Thoughts

Photo by SHVETS production on Pexels.com

I am not my thoughts. I repeat, I am not my thoughts. What a liberating thing! I don’t know about you, but I can have some dark, snarky, petty thoughts. Sometimes they play in my head over and over again. That isn’t the real ME. It is my brain at work doing what it does…thinking.

As Judith Hanson Lasater says in “A Year of Living Your Yoga,” thoughts are just neurotransmitters locking into receptor sites: they are not the truth. Just as “movies are flickering pictures that appear to have form; so are my thoughts,” says Lasater. Our job, if we choose to do the work, is to become the master over our thoughts. We do not have to be ruled over where our mind tends to go. We can become aware and choose a more conscious path.

Our mind and our breath are linked together. If you notice during times of stress, thoughts come quick and breath is shallow. For many of us, this is our constant state due to stressful jobs, high anxiety and fast-paced lifestyle. In this place of stress, thoughts tend to gravitate to the negative.

When a dark thought comes to mind, become aware of it. You have the power to flip your own narrative. Notice where your mind went and think of an alternate, positive idea. Rather than react to a grumpy server with anger in your mind, consider how overworked and underpaid they might be.

When I first sit to meditate, my thoughts tend to be quick and constant. Then, I take my awareness to my breath and watch the flow of inhale and exhale. I link my mind to my breath as a focus. As my breath becomes slower, so do my thoughts. I feel as if I have hit pause on the incessant tape recorder of my mind. Even if you don’t have time to meditate, taking a break to breathe consciously can be an easy way to take control back from the chatter of the mind. By the way, folks that don’t have time to meditate would benefit from it the most.

“Simply by slowing down the mind- the first purpose of meditation- much of this tension can be removed. Then we are free to respond to life’s difficulties not as sources of stress but as challenges, which will draw out of us deeper resources than we ever suspected we had. A one-pointed mind is slow and sound, which gives it immense resilience under stress. With a mind like this, we always have a choice in how we respond to life around us.” Eknath Easwaran in “Words to Live By, Short Readings of Daily Wisdom”

No Hurrying

Photo by Ono Kosuki on Pexels.com
"When everything hurries everywhere, nothing goes anywhere." 
~Dejan Stojanovic

Each day we get closer to how life used to be before the pandemic hit. In the last year or so, we have all had the chance to slow down. Going a little slower in general has many benefits. I have talked before about how speed and needless rushing around can become internalized in the body. ( blog entitled “Speed”) I know I feel a little hesitant to go full-speed back to life as it was. 

This feeling has reminded me of some wisdom I received years ago when training to be a Relax and Renew certified teacher with Judith Lasater. I have mentioned her many times in my blogs, as I consider her to be a beloved teacher and mentor. Judith says that many people become stressed because of their attitude about time. Each of us is given the same amount of time each and every day. The variable is how we fill it.  

Sometimes we confuse keeping ourselves busy with giving our life meaning. When we artificially create urgency in our lives, we inhibit our ability to be compassionate. Impatient, angry people add to their own suffering. For every thought that crosses the mind, there is a physiological change. This becomes a compounding effect when repeated on a daily basis. To counter this, we should learn to move quickly when it’s necessary, but without the weight of anxiety and blame piled on top. 

Rather than telling yourself “there is not enough time to get there by 6:00," instead say “apparently I didn’t leave enough time to arrive by 6:00.” Tell yourself you will not create suffering for you or anyone else because you are moving so quickly. Time is big, so allow it to be spacious in your life. As Judith says, “ Don’t try to make the present moment peaceful, make peace with the present moment.”

Many thanks to Jennifer Botka who takes beautiful notes during yoga workshops. And to Judith Lasater for her wisdom.

Wait for the mud to settle

Photo by Rakicevic Nenad on Pexels.com
"Do you have the patience to wait
until your mud settles and the water is clear?
Can you remain unmoving
until the right action arises by itself?"     Lao Tzu



I like the concept in meditation that when we first sit to meditate our minds are like a jar, filled with water and mud, that has been shaken. As we settle in and become quiet, the sediment starts to sink to the bottom of the jar and the water becomes clear. The constant stream of thoughts that normally bombard us begin to slow their assault, and there begins to be a bit of space between those thoughts. Yoking the mind to focus on breath or mantra allows even more sediment to settle.  

Right now it feels as if the cosmic jar has been shaken, and there is significant mud to wade through. Each day it feels like there is another tragedy or event to try to take in and understand. Lao Tau's suggests that in times like these, we do our best to remain patient. Take in the events and feel all that is going on around us, but then wait before reacting. Step away from all media.  Go outside, unplug and be in nature. Sit and just be, and wait for your own mud to settle.  Start with trying this for just five minutes. Let your mind's eye watch the movement of your breath and be still. See if the thoughts begin to slow down.

 I believe the world would be a kinder, more thoughtful place if everyone would spend a few moments a day in meditation.  The mud is always going to be there.  It's up to us how we choose to react to it. 
 
In the words of one of my favorite teachers, Judith Hanson Lasater: 
"May you be like the lotus, at home in the muddy waters."