A few years ago I began doing "dharma talks" at the beginning of every yoga class. Up until that time, my classes were more about the physical body. My students would come bursting through the door ready to start my "kickurasana" style vinyasa class. They would be on their mats ready to go as I set up my mat and got myself prepared.
Then one day, I asked everyone to "please take a seat on your mats, one that you can be comfortable in for ten minutes or so." The collective look of "HUH?" I got was kind of funny. They probably wondered what kind of torture I had in store for them.
As I started my talk, some of them listened intently, some fidgeted in their theoretical easy sitting pose (sukasana) , some looked out the window at the passersby, one lady even crossed her arms and made a loud harumfing noise to show me that she was ready to begin moving.
Over the next few months, maybe even a year, I had to stay very committed to my decision to spend the first ten minutes of class on yoga philosophy and other spiritual matters. My class gradually began to adapt to the new way of entering the yoga studio. They began coming in and sitting still instead of impatiently waiting for the class to start.
Last week, as I was giving my dharma talk, I looked out at my students and their varying degrees of attention and interest in my topic of the day. I suddenly realized that it didn't matter whether they heard me or not, whether they were interested in what I had to say, or whether they learned ANYTHING at all about yoga philosophy. What really mattered was that by asking them to enter and sit on their mats for ten minutes, I was giving them an opportunity to pause.
Most of us go from one activity, one task, and one thought to the next without taking a break. We continue to stack on more and more activities and thoughts until our hearts and minds are so overcrowded that we can't see straight.
When we pause, we become aware of what's right here, right now . We can let go of the past moments and be open and ready for the next moment. So taking a pause brings us to the PRESENT MOMENT. This ritual of pausing can be a powerful way to become present to whatever we are doing. According to Ekhart Tolle, " Nothing ever happens in the past, nothing ever happens in the future, what happens only happens in the now.
So next time you feel overbooked, overworked, overcrowded, stop what you are doing and remember to breathe in, breathe out, and pause.....
Tony Robbins said, "The quality of your life is in direct proportion to the amount of uncertainty you can comfortably deal with."
Facing uncertainty is scary. We like to know what will happen. We want to control our lives. The reality is however, that we can never know for certain what will happen in our next moment. We only know what is happening NOW. One minute we are running toward the finish line at the Boston Marathon, and the next we are on the sidewalk with our legs severed at the knee. It can happen, and it does.
Not knowing how something will turn out can cause a gripping feeling in our hearts and our minds. Fear shuts us down. We try to hold or grip something that we know to be true. Maybe its something from our past. In our minds and hearts we hold onto that. This gripping feeling can move into our bodies as well. We hold in fear. At some point this holding pattern can begin to feel normal to us. We can create a stiff body, and if we stay frozen in our hearts and minds as well, we can solidify our fearful thoughts and feelings until they become real. Pema Chodron says we can "concretize our thoughts". What we think, IS. Whether we are frozen in our past or creating a frightening story in our minds about the future, we are experiencing that which we think. Just imagining fingernails on a chalkboard can send chills down our spine, that's how powerful our minds are.
Yoga practice can help us get more comfortable with life's uncertainty. We breathe, stretch, and relax which begins to loosen our stiff bodies helping to release some of our physical "holding patterns". This flexibilty in our bodies can produce a more flexible mind as we release these holding patterns as well. Our flexible mind becomes more open to creative solutions when the unexpected occurs. We also learn to be more present so that we are less likely to create stories in our minds about what might happen in the future.
The bottom line is, you never know what the next moment will bring, so enjoy the moment NOW. My mom used to say, "Life is uncertain, so have desert first." May you all enjoy the sweetness of life now, even if its simply a piece of chocolate cake!
Last week, in the span of an hour, someone called me mean and selfish and someone called me kind and caring.
If I had taken these two comments too seriously, I would have ended up feeling tossed around and beaten up like a leaf in a wind storm. My balance would have been completely rocked.
When I let others define me, I can become what others tell me I am. So instead of remembering who I really am, I am not me but a version of me that has been created by someone else.
