. There’s too much work to be done.

Which isn’t to say we should stay busy all the time, avoiding difficult emotions and the exhausting work of regulating them, hoping time will magically heal our pain. But if we don’t have enough things to bite into, our own chewing can’t drown out our mind’s chatter. If we have nowhere to be and all of the time to get there, the freedom works against us. And if we don’t have an arsenal of activities to quiet our mental monsters, we’ll become exhausted from fighting back all the worse case scenarios inside our head.

That’s one of the reasons yoga has been so transformative for me. Because I spend all day living inside my head. It’s in the job description. But when I walk into the yoga studio for those critical ninety minutes, all I can do is focus on my breathing and pay exquisite attention to my body. It’s too hot and too crowded and too intense to drift off to exile inside our head.

And by the time class is over, every problem I walked into the room with has been washed away like a face drawn in the sand.

Next time the familiar clouds start to gather above your head, give that energy something else to do. Give it a project on your mat.

What will you do when you get tired of beating your head against a brick wall?

Scott Ginsberg is a writer, daily practitioner and work study volunteer at Bikram Yoga Park Slope.