Teacher Tony Robbins says we ask ourselves questions all the time and the common question is usually, “Why does this crap always happen to me?”
When I heard this over the summer I thought – exactly. We all do this. We listen to those thoughts and somehow feel we are alone or unique in them. Yet that isn’t true. When I heard this statement I was at Kripalu and found myself surrounded by many who have similar views on health, yoga and nutrition. For this reason I find it quite helpful to find times in my life and days where I can step away from feeling so singular.
This way of thought processing happens in our every day life. Have you ever received an email and then started getting upset, composing your response but then waited before sending. Only to find yourself so glad you waited. Stopping has allowed us to take an important pause and we find that our response changes. I once read an email, prejudged, saw who it came from and read into it what I wanted to see or hear. I waited though and re-read it later and was so glad. As I put away my initial feelings, wants or desires I was able to examine the message and process it differently. I was so glad I hadn’t responded and waited.
That is how our thought process works though. Science is still figuring it out but scans of brain function under MRI’s and CAT scans shows that as we pause, meditate, process etc there is a part of the brain that grows and expands. This growth is just like a muscle and if we don’t use it we loose it. I’m simplifying the way the brain cells work but it only goes to show that we do need continued brain development. Nutrition, exercise, sleep and meditation is just starting to show how important all of it is. I only wish more people were interested in developing their brain as much as their physical body.
When I teach or even practice yoga on the mat I often instruct that Yoga is beyond the physical practice; that this is going to help brain cell development. Here in the West we are used to using our visualization more than our other senses; so we don’t develop areas such as listening, touching, smelling or tasting; only by using them in the yoga practice can we be more aware of it.
Of course I’ve seen some yoga students upset and want to blame They start to get upset because they aren’t used to to using the other senses and instead find that it is easier to get mad- at the teacher, the mat, the person next to them or the posture. The physical posture is confused often when discussing yoga. The point wasn’t to achieve something physically. The point of the physical was to show that by understanding the thought process we could go past the limits we set for ourselves. Therefore to someone who is new to yoga they see visually what is “unbelievable” but it all started with how we process our thoughts.
Yoga off the Mat goes outside the classroom and into our world as we apply this concept to life. I woke up this morning to read how a second person has been found with the Ebola virus in the US and some of the comments I read are full of anger, blame and hate. Some even go so far as to blame the government and wishing them harm. “I hope the White House gets Ebola”. (No I’m not kidding- I read it.) Going back to my earlier point though on brain function – people are reacting this way as a method of protection – avoiding air travel, taking supplements and even arguments. It seems easier to get mad. But there is a lack of mindfulness when we respond from this part of the mind.
First off I’m all for improving, changing and evolving but this again taps into a deeper part of our brain function to find solutions. We have to put aside the egotistic reaction which isn’t helpful at times like these. Part of finding solutions is to observe this and go beyond hate, anger, and fear.
Buddha’s teachings talks about Dukkha – that suffering happens. It is the founding lesson from Buddha that mankind will be held back by resisting Dukkha. Now the concept is logical and we gladly accept that we will change, grow older, die of course. Yet we spend our lives contradicting it all the time. You don’t have to agree with Buddhist ideals to understand this principal – it stems from nature – the way things happen in the universe.
Now what do we do with this idea? We don’t need to give up or assume the worst. It is from our “pain that we can appreciate our pleasure”. We don’t have to place our hopes on one person, guru, idea, political party, religion or leader.
If you know the story of The Wizard of Oz you know that Dorothy travels far in hopes that the Great Wizard will help her; he will have the solution! Only in the end she finds out the power was within her all along. Dorothy asks the Good-Witch why she didn’t just tell her in the beginning and she is told she wouldn’t have believed her. So sometimes we need to go on that journey to figure it out when we are ready to hear it.
We’ve all had those moments, sometimes repeated, where we trusted, adored, idealized and even worshiped someone or something. Only to find the illusion crushed at some later point. It feels awful and like a punishment but it is natural for us to experience this as it balances us from one area to the next phase of our life. It will go up and down. With time and mindfulness we may be able to go from one extreme to the other to find the middle – that place that see’s those as they truly are – full of wisdom and fault; good and bad; beauty and ugliness… just as we ALL are… naturally.