I try to remind students (and myself) that we are much more alike than we are different. I ask them to breathe together, as you never know how much the reminder of breath is helping the student next to you get through a challenging life moment. I know what it’s like to “what if” yourself to death, to live in a state of fear and anxiety where it feels like making a decision will leave you paralyzed. But I’ve been grateful lately to also experience pure joy and bliss where the mind is empty and quiet and there is no desire to be anywhere other than the current place and moment.
I could write a whole book on how a type A Eastern European with an excess of anger has found longer periods of peace, but let’s focus on understanding what happens in those peaceful moments and how can we hang on to them for longer periods of time.
MOVE BEYOND THE FIVE SENSES
What image comes to mind when you think of the last time you experienced peace? What about joy? When I asked students, most of the answers involved traveling somewhere, leaving behind the worries of daily life. What they all had in common is the felt sense, the experience, something hard to put into words that occurred beyond the five senses. You can explain to someone what it feels like to fall in love, to experience the ecstasy of a new country, the connection of a genuine friendship, but we all know it is completely different to talk about something versus having the actual experience.
My partner and I were recently hiking through the jungles of Colombia in what seemed like untouched territory where all you saw was lush green jungle, surrounded by waterfalls and beautiful nature sounds. So many times we would give each other that look, like, “Should we take a picture?” We knew that it wouldn’t do it justice and at times we chose to just PAUSE and experience the moment instead. In one of those blissful moments, I promised myself that I would hold onto that feeling when I returned to Los Angeles. Is anyone laughing right now? How many of you made that same promise only to undo all of your vacation bliss 24 hours after returning to the belly of the beast?
SHUT IT DOWN
That is exactly what happened to me! Upon returning to LA, one of my dreams and one of my nightmares both came true within 3 days—throwing my emotions into what felt like a mini panic attack. The difference is that this time I was better prepared to handle it. I identified that a vacation provides the right environment that allows, and in some cases, forces us to step away from our daily grind. In that environment, we are able to gain a new perspective on life—to slow down and hit the pause button.
As I have been working on observing my thoughts and not getting pulled and ruled by my emotions, I was able to observe when the opportunity was presented to me. When I got done jumping up and down with excitement, doubt and fear were not too far behind. As those negative feelings got stronger, my peace got more and more disturbed. So I did what I tell my students to do when they get too sassy, which is to “shut it down.” This way I didn’t let fear and doubt sit at the head of the table—because I am the architect of my life. When my nightmare occurred, I could feel anger getting ready to sit at the head of the table and eat a nice feast. But once again I was able to observe myself so I can make a conscious decision and told fear to step aside. I am the architect of my life.
If you’ve been practicing observing your thoughts, continue to do so and shut them down when necessary. Very few things are worth the loss of your peace and joy. If you notice that you’re always living in a state of reactivity, start by simply observing your thoughts. Trust me, it’s better than the alternative!
HAVE THE EXPERIENCE
I give my all when I teach, and after 60 minutes of a carefully crafted sequence, we get to our peak pose only to have one student try it once and say, “I don’t like this pose.” Me: “You don’t yet understand this pose enough to have formed an opinion. That’s your ego talking. Do it again and go beyond your opinion. Go beyond the senses.” Several times while in Colombia I did the same thing I tell my students not to do: I quickly made judgments on topics that I knew nothing about. In those moments, I stopped my own experience. I stopped my own energy flow. I decided I knew all I needed to know on that topic by making myself the authority figure—so there was nothing left for me to experience.
We are human beings trying to have a human experience. Let’s allow ourselves the gift of that. The gift of living beyond the five senses where we know the real magic lives. Hit pause when necessary and connect to your breath so you can make decisions that allow you peace and joy. Go do an activity that connects you to the felt sense and allows room for the experience. Remind yourself that you are enough and you do enough when necessary.
I hope this week you stay in the Game of Life!