A snapshot of my last 10minutes: I just sent a long email of incorrect instructions to a group of future teacher trainees I’ve never met, followed by receiving the anger of someone affected by my mistake. There are yesterday’s dirty dishes on the counter and my belly is angry from the party for one I had last night. One of my dogs is freaking out for an unknown reason and the Internet just went down as I was starting to tackle the long online to-do list that was to fill my day. Obviously, these moments are not the way I wanted them to be and I am agitated. Agitated as in squelching the impulse to yell at the dog or the person on the phone or throw the dirty dishes in the garbage.
I have a sneaking suspicion you’ve had your share of chaotic moments of derailment, juggling and embarrassed resignation. It’s called life. And sadly, practicing yoga & mindfulness everyday for years doesn’t preclude you from life’s messiness. It just makes the messiness easier to be with.
Most of the time (although not always!) there seems to be a pause before I react to unpleasant circumstances. It’s a brief moment that affords me some perspective and in that perspective is the possibility of choosing my reaction. This pause isn’t a random side effect of practicing yoga, it’s a skill that’s cultivated every time you’re on the mat when you approach your poses with the heart of an explorer. It’s the muscle you strengthen every time you inquire where your edge in a pose is and listen for the subtle feedback that your body gives you. It’s in learning the art of being with sensation, regardless of whether it’s totally delicious or not comfortable at all. Holding a pose that affects old injuries and physical limitations, for example, doesn’t usually feel super lovely. In fact, it takes some willingness and some digging deeper to be able to stay in it while remaining attentive to what’s going on inside. But we do. We learn how to be present with the intensity, inquire, and if necessary, make adjustments to our positions that might be more helpful.
So the pause that keeps me from yelling at the dog is learned. It’s a skill I’m working on in my yoga that translates to more authentic decisions and to (sometimes mildly) more compassionate reactions.
It’s true, you will gain flexibility and possibly strength if you do yoga consistently but you might also have a little more depth to dig in when the going gets tough.