Thinking, thinking, thinking...
I attended my second yoga class since Eben was born. What a joy! I practice yoga on my mat every day on my own and sometimes I practice along to YouTube yoga videos (Adrienne is a particular favourite) but there’s nothing quite as wonderful as attending a class. It’s a passion of mine.
I love nothing more than joining other yogis and yoginis in a dedicated yoga space to practice together. And I love a good teacher who is able to guide me to a deeper awareness of being. So I was in my yoga heaven yesterday when I joined Kevin and the Saturday morning class at the Brighton Buddhist Centre.
In the peaceful environment of the yoga space, I quickly became aware of the hectic nature of my mind. It’s easier to overlook this in one’s own practice, sometimes merely going through the motions and often increasing the pace to meet the mind rather than slowing down to try and tame the mind.
My mind was in overdrive. Within the first few minutes of movement, I noticed my mind thinking about a forthcoming Reiki attunement session and planning the food I should prepare for this and putting together a list of ingredients. I caught myself as I drifted into Waitrose and down the aisles, identifying the location of the ingredients I will need to buy.
I had a good laugh at myself. I may well have been physically present on my yoga mat in Brighton but my mind was in the future in a shop in Guernsey. As for my spirit? I knew it was there but my mind was too noisy to hear it. Before I knew it, I’d drifted from Waitrose to Infinity Foods in Brighton as I planned the food I was going to buy after the class.
I laughed again and brought my awareness back to the moment and back to the breath coming in and out, ujjayi breath, steadying, centring and calming. From the breath my awareness moved to sensation in the body to further ground me in the present. I was aware how it felt to move into Downward Facing dog and from there the relief of resting in Pose of a Child.
It was a wonderful feeling really. There was nowhere to run and nowhere to hide. The thoughts kept coming but I was more aware of not becoming engaged with them and just noticing them instead. This was easier at times than others, because sometimes the thoughts drag you in.
In yoga, we talk of cultivating equanimity, of being able to ‘stand in the middle of all this’, of being grounded, sane and ordinary. It’s about noticing how our mind works and getting familiar with it, recognising the hooks, the temptations, the things that drag you in. I was certainly noticing this during the class, it was much more apparent probably because I haven’t been to a class for a while now.
The practice offers us the opportunity to see what’s happening without getting hooked, without having a drama, noticing that everything arises, abides and dissolves. I love that we can embody this in our yoga practice. We inhale and arise into a pose, we stay abiding in that pose and then we exhale, dissolving out of the pose. And in this whole process we have the opportunity to learn how our mind works, and to get more familiar with it.
Yoga is amazing for many reasons, but especially as it offers us the opportunity to train the mind. This does involve some effort, as it can be hard work to let go of the seductive thoughts, the thinking that throws us off centre and draws us in. It’s a constant practice to keep coming back to the breath, to notice that you are thinking, and being able to resist going after the thoughts, which, like our asana practice, arise, abide and dissolve.
Only that sometimes – well actually quite a lot sometimes – we abide within the thoughts. And our thoughts give rise to behaviour patterns and beliefs that shape our life. We create our reality by our thinking. In simplistic terms this means that if we have negative thoughts then we are more likely to have a negative experience and a negative perception of life. Our thinking affects our biochemistry so negative thinking can create dis-ease.
Our yoga practice offers us the opportunity to not only move the body and breathe but also to witness our thoughts as they arise, abide and dissolve, strengthening our mind in the process. Furthermore, it can provide us with the opportunity to notice the nature of the thinking. How is it for us? Has the habitual thinking given rise to a negative behaviour pattern or to a belief which is no longer serving us? Are we fearful or anxious? Are we constantly giving ourselves a hard time?
Often these patterns are laid down in childhood and we don’t question them, just considering that that is how it is – inherited as they’ve been from society, culture and our parents. We forget that everything is impermanent, that life is not linear. Instead it’s full of movement, fluidity and potential. We just have to recognise the nature of our thinking and not get stuck in our thinking patterns!
I remind myself of this as we practice a number of asana, to notice my habitual way of thinking and it’s liberating. To be able to stand back and notice the arising thoughts, allowing them to abide and then dissolve, they’re not me!
With that I feel lighter, not least physically but also mentally. There is a pause between thoughts, a silence. I long for more of those silences. Those liminal spaces. That gap between the inhalation and the exhalation and between the exhalation and the inhalation. That space where magic happens. That’s the reason I also love Yoga Nidra, it’s full of liminal spaces.
After the class I headed to a crystal shop and chose a Goddess card before having my tarot cards read by a beautiful lady called Nina. Both of them told me what I’d already realised. It’s time to retreat to silence and calm the mind. It’s true what they say, that we teach that which we most need to learn, but that makes sense doesn’t it, otherwise how would we know.
The effects of the class continued into the day. I kept catching myself when the hooks presented themselves. The victim/martyr archetype kept showing up and I had to reel myself back from getting hooked. It is what it is. We create our own reality. Equanimity. It’s a life long practice, of arising, abiding and dissolving, taking it all very lightly and questioning the thinking!