Posts Tagged ‘yoga of thoughts’
Where the stories live
Last night, at Tara Brach’s Insight Meditation group, we meditated and then listened to Tara talk about hearing the stories that we tell ourselves, over and over — the stories about our lives that feel “normal,” but that keep us unhappy and restricted. She pointed out early on in her talk that when the mind is constricted, so is the body. This means that we tighten ourselves when experiencing (thinking) stress, and we escape or fight the stress by developing coping strategies that eventually settle in as constriction and repression in the body. This happens from childhood. We can only unearth these repressions if we sit with ourselves and create space for awareness to enter the body.
Tara concluded her talk by emphasizing how essential it is to catch ourselves in a story — “I’m so depressed,” “I’m weak when it comes to…,” “I never meet the right guy…,” — and feel where that story lives in the body. Where do we feel constricted or held back?
In the context of a yoga class, the question can often be answered simply. Forget the story! It’s my hamstrings! My upper back! My abdomen!
And yet, combining the physical learning we do in a yoga class with mindful meditation is powerful. Whereas Tara suggested that we listen to our bodies when we catch ourselves telling a “typical” story about ourselves, we can also feel what’s in the body first — and then notice our thoughts.
So in yoga, you can say, OMG I’m in savasana (corpse pose) or trikonasana (triangle pose) or this friggin’ backbend and can’t relax my shoulders! What kinds of thoughts are you having right then? What are they about, and do they sound familiar? From there, sit in meditation — later that night at the end of class or after class, or the next morning before work — and observe the shoulders. And then notice the thoughts again. And then go back to yoga class in a few days and see what turns up.
This is the work of opening to consciousness. It comes in from every angle, whether you want it to or not. It comes flooding in when you give it more than one door.
ooh i’m so tired!
This is one of the things I hear during the Fall a lot. More so than Winter, even though during those colder months there is less light to go around.
This makes me think of yoga. I can say without a doubt that at 37, I feel younger and more alive than I did at 23 — then I was busy working on Wall Street, running to the gym, and then running home to go out, or to go home and hang out in front of the TV. I felt exhausted all the time, and even training for a marathon didn’t seem to help.
Over time, I’ve learned that my body needs certain shapes, and certain relaxation tools, to keep it running smoothly, energetically, and happily. These shapes and relaxation tools come directly from yoga: They have aligned my skeleton, muscles, and nervous system (i.e., how I think and feel) in such a way that I conserve energy when it feels good and makes sense, and I expend it when it feels good and makes sense.
Running a small business at 9 months pregnant, I still work as many hours as I ever clocked at JPMorgan or Merrill Lynch, but the difference is that my skeleton and nervous system aren’t working as hard to hold me up, move me from place to place, and let go as they settle me down to sleep at night. Even 40 lbs heavier than I was in January, the only thing bothering me occasionally are my knees, and that’s because they are still adjusting to the weight they are temporarily bearing from above.
During the Fall, when it becomes obvious that your body is going into hibernation, it’s a very good idea to stick with a yoga practice in order to observe how your body is holding you up. Learn how to conserve energy, learn how it moves through your body — be interested in where you are efficient and where you aren’t, and explore your body from there. These are essential “wellness” tools for any body wanting to feel more alive, and less encumbered.
so i notice every morning in the shower that the thoughts start to creep in. the worry, the fears, the unsettled, unanswered questions.
then i go and sit to meditate, hair still drying and mouth fresh with the taste of mint, and i stare at the screen of my mind as i would at a movie screen. i ask myself:
what’s the thinking today?
and i go from there. for 10 or up to 40 minutes, depending on the day.
it’s kind of like holding back a busting dam, that process of recognizing the thoughts in the shower in the morning before meditation as they come tumbling and stumbling in, like wayward drunks, knocking over the still sleepy docility of my otherwise calm mind, jarring me into dull annoyance.
this is why meditation works. it is an extremely simple equation in that it gives your mind someplace to go when the thinkin’ starts cookin’.
you must practice being in this space. otherwise your thoughts run you over: they will think you.
right round baby right round
On this side of the dateline, we tend to define karma as the apostle Paul did: “Man reaps what he sows.” “What goes around, comes around.”
I’ve always had trouble with the term “karma yoga” as defining good acts, because then you aren’t you still attached to getting only goodness in return? it seems to me you can do anything and still be practicing karma yoga. What if you’re ok with doing something neutral or negative, and with being prepared to experience that same thing some point in the future?
Asking for negative acts to come back to you might even been like saying “bring it” to the universe.
Lately, I am examining karma by being aware of an emotional state I am uncomfortable with, for example, depression, sorrow, anger, or frustration. I drive almost every day, and I often feel “cut off” by someone rushing to their job, home, a bar, their dying grandmother. My heart jumps as the other driver speeds past me and into my lane, my breathing changes, and at least 50% of the time, I find myself reacting in anger. this anger comes from the fear of experiencing an accident.
as i experience this sensation, i imagine that i have done that exact thing to someone before. when i wedge in this stop sign on the road of my own reaction, a mental shift occurs:
1) My negative emotion changes or goes away.
2) I see immediately the universe’s answer to a previous demand from me entitled, “bring it”.
9 times out of 10, i can recall an instance in which i have acted toward someone in exact the way that i am currently uncomfortable with.