Over the last several years, I’ve meditated almost daily and have been on a few week-long retreats. While I’ve never entered a blissful or altered state, the practice has given me some distance from the chatter in my head, both on and off my meditation bench. And I’ve noticed that many limiting thoughts involve “too.”
On certain yoga poses: “It’s too hard.”
On creating a larger piece of art: “It will take too long.”
On writing a longer work: “It will take too long.”
On waking up to see a glorious sunrise: “It’s too early”
On anything involving an investment of time: “You’re too old”
And, a favorite: “Meditation takes up too much time.”
You get the idea. It’s still easier for me to spot these terrible “too”s in others’ speech than in my own thoughts, but recognizing them anywhere helps to see that it’s a word better left unsaid or at least unbelieved.
I live in Denver, and frequently I hear from denizens of Denver and Boulder that the other city is “too far away.” The two communities aren’t “too” anything, except approximately 30 miles apart. Many people routinely travel back and forth. For the folks for whom it’s “too” far, I’d posit that they have stronger preferences for other places to visit, or ways to spend their time. If so, why not just say that, rather than using “too” to short circuit a more authentic conversation? Because that might take “too” long, or be “too” difficult? Hmm. It’s true, our culture does not encourage that kind of forthright expression.
For other residents, “the mountains are too far”. It’s an interesting assertion, because some of the Rockies are within an hour’s drive of Denver, others within two hours, and other ranges five hours or more. Which ones are they talking about? Yet people routinely visit these peaks, and others around the world. Desire trumps distance, which is why some folks will happily board an airplane to compete in a triathlon but kvetch if they need to walk a few blocks to pick up some milk.
I see “too” as the well-disguised and compelling voice of resistance. For myself, it helps if I ask according to whom or what is something “too” ______ (fill in the blank). In my yoga practice, if I notice the thought that a pose is “too hard”, it means I’m either unwilling to try it, afraid of looking foolish or of confronting my current limitations. Worse, it could mean I’m unwilling to consider that with consistent effort I might be able to execute the pose one day. “Too” could be camouflaging a lack of faith. But if it’s a pose that I have zero interest in attaining, why not be honest with myself?
In a society that values speed, it’s easy to be bamboozled into thinking that spending several months on one piece of art is “too” much time. But what if months, or years, are needed? Ditto for writing anything longer than a blog post, or creating an elaborate meal from scratch, or other things that might delight and satisfy. As I consider some longer term projects, I’m aware that if I’m not paying close attention, my goals could be derailed by the ego’s tyrannical “too”s.
Readers who interact with me in real life , if you hear that word coming out of my mouth, I give you permission to (gently) call me on it, unless I’m using “too” to affirm, as in, “Me, too!” I hope you’ll join me in not over “too”-ing it.