As we bring ourselves into the present over and over again through practice we begin to shift. Our mind becomes more used to present centered thinking. Everytime we feel our feet on the ground or consciously take a breath – our thoughts don’t change, but instead become more obvious.
For example, we might have the habit of eating a lot at parties and other social situations. Maybe we normally have 1 or 2 pieces of corn but at a barbeque we find ourselves eating 5 or 6. After practicing being present for a time, we find ourselves in these situations having the thought, “ I need more corn” and then we eat it.
After more time practicing we may have the same thought, notice it and think, “I don’t actually need that corn.” This last thought was likely there all along but we were not present enough to see it. We used to proceed and eat the corn. After more practice and experience with present centered thinking, (like “I’m breathing in, I’m breathing out” or “My feet are on the floor and I’m wiggling my toes”) we hear the mind’s voices more clearly and choose to not eat the corn because we’re not hungry.
This is the way in which we change – becoming more present – hearing all of our thoughts – and then finally making simple choices. Our thoughts never disappear, these eating patterns may have started when we were 2 years old. But our relationship changes to them. Eventually we are in the present just enough to make aware choices more of the time. Don’t expect to silence out “demons” but instead, to hear them completely along with all of your other thoughts.
In this way, we can make informed decisions more of the time. As we do this, we move towards one of the great gifts of yoga – using our minds full potential.
Om Shanti, Om Peace.
What stresses us? The unknown. When we are vague in our plans for self betterment, often we wind up unsuccessful. When our atmosphere becomes cluttered with unclear intentions and judgement, our mind becomes preoccupied with no consistent resolution. This is a stressful cycle.
We wind up here often because we have a misperception of freedom. We all want to be free but we get confused about what freedom looks like. At first glance one would think that having no specific plans creates freedom. These general intentions might look like, “I’m going to work out every day” or “I’m not going to eat too much”. These seem like reasonable goals/intentions yet the reality is that this generally constrains us. These thoughts to better our lives, although well-intentioned, are in-specific and keep us bound. When are you going to go to the gym? And on what days? What other aspects of your life must change for you to accomplish this goal sustainably? Do you intend to get there while maintaining a yoga and meditation practice, working your full time job, and walking the dog twice a day? Are there other factors that might be in the way of you reaching your goal? This week or this month? The holidays might be an example of another consideration.
We are free when we are experiencing contentment. Our mind becomes more still and we feel like we have room to breathe. Contentment comes more easily when our mind is functioning out of what is known with minimal vagueness. For generations, Yoginis have lived regulated lives for this purpose.
So what do we need to do? Make a plan! Keep it simple by building in a little space for your intention. From this place, you can experience the freedom born of contentment! Make a plan for the next 30 days. Build in the ways you plan to move and eat. Account for the holidays. Are you really going to do your practice or go to the gym on new years day? Or are you more likely to take a walk? Are you likely to stick to a really austere food plan through the holidays? Or are you better off having a plan to avoid one or two foods that cause you to binge?
Most importantly, once you make a specific plan, enjoy the freedom it creates. Allow yourself the space to not make any more decisions on these matters for a month. Your stress will be reduced by not adding more unknowns. You will find more contentment and happiness moving in the way that you’ve previously decided, without the extra judgement. You will find it easier to “stick” with your simple plan knowing that you will have the freedom to reassess in a month.
May we all have a taste of freedom into the new year.
And as always, please email with any questions.
Om Shanthi, Om Peace.