The Trap of Wanting to "Get Back"

by Michelle Berger


Working in client services, one of the most frequent comments I hear new and returning members say is, "I want to get back… back to pre-pregnancy, back to when I competed Ironman, back to before the accident, back to when I weighed ##, back to my youth. The list goes on and on. Each time I hear this, I simultaneously hear Eddie Money sing the 1986 lyrics: "I wanna go back and do it all over; but, I can’t go back, I know….I know that things will never be the same." Much like the ’80s were a wonderful time of exploration, so is pregnancy, IronMan, pre-accident, and youth. Yet, as the song proclaims, things will never be the same!


Truthfully, we really don't want to go back. Going back means losing everything we have achieved, learned, and experienced. We are not who we were; so we can not be who we were. As both a teacher and student of yoga philosophy, I know hankering for and lamenting the past is one of the greatest causes of distress to human existence. Upon coming from India to the west, yoga philosopher, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, commented: "Here people are always full of anxieties because they have got hankering, I want this. I want that. And there is lamentation. What they possess, if it is lost, they cry, Oh, my things are lost." And what they do not possess, they hanker.


The Adirondacks are currently experiencing mud season. The snow of the past winter is melting and mixing with the present earth, resulting in future mud. Lamentation for the past and hankering for the future is the equivalent of being stuck in the mental mud. If I get back to who I was, then I can get or be who or what I want. NO! We are, who we are, right now in this present moment: the only place life actually exists.


We go to the gym to “workout” yet, we go to yoga to practice. Hmmm, what if we approach each day from this concept of practice. Today, I am going to practi

  • Being present in my body

  • Being present in the conversation

  • Being present with my family, friend or co-workers

  • Being present in my PRACTICE at the gym, on the bike, mat or trail

  • Being present with my meal

  • Being present in the present moment

No lamenting how things were in the past, what we want back or would have done differently, and no hankering for the future: the list of what we want, need to do, or change. Our boots get stuck in the mud of these thoughts. We pull and tug trying to release from the grip of the muddy thoughts. Yet, when we stop yearning for the past and coveting toward a different future, the grip of mud releases: we are held solid in the foundation of the elements of nature, nurturing us to be perfectly imperfect just the way we are in this moment.