A blog about yoga, life, health and healing.
There is a Native American teaching that says that we each have two wolves fighting inside of us.
One is evil - it is anger, fear, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, guilt, self pity, judgement, and hate.
The other one is good - it is joy, peace, humility, kindness, generosity, compassion, understanding, forgiveness, and love.
Each of us, no matter who we are or where we are from has these two opposing forces that live within us.
As human beings, we have the capacity to be kind or to be cruel, to love or to hate, to be courageous or fearful, to be accepting or judgemental, to be generous or greedy.
According to the Native Americans, these human qualities are like an untamed animal that is under our care.
The wolf that we feed will strengthen. The wolf that we don't feed will whither. Neither wolf will ever die.
We must be ever aware of these forces that live inside of us and attend to them carefully and with mindfullness.
We "feed" our capacity to be good or to be evil with every thought, word, or action that we take. When we are unaware or act in an unconscious way, we might not know which wolf we are feeding.
We can also feed the wolf in our hearts by "feeding into" somebody else's unkind thoughts, words, or actions anytime we join into gossip, predjudism, or judgement.
If you find yourself being pulled in the direction of unkindness, whether it's your own or it belongs to another, don't berate yourself for having these forces in you. Just know that you have a choice in feeding the negative aspects of yourself, or not feeding them by taking ownership of your thoughts, words, and behaviors. Sometimes this requires leaving an unhealthy relationship or forgiving someone who has done you wrong so that you can let go and move away from the negativity that may be feeding your heart.
Being vigilant about the thoughts that replay in your mind, careful about the words that come out of your mouth, and committed to the right actions that you take each day, will feed the innate goodness within you.
My mom used to say, "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all." Remembering this helps me to stop and think before I speak so that I am sure to cultivate and spread kindness.
Last week when I got into my car after teaching a yoga class, I was unlucky enough to discover shards of broken glass covering my passenger seat.
After a brief moment of confusion, I realized that someone had taken a screwdriver to the frame of the window and shattered the glass in an attempt to steal whatever they could find in my car.
After my mind caught up and I realized what happened, I reported the theft to the police and the health club CEO. Both of them said to me, "how is it that you are so calm?"
Mahatma Ghandhi said, "I will not allow anyone to walk through my mind with their dirty feet."
I don't claim to be anything at all like Ghandhi but, I was also unwilling to allow anyone to walk through my mind and leave their muddy footprints. Taking a step back and pausing allowed me to put it all into perspective, and be happy that no one was hurt and the damage that was done could be fixed.
Had I reacted by taking it personally, indignantly cursing the unfairness of what had been "done to me", I would be allowing another person to determine my state of mind. Remembering that another person's actions have nothing to do with me, helps me to stay rooted in my own center as opposed to being yanked this way and that because of someone else's choices.
While I can't even imagine destructing someone else's property or stealing money from someone, I have been fortunate enough in my life to never be in a situation that required desperate measures such as those. Having compassion for the person who violated my property was another way that I could respond instead of reacting.
Baron Baptiste says, "We don't really have experiences in life, we have reactions to experiences." In other words, "things don't happen to us, they happen in and of themselves, and what we do is react to them."
If it had been someone else's car that was broken into, the experience of a broken window would be the same, but my reaction would be very different. So according to Baptiste, what we experience in our day to day lives are just a bunch of reactions. With this knowledge, we can choose our responses instead of reacting out of habit. When we choose to live this way, our lives will be much more peaceful.
Ghandhi made a choice not to be reactive even when he was thrown in jail and beaten. Instead with equanimity, he chose to respond with acceptance and non violence no matter what the circumstances were.
For most of us, this ability to remain calm in the face of injustice or any stress for that matter can be very difficult. We are hard wired with an instinct that served us well when we were cavemen. If we were being attacked by a saber tooth tiger, our "fight or flight" mechanism would take over and we would instinctively stay and fight or get the heck out of there.
Fortunately, we are no longer living under the threat of attack of a nine hundred pound razor toothed cat, but we do find ourselves in stressful situations that will activate our fight or flight response whether we need it or not.
According to Baron Baptiste, we have a third option when we aren't in a life threatening situation, but since it may go against everything we have learned up until that point, it can be difficult to choose. The third and most often best option is to just stay and breathe.
If you start to feel your reactivity creeping in, stay put and breathe. The recognition of the reactivity arising may be enough to stop it in its tracks, and make a choice to respond in a better, more productive, and healthier way.
For me, had I allowed my fight reaction to lead me, I would have been angry and vengeful and might have carried that into my next interaction with family, friends, or strangers.
Had I allowed the flight reaction to lead me, I may have become fearful and lost my ability to feel safe leaving my car unattended.
Choosing to stay and breathe and be non reactive doesn't mean that I live without feelings or emotions, but it means that I am responsible and able to make a choice of how to respond to the experiences in my life in a healthy and life affirming way.
The next time life hands you something that you wouldn't choose for yourself, remember the quote by Charles Swindoll that says, "life is ten percent what happens to you and ninety percent how you respond to it" . Choosing to respond in a non reactive way makes your inner and outer world more peaceful.
Years ago, my oldest son's seventh grade teacher said to me, "You will never have to worry about Ace. He has it all figured out. He pushes himself just hard enough to do well, but not so hard that he can't also relax and have a little fun".
Years later when he was in college, my husband asked him if he was working hard in his classes. His answer was, "You know Dad, there's such a thing as working too hard. When you work too hard, life just sucks. I don't want to live like that."
My (push yourself with 110 percent effort in everything you do) husband just about fell off his chair!
Ace never did yoga, but he described one of the Yoga Sutras to a tee.
Yoga Sutra 2.46 in the Yoga Sutras by Patanjali says, "STHIRA SUKHAM ASANAM".
Asana means "a posture". I'll take some liberties here and say that a posture can be a yoga pose or a posture that you take in your life.
The sutra above tells us that a posture should have the qualities of steadiness and ease.
Steadiness requires effort, while ease requires relaxation.
These two qualities may seem like polar opposites, but when we are able to cultivate them together, we will feel a healthy balance of stabilty, strength, flexibilty, and comfort.
To create this dichotomy in the postures on our yoga mats requires that we stay very connected to our bodies so that we can be aware of when we are pushing too hard or not hard enough.
If we are straining and gritting our teeth through a yoga class, there is no ease. This all work and no play mindset
will surely get us hurt.
On the other hand, if we don't push ourselves hard enough, we won't improve, advance, or see any growth in our poses. This mindset may leave us weak, stagnant or bored.
To create this dichotomy in the postures of our lives also requires that we stay very connected to ourselves so that we can be aware of the areas in our lives in which we are pushing so hard that our efforts are unsustainable.
On the other hand, if we aren't pushing or challenging ourselves enough, we won't improve in our lives or grow, which again may leave us weak, stagnant, or bored.
When we balance effort and ease in our yoga postures or in the postures of our lives, we create an internal balance that we can call upon to face everday challenges.
My 22 year old son Ace, has been fortunate enough to cultivate this internal balance early in his life.
Recently, while facing a very difficult and potentially life changing situation, he was able to call upon this internal steadiness and ease to help him stay strong, steady, and flexible enough to adapt to the unexpected challenges that he was presented with.
Cultivating the qualities of steadiness (sthira) and ease (sukha) takes effort and letting go. Patanjali says that when our minds experience a blending of effort and release, we get a glimpse of the infinite.
What qualities are you cultivating?
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