Transactional v. Transformational Living

I heard a school teacher speak about her experience of being inspired to teach children. Her own teacher asked whether his class of soon to be teachers wanted to be ‘transactional’ as in: read the books, deliver a lesson, check homework. Transactional. Or, did they want to be transformational? Inspire students, spark curiosity, ignite imagination and creativity? I love that distinction. There is a huge difference between the two experiences. I remember having both of those types of teachers in my schooling career. Her point made me curious: what creates a transformational rather than a transactional experience?

In my yoga practice, I’ve seen these two sides play out so many times. Some practices are just the poses- transactional. Warrior one, warrior two, chaturanga, up dog, down dog. It can easily become going through the motions- especially when I’ve probably done thousands of downward facing dogs in my yoga life. What can shift my practice to becoming transformational is the quality of my attention- breath and drishti (gazing point). Those two things create a quieter space that allows for something else to happen. Some days nothing does- it’s just peace and quiet. Some days insights, emotions or inspiration opens up.

So- take it off the mat now. How do I bring more of that experience into my everyday life? My day is full of transaction based activities. Get kids up for school, do laundry, make breakfast, make lunch, do grocery shopping, pay bills, check email. Teaching yoga is an opportunity to step out of that, but if I’m not careful and intentional- even teaching can become transactional too.

Bottom line: the common thread is how much am I in my head vs. being present. Living in my head is an imaginary world where I make things up, have conversations with myself (so weird) and don’t notice what is happening in front of me. When I’m in that space- I’m not hearing what’s being said and I’m not paying attention to what I’m actually doing. Example: I arrive at a destination and have no memory of driving there. Or- in the shower, did I actually condition my hair or just wash it?

The only question left is, what kind of a life do I want to have? Inspiration and breakthroughs are amazing and energizing, but let’s face it- not an everyday occurrence. How about, what can I do to make even the more transactional elements of my life less mundane? I think the answer is presence and gratitude. This is kind of morbid but when a sudden tragedy occurs- like the airport shooting in Ft Lauderdale, I can’t help but think of those people who were killed. Five minutes earlier they might have been stressing about their rental car or absentmindedly scrolling through Facebook having no idea that these would be their last 5 minutes of life. I don’t mean that we should constantly be edgy and thinking that disaster will strike, but even in that mundane walk from the airport gate to baggage claim, just being fully present or noticing the feel of my child’s hand in mine brings quality and completeness to the moment. And in that moment of awareness, gratitude just happens and the transaction is transformed.