I have a little challenge today for YOU coming from a place of LOVE from me.
What do you stand for? What are your core values? Ask yourself. Right now. Make a list of your top five traits you feel the most aligned with. Then, sit and contemplate for a few minutes. Am I living them? Am I applying them to myself and am I projecting them to the world?
I saw this post the other day…
And it struck a chord with me. Especially this week, in this year of 2020, in this season of confusion, conflict, grief, divisiveness, and change. What are the words in your head that you are speaking to yourself AND what words are you choosing to share with the world?
I can barely stand to go on social media right now. The level of nastiness, hatred, bad othering, and judgment is just too much to bear. True confession...I almost unfriended someone this morning because I was so upset by their narrow and judgmental post about the election. But instead, I took a deep breath and reminded myself that in this age of "unfriending" and "unfollowing" those who oppose our views, that's exactly part of what is creating the problem!!
Our society is deeply divided right now. It has been for quite some time, and the isolation many are feeling from months of restrictions due to the pandemic has not helped one bit. (Have you watched "The Social Dilemma" on Netflix yet??) So I get how you might be feeling the strong pull of that reptilian brain’s negativity bias right now. It’s how we are wired. It’s that flight or fight, time to fight off the dinosaur reaction. It’s what makes us lash out and see those who don’t align with us as BAD or WRONG.
Now I’m all about speaking my truth. Not speaking it can cause extreme distress to the body and mind. But there’s a healthy, non-harming (AHIMSA for you yoga peeps) way of doing it, and then there’s a mud-slinging, makes-you-feel-dirty kind of way…
What we need a big dose of right now is Equanimity. I saw this post from Deepak Chopra yesterday and loved this description. Apparently, he’s offering a free daily series on the Chopra App. Might be a good thing to invest some energy in right now!!
I’ll wrap up for now by challenge you to stop and ask yourself, what am I doing and what can I do to be a light? How can I help to connect rather than divide? Can I listen to those whose views and opinions oppose mine with an open heart? It takes great courage to be vulnerable. I’ll share this lovely intention from author of “The Gifts of Imperfection” Brene Brown, PHD.
“May we find the courage to let go of who we think we’re supposed to be so that we can fully embrace our authentic selves – the imperfect, the creative, the vulnerable, the powerful, the broken, and the beautiful.
May we show ourselves and others the compassion that comes from knowing we are all made of strength and struggle.
May we create a just and equitable world where privilege isn’t a prerequisite for self-expression and authenticity, where everyone feels invited and safe to express their power and their vulnerability.
And last, may we experience the strength of connection, the love of belonging, and the grace of pure joy.”
A 4th grade teacher friend of mine told me that one of her students offered this bit of advice for getting through this challenging time –
PAUSE, BREATH, & LOVE
Now that’s true yoga my friends. Keep it flowing!
I love brain research! I am fascinated by what these minds can do and the power they have over our lives. We are constantly thinking. In 2005, the National Science Foundation published an article summarizing research on human thoughts per day. It was found that the average person has about 12,000 to 60,000 thoughts per day. Of those thousands of thoughts, 80% were negative, and 95% were exactly the same repetitive thoughts as the day before.
Imagine that! If 80% of your thoughts are negative, then your overall impression of life is NEGATIVE. Yikes!!
Tara Brach calls this constant and mostly repetitive thought cycle a “trance”. We get so wrapped up in it that we feel we can’t escape. It’s like being trapped in a torture room with the same negative, repetitive thoughts running over and over and over. Add to that that a whole lot of those thoughts are about YOU and now you have the perfect recipe for self-destruction.
Sound familiar?? I know it is for me. I spent a whole lot of my life as my own worst enemy. Beating myself up, tearing myself down, and allowing the same, unproductive thoughts to swirl around in my mind like a swarm of angry bees. Add to that a big dose of the “trance of unworthiness” and it’s no wonder I felt like I had to pretend and be perfect in order to fit in and be accepted. I was constantly seeking validation and the “right” answer from outside sources because surely I wasn’t capable or good enough to know what was best for me.
So what changed? How did I break the cycle and emerge from the trance? My yoga journey was definitely the starting point of it. For most people, yoga starts with an exploration of the body. A getting to know, appreciate, and truly love this vessel we’ve been assigned and a desire to make it feel better. Then the shift begins to happen. We start to notice how good we feel on the inside when we spend time on our yoga mat. I started out barely able to rest for 5 minutes in savasana. My mind was SO overactive that I felt I would burst out of my skin if I just had to lay there and do nothing. But then I took what I consider my first REAL yoga class at a studio with the person who would eventually become my mentor on my yoga teacher journey. This woman radiated calm and peace from every cell. I immediately said to myself, “I want what she’s got”. She introduced me to the simple concept of using an intention to quiet the mind. So simple it almost seemed unbelievable that it would truly work. Inhale “Be” exhale “Here”. I began to use this simple mantra whenever my mind was running amok and amazingly it worked!! For the first time I was able to truly relax and find peace in savasana. I was able to break the cycle of a repetitive thought and refocus on the present moment. This was my first introduction to the practice of Mindfulness.
What is Mindfulness, you ask? According to www.mindful.org, “Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us. Mindfulness is a quality that every human being already possesses, it’s not something you have to conjure up, you just have to learn how to access it.” Tara Brach says, “Our mindfulness practice is not about vanquishing our thoughts. It’s about becoming aware of the process of thinking so that we are not in a trance—lost inside our thoughts.” It is also about activating a whole lot of kindness and compassion for ourselves and our humanness. Recognizing when we are beating ourselves up or dragging ourselves down and giving ourselves grace and tenderness. You can either be your own worst enemy, or you can pause and choose to be your own best friend. I’ve learned over the years to find what I call my inner life coach, or guru, during those times that I’m in self attack mode. I take a few long, slow breaths to come into the present moment. Then I ask myself, “What do I need to hear right now? What would my inner life coach tell me?”
For most of my life, I would simply turn to my mom for those words I needed to hear. She truly was my greatest supporter and cheerleader. When she died of cancer in 2011, I felt lost without her voice to guide me. Over time, and with a whole lot of practice, I have learned to find that voice inside of me. Not the busy, critical, sometimes crazy one in my head. The one we refer to in yoga as the “monkey mind”. I’ve found the voice that lives deep inside of me, the voice of my Truth. We all have this voice, but often it speaks in a whisper too quiet to hear amidst the noise of life. We might hear it softly, but we are so conditioned to the outside noise that we don’t trust it.
Glennon Doyle calls this inner voice “The Knowing”. In her book Untamed she says, “the more consistently, bravely and precisely I follow the inner Knowing, the more precise and beautiful my outer life becomes. The more I live by my own Knowing, the more my life becomes my own and the less afraid I become. I trust that the Knowing will go with me wherever I go, nudging me toward the next thing, one thing at a time, guiding me all the way home.”
So, the next time you find yourself caught in the “trance”, lost in thought, and stuck in your monkey mind perhaps in a self-destructive vortex…pause and BREATHE. Breathe in and out, slowly and mindfully. Notice your breath. Notice your body. Pull yourself into the moment. Repeat to yourself “Be Here” with your inhale and exhale. In those few moments, you will stop the cycle and you will connect with your Knowing. In that space, listen carefully for the voice that tells you “You’ve got this”, “You can do hard things”, “You are a good person”, “You are enough!”.
And remember, be kind….you are listening!!
Mary Baker - ERYT-500 yoga teacher, adventure lover, fitness junkie, doughnut snob, whiskey & wine sipper