Know this: you don’t have to do a single thing to find calm. Just decide. From now on, be calm.
It could be that easy. Read some Zen koans, some Osho, some Tao and see how crafty the sages have been with their recommendations. Find simplicity; find peace. There you are.
And I absolutely believe it. I absolutely know this is possible and our shared potential.
But first, with respect to Jack Kornfield, the laundry. And then the commute. The work. The kids. The meetings. The mortgage. The retirement gone dry. The agony. The grief. The fear. And what’s for dinner, anyway?
Finding calm within the storm isn’t our bailiwick. If the storm has arrived, we’re better trained to freak first, curse the weather second and then discover our better selves in the recovery effort. Hooray for the storm. Like all catalysts, it’s a gift.
Which is why Yoga, with its kind (occasionally disdainful) acknowledgement of our body and its energies, is such a special offering to humans. Especially these days. If I asked you to sit still for five minutes, without your phone, how would you do? Maybe you’d fidget? You’d itch? Would your back hurt? How many times do you think you’d check the time?
If you try it, notice. You’ll make it. Just notice what you discover. The foot sleeping. The mind shouting. The thoughts that concern you so much you open your eyes. The trash truck rattling the house.
We all have a dependency on distraction these days. It’s the nature of the world we’ve created for ourselves, in our technology, our cars, our jobs with their fun committees, our homes with their smart appliances and toys. In a strange way, it keeps us in a certain communion with each other. It’s a ‘misery loves company’ thing. Unfortunately, we don’t enjoy it. We suffer together because we don’t want to suffer a moment alone.
Which is the big charade. Whoever said the moment alone would bring suffering? The answer to that, broadly and somewhat metaphorically, is the distraction itself. We’ve been told that happiness is somewhere and we’ve all accepted that it must be out there because it’s the out there world that pays to get into your mind. You getting into your mind is free. But no one is advertising to promote this adventure. And it’s way easier, sadly, to just accept someone else in your mind than to do the work to get there yourself.
Though, that’s not actually true, if you decide. And commit to a bit of work. The advertisers do their work. Why can’t you?
The true purpose of Yoga is to calm the mind but to get there, it offers a sweet bit of guidance and preparation. First, you got to get yourself right with the world. Figure out a relationship with kindness and honesty, with moderation and generosity. Then, know that you’re going to have to make a commitment that will require a little introspection. This usually follows that revelation we all have… the one that sounds like this, ‘I don’t know what’s up with me but I’m tired of it.’
At this point, if you’re willing to pay attention, Yoga can give you a few tools to put your body in a state of stability and ease. The most introductory of these is all those poses. They are diagnostic and therapeutic. They can kick your ass and help you spend the energy of pent-up anxiety or they can encourage you to rely and rest on the ground beneath you. They can give you more than good deltoids and bulbous asses. They give you information about the state of you. Your physical condition, your nervous system, your resilience, your ability to focus, your balance, your breathing, your pride, your acceptance, your patterns. It just takes a moment to recognize that the inquiry is worth it. A reminder that you’re in the right place to observe you. The teacher, well, she’s cool. But observe yourself.
The next time you do a movement, any movement, do it consciously. Ask yourself: what is my body doing to get me from here to there? And how does it feel? And where is my weight? And do I always move this way?
Your asana can be this thoughtful. In fact, it’s just exercise if it isn’t. And what does exercise really mean if it doesn’t find some integration in your actual life?
Please let me know if you have questions. You’re a wonder.