In yoga philosophy, we learn that our ego, ASMITA, is our small self that is created by labels and judgements and conditioning from the outside world. Our ego has the potential to cause us great suffering.
I see the ego as a suit that we are wearing. It looks EXACTLY like us. When we are healthy and not too attached to it, it fits us well and we barely know that it's there. We are comfortable walking around in our ego suit. When we are too attached to our ego,however, a comment like "you are mean and selfish" will cause our ego suit to shrink. It will get way too tight and REALLY uncomfortable. In our discomfort, we may lash out at another or berate ourselves. On the other hand, when we hear a comment like, "you are so kind and caring", our ego suit might get too big. It will fill up with air and we may find ourselves feeling all puffed up and superior to others.
When we get very clear and honest with ourselves, turn our attention inward, let others comments and judgements pass through us, we will be balanced and peaceful regardless of the comments of another. Our ego suit will fit us perfectly. We will feel comfortable with ourselves and remember who we really are.....a soul that is full of light and love.
So next time you find yourself judging someone or someone judges you, take a moment to check that your ego suit fits. If it doesn't, let go and remember who you are deep inside....maybe your suit will begin to fit just right.
Mark Twain said, "If you always do what you did, you will always get what you got."
This makes sense but then why do we repeat the same things over and over again and expect a different result?
We complain, "Why can't I lose weight?", "Why am always late....always broke....always tired...always fill in the blank".
Ninety percent of the thoughts that we think today are the same as the thoughts we had yesterday. So more than likely, we are thinking some very old thoughts. Each time we think the same thought, it becomes reinforced in our consciousness. Eventually, that thought is habitual. In Yoga philosophy, this is called samskara or reoccuring thought that becomes ingrained. This is not unlike the groove in the sand that is created from the water flowing over it again and again. Once the groove is established, the water will just flow there. The same thing happens in our minds, and in our bodies, and in our emotions. Once a thought, emotion, or physical pattern is established, we will just repeat that over and over again because its easier that way. The more unconscious, or unaware, or unfocused we are, the more we will fall into our habitual ways. We will repeat bad habits, self limiting beliefs, unhealthy patterns, negative thoughts, and even physical movements that no longer serve our highest good.
Yoga philosophy teaches us to break free of our samskaras so that we are no longer bound by them and stuck in our past. Becoming mindful and watching ourselves, being focused, present, honest and committing to non harming will help us to break free of those bad habits that hurt us so that we can create present moment awareness. In a perfect world, every moment would be received with full awareness and no attachments to any past or future moment. This would be complete freedom according to the wise and wonderful Patanjali.
So if you keep doing the same thing over and over again and expecting the result to be different, practice yoga and you may just become free.
All Abhyasa Ahimsa Aparigraha Asmita-Ego Attachment Baron Baptiste Beginner's Mind Bramacharya Carl Jung Clear Seeing Colorless Comfortable Discomfort Creating Spaciousness In Mind And Body Cultivate The Opposite Deepak Chopra Dharma Empty Your Cup Enthusiasm Equanimity Family Fight Or Flight Great Vows Inner-awareness Inner Critic John Kabbatzinnb2faff332d Listening Mirrors To Ourselves Monkey Hunting Non Stealing Patanjali Pause Pillar Pleasure And Pain Posseses Us Practice Pratipaksa Bhavana Pratyahara Present Moment Present Moment Awareness Respond Instead Of React Samadhi Samskara Santosha Satya Sauca Sensual Pleasures Shadow Side Spirituality Steadiness And Ease Sthira And Sukha Strength Sustained Attention Svadhyaya There You Are Thich Nat Hahn This Too Shall Pass True Self Uncertainty Universal Truth What We Possess Wherever You Go Wisdom Yoga Philosophy Yoga Sutra 1. 14 Yoga Sutra 1.33 Yoga Sutra 2.33 Yoga Sutra 2 37cfe9965fa2 Yoga Sutra 2. 46 Yoga Sutras