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Feeling Stuck? Get on Your Mat.

28 Jun

You know what I love about yoga? My mat is a microcosm for the rest of my world, and through my practice I see so clearly my reactive patterns to situations that challenge and confront me. In yoga and other Eastern traditions you often hear the word samsara or karma, whose meaning don’t have to be all that esoteric and woo-woo. All they really refer to are the patterns in your life that keep you stuck, keep your from moving forward towards the next stage of your personal evolution. Most of us have heard the quote from Albert Einstein, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” That’s karma right there, and it’s your job to look those patterns squarely in the face and choose whether or not you have the courage to change them (psst…you do).

Change is scary and it’s painful. Even the littlest change can make us feel squirrelly, like missing your favorite TV show or having to use rice milk in your late because the coffee shop ran out of soy. It’s uncomfortable and it makes us vulnerable to have to break free from habits and examine our responses, ’cause often times they ain’t pretty. I notice this in my own life in my closest and most intimate relationship. Say something happens that stirs up some anger in me…what’s my automatic reaction? I’M PISSED. I shut down. A fiery wall of anger is put up, my armor is on and nothin you do can hurt me. So that’s my karma, that’s my automatic reaction and rather than soothe me, it makes me feel like shit. I feel less powerful, less connected and just plan resentful. My response to my anger is what I’m looking to change here, not my anger. Anger is an emotion, it’s powerful, it’s natural and repressing it is not the goal. How I respond is what’s important. Sitting with my anger, examining it with curiosity and courage shows me that I am actually quite vulnerable in my anger, and the last thing I want to do is soften to it, and even more challenging–soften to the one I’m in conflict with.

Like I said, it  isn’t easy, it takes the courage of a warrior to step away from habitual responses. But it’s our relationship to our expereince that determines whether or not we suffer, and to be unconsciously stuck in a cycle of karma is suffering. I love what Pema Chodron says here:

“We hear a lot about the pain of samsara (karma)…But we don’t hear much about how painful it is to go from being completely stuck to unstuck. The process of becoming unstuck requires tremendous bravery, because basically we are completely changing our way of perceiving reality, like changing our DNA.”

Changing the way we perceive reality and our DNA?! That’s terrifying! Who would want that? But the truth is, in order to achieve any kind of lasting change in our lives, any kind of peace and contentment, we have to be so unbelievably present to catching our patterns, the ever diligent guardian of our psyche that gives a serious pat down to any suspicious looking reactivity before decing whether or not to let it through security. So back to the yoga. How does this possibly apply?

Next time your step on your mat, diligently watch your reactions. I promise you that there is a constant stream of verbal dialogue going on that is judging every moment of your practice, whether or not you are conscious of it or not. I find it funny now that I’m a teacher, but I used to get furious with yoga teachers whose sequencing I didn’t like/agree with. I would glare and fume and guffaw, because the real reason I didn’t like their sequencing was because it was either differnt from what I was used to or extremely challenging. So rather than finding humility, I became angry, shut down and completely detached from the moment. And the result? Suffering. If I could have stepped back, taken a breath and softened my heart to my teacher and even laughed at myself, then perhaps I would have actually been able to hold that warrior pose (5 minutes anyone?) with grace, humility and maybe even a smile.