NotSoZen YogaJen

Archive for August 2010

My mind is sticky, like the craziest kind of Krazy Glue.  All day long, thoughts Stick! Stick! Stick! like flies on fly paper to my mind, fighting to break free, fighting for their lives, but all their squirming only makes them more and more sticky, and makes me more and more stuck.

And it’s not just the big things that stick to my mind.  It’s little things, too.  Teeny tiny things that would, at first glance, not appear to be something that someone could worry about at all.  But I will find a way.  I will worry.  And these little things get stuck, and I turn and churn them over in my mind for hours, days, and sometimes even weeks.  And the sticky stuckness seeps down into my neck, shoulders, and stomach, tensing up my whole body and making me sick with worry and anxiety that it feels like I will never escape.

All day long, I try to Rip! Rip! Rip! the thoughts out of the tenacious grip of my sticky mind, and release them to go along their merry way and leave me in peace.  This usually does not work.  My sticky mind does not respond well to violence or intimidation, and even when I try to calmly reason with it, it remains unmoved.

A few weeks ago I took a yoga class with Anya Porter, and the theme of the class was letting go.  She said, “So often, we are holding on to things that are familiar, things we want, and things we used to have.”  Check, check, and check.  And as is often the case for me, all of the above.  She instructed us to focus on the exhale, the emptying and emptiness, which is that place of groundlessness, and to keep returning to that empty groundless place.  I picture open hands and empty palms, not gripping anything at all, I imagine freefalling through a wide-open space without ground.

It’s so easy to get stuck grasping onto things that are familiar, things we want, and things we used to have, especially when your mind is sticky.  It’s so easy to believe that if things stay the same we will be safe and secure, and if we get the things we want, or get back the things we used to have, we will be happy.  It’s easy to get seduced by this false promise and sucked into another cycle of grasping and wanting and disappointment and fear and pain.  It’s hard, and scary, to step out of the cycle, to pry the sticky fingers of your mind open, let go, and freefall into groundlessness, with nothing to hold onto, and nothing there to catch you.

But if fighting and reasoning with my mind to let go don’t work, then what does?

When my mind gets stuck on a thought or I get stuck in this cycle of believing that I NEED something, past or future, to be OK, I can go to yoga class.  And sometimes, not always but sometimes, as I’m moving through the poses on my mat, and some great song, one of my favorite songs, comes on the teacher’s iPod, and the sun is setting outside and the sky is pink and all I’m doing is moving and breathing, and maybe my thoughts haven’t stopped altogether but at least they’ve slowed down considerably, I feel happy and peaceful.  And I remember that even if I never get that thing or person in the future that I think I need so much, and even if that thing or person I loved so much in the past never comes back, I can go to yoga.  I can enjoy taking a class, I can be, in that moment, happy, I can be, I will be, OK.

Also, many years ago I took an acting class where the teacher taught me the power of a gentle suggestion.  Before this class, if I wanted to feel sad on stage, I would beat myself up in my mind into feeling sad.  But instead of forcing emotions, this teacher taught me to just ask myself, “What if I was upset right now?” or “What if I was really scared?” or “What if I was in love with this person?”  No pressure, just, “What if?”  So sometimes, when I’m going through my day and some teeny tiny thought gets superglued to my mind I think, “What if this was no big deal?  What if I could just let this go?  What if?”  And then, sometimes, my mind will relax its grip and just let that thought go along its merry way and leave me in peace.  And it becomes something that really is no big deal, it transforms into something that I really can just let go…

And, exhaling helps.  A deep, full, loud exhale, to just empty empty empty out.

So I go to yoga and exhale loudly and ask myself “What if?,” and sometimes, my sticky mind surprises me.  Instead of Krazy Glue it feels like it’s made of Teflon, and all those thoughts that are kamikaze dive-bombing me all day long just slip and slide right off.  And I am free, in that empty space, no longer holding on and tangled up, and I am grounded, for that moment, in wide-open spacious groundlessness.