Sometimes we forget who is in the driver's seat when it comes to the thoughts in our minds.
It can feel like we are just a passenger on a wild ride. The driver is our mind and all we can do is sit there and hold on for dear life. Our mind driver takes us all over the place, does three sixties and fishtails, and sometimes it even drives in reverse at ninety miles an hour. Other times, it just drives straight ahead way too fast, all while talking on a cell phone and listening to the radio!
The tendency of our mind to go back into the past and forward into the future, making many stops, twists, and turns in between is normal but often unproductive. Our yoga practice can help us take over the steering wheel of our minds and direct our thoughts to where we want them to go.
Getting into the driver's seat of our minds requires that we get focused and present.
Sutra 1.2 in The Yoga Sutras by Patanjali, says that "yoga is the stilling of the fluctuations of the mind". When the mind is still, we can connect with our innermost self.
The sixth limb on the eight limbed path of yoga is dharana.
Dharana can be defined as, " the binding of consciousness to a single spot." In other words, focusing our attention on an object or activity that we have chosen. So using the driving analogy, we focus on the road in front of us and that's it. No looking around at the scenery, comparing our car to the one beside us, talking on our cell phone, or changing stations on the radio. WE JUST DRIVE.
In traditional yoga, dharana is focusing one's attention on a chosen diety, mantra, sacred object, or the breath. This leads the practitioner to the next limb called dhyanna (meditation) where the mind becomes completely still. Once the mind has stilled, the state of samadhi can be reached. In this final limb of yoga, the practitioner achieves a state of oneness with the object of focus.
I suspect that when a race car driver becomes "one with the road", he has reached samadhi.
Practicing this one pointed focus not only on our yoga mats, but in our everyday lives will benefit everything and everyone involved. So instead of eating dinner while standing by the sink while watching tv while texting a friend, we eat dinner or watch tv or text a friend with full attention.
Giving our full attention to the people in our lives can deepen our connection to them. When our minds are focused and attentive, we are more likely to hear and understand another person's point of view.
With an inwardly focused mind we may even come to hear and understand the wisest voice of all...the voice of our higher self.
There's a story about two monks walking along a riverbed. They come across a woman crying at the side of the river. She needs to cross to get to her village, but she is too afraid.
The first monk continues past her remembering the vow that he has taken which forbids him from having contact with women.
The second monk picks her up, carries her across the river, sets her down on the other side, and continues silently on his way.
When the two monks meet up hours later, the first monk can barely contain himself. "How could you do that!" he says, "You know that we are forbidden to touch women!" The second monk says, "Brother, I put her down hours ago, it is YOU who still carries her."
Material possessions, worries, concerns, anger, sadness, stories from our past, even excess weight are all things that we can carry around with us. We store our stuff in our homes, our bodies, our minds, and our hearts leaving very little space to be open and present to anything new that might come in.
From the wisdom of yoga philosophy, we learn to practice aparigraha, which is translated as non hoarding or greedlessness. The more stuff we collect and/or hoard, the more we will be weighed down or anchored to that stuff which prevents us from being fully present to life as it is now.
There is nothing wrong with having stuff. It is when we hold onto to that stuff after it has passed it's usefullness that it becomes a problem. When we keep books, clothes, furniture, and other items that don't serve a purpose any longer because "we might them need someday", there may be an underlying fear that we are not aware of.
This fear of not having enough or not having our needs met can drive us to hold onto our stuff like a security blanket. Our sentimental items like greeting cards from a loved who has passed or a nick nack from last year's vacation often can keep us anchored or stuck in the past, and in denial of the truth that we will have to give it all up at some point.
The stuff that we carry in our minds and hearts may be harder to recognize. We get stuck in a story from our past or a grievance that we can't let go of, and we may not realize the damage that it is doing to us in the present.
The monk who broke his vow most likely experienced discomfort for his actions, but instead of carrying his pain and keeping it alive in his mind and heart, he chose to set it down like he set the woman down at the side of the river.
Although the other monk didn't break his vow, he caused his own suffering by carrying the story in his mind for a long time afterwards.
The practice of yoga encourages us to simplify our lives by leaving behind that which no longer serves a purpose for us. Aparigraha can help us to free up space in our homes,our bodies, our minds, and our hearts and with this spaciousness that we create, the possibilities for something new to enter might even be transformational.
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