Despite my best intentions, sometimes I get behind. . . way behind! The past couple of weeks has been a whirlwind of engaging in my passions; family, travel, food, friends and teaching yoga. Consequently, although I have been focused on teaching #TheItyProject, I have neglected blogging about the last few virtues.
So let’s see, what have we missed? Non-irritability and adaptability! As I move through the Eighteen Ities in my teaching and personal practice, I am astounded at how much I am learning about myself. Even a week on each virtue allows me to uncover some often unrealized truths.
Irritability is the precursor of anger. When I focus on what causes irritability throughout my days I am able to quickly come up with the usual offenders. Lack of sleep, hunger, loneliness, and feeling overwhelmed are huge triggers in my life. But when I look deeper, past those external triggers which can be prevented with a good schedule and connection – I find the biggest trigger for irritability is my feeling as though I am not good enough. I’ll talk more about this in a future post, but for now I’ll say that my pattern centers around making unrealistic lists of things to accomplish in a given timeframe. When I fail to make it through these lists, I follow-up with negative self-talk and self-doubt. I then become irritable. I am afraid will take longer than a week to sort through and change this pattern, but I’ll keep you posted.
If the last couple of weeks has highlighted anything it is that once a pattern is noticed, it is very difficult to un-notice it. Now that I have begun to understand this unhealthy pattern in my mind I can begin my work.
Adaptability is the virtue that follows non-irritability and if you believe in serendipity it couldn’t have come at a better moment for me. My family and I followed our passion last week all the way to Kansas City to join friends to celebrate the Royals‘ World Series win. It was a last-minute, “fly by the seat of our pants” road trip and it involved juggling of schedules, teaching, practices, school, jobs, pet and home care.
It also involved reaching out to friends for help and making compromises in budget, sleep and those all-consuming lists of things to do. Adaptability is the very expression of constant change according to Swami Saraswati. When we cultivate adaptability, we are able to consciously act. We learn to take a step back, breath and act wisely. When we do this, we have time (even if it is just a moment) to access the best action for ourselves and others.
It is important to understand cultivating the ability to adapt is not the same thing as submitting to a situation or giving away your personal power. Adaptability is NOT self-denial. Adaptability is a mindful balance of one’s needs and desires with those of others. It is the art of compromise and managing one’s energy.
Along with our incredibly fun and spontaneous trip came exhaustion and a back log of work when we returned home. Normally, this may have sent me into a tailspin. I would slide into feeling over-whelmed and grumpy thus ruining the experience we created. Focusing on cultivating these virtues over the past weeks has allowed me to better predict future pitfalls and react accordingly.
If you haven’t been following along with #TheItyProject, join in anytime by reviewing older posts on this blog or following my on Facebook or Instagram.
“Peace is present right here and now, in ourselves and in everything we do and see. Every breath we take, every step we take, can be filled with peace, joy, and serenity. The question is whether or not we are in touch with it. We need only to be awake, alive in the present moment.”
It is quite easy for us to identify those things which are not going well in our lives. What we perceive to be bad or negative can often overshadow what is going well. The vast majority of us have much to be grateful for. Why then do the things that seem “wrong” always seem to overshadow everything else? What if our tendency to readily identify the negative (and overlook the positive) was simply a thought pattern to be shifted, a habit to be broken?
What Is Going Well Meditation
Begin by scanning your body in the context of ‘what is going well?’ What feels good? What feels open? Safe? Free? Comfortable?
As you come across areas of your body which feel achy, tired, tense, or painful, notice without judging.
Do the same with your breath. Where in your body does it feel deep, smooth, accessible? Notice any places the breath seems not to flow – shift the attention of your breath to those spaces.
As you begin to deepen your breath, observe whether the inhale or exhale has more ease. Which is longer? Shorten the longer breath to meet the length of the shorter breath. As your comfort with your breath deepens, work to lengthen both inhales and exhales equally.
Observe the mood of your thoughts. This becomes a little more tricky. Doing your best not to judge or change the mood, simply notice.
Begin to call to mind What Is Going Well in your life. What relationships are going well? What are you grateful for? What are your blessings? During this exercise, sit with the thoughts as they arise. Simply acknowledge their appearance and allow them to be there without interference. Cultivate awareness of how often you become distracted by what you perceive to be negative. Practice being with your thoughts without judgement or engagement.
Be patient. Habitual negative thought patterns will diminish with practice.
We can build the patterns we desire. We can shift our perspective.
We awaken today to yet another tragic mass shooting in America and we wonder, “What can be done?” What needs to change? We tend to look outward for the answers. Where did security fail? Where did the schools fail? Is it too easy to get a gun? Notably absent from these discussions in the aftermath of unspeakable violence is the idea that we as a culture have lost focus on cultivating personal responsibility.
As a culture in general, we seem addicted to what Tommy Rosen calls The Four Aggravations; Negative Thinking, Self-Doubt, Procrastination and Resentment. These types of patterned thinking cause damage to ourselves by creating anger, blame and often behaviors that do not serve us well in our lives. Rosen uses this idea to show how this type of thinking often leads into the more recognized addictions for some. One might even make the case that these thought patterns left unchecked, can lead towards violence and resentment towards others as well.
Naturally, however, the vast majority of us will never perpetrate violence upon another human due to these thought patterns. However, recognizing the damage this patterned thinking can have in our own lives is worth examining. Yoga creates a pathway in which we can begin to work inwards, physically and mentally. It provides a structure for us to safely examine the patterns we’ve created in our bodies and the thoughts we have around the sensations. It allows for a safe place to be still and begin to observe how the mind works (hopefully, without judgement). And it allows us to notice the connection breath plays between our thoughts and our physical bodies.
One of the cornerstones of walking the path of yoga is learning that we are not helpless when it comes to our mental and physical patterning. We learn that we do have control over much of our thoughts, reactions and to a certain extent, our nervous systems. We learn that we can use our breath, minds and bodies either unconsciously or as a conscious tool to affect change in our lives.
When we are faced by these outrageous acts of violence or even the own stresses of our daily lives, we can look outside of ourselves for answers or we can commit to turning inward and cultivating personal responsibility for our feelings and our reactions. We can cultivate this in our children and our friends as well. What would it look like if we spent more time doing this? Would it prevent violence and tragedy? Most certainly not. It could however, lift us as a people. Perhaps it would elevate our conversations – we would say, what can I do? Instead of this is the fault of ________. Maybe if we worked to cultivate personal responsibility in our own lives, it would make each moment we are given on earth that much sweeter.