I think we can all relate to the struggle of not letting ourselves go down a dark path. When there is so much fear and suffering in the world right now, it really is an important practice. The below quote from Ghandi truly explains this power and it became the message I shared with my classes this past week.
“Beliefs create our thoughts and our thoughts create our feelings and emotions and those create our actions and our actions create our character and our character creates our destiny.”
We can use our physical practice to experiment with and understand how this can work not just in our bodies but in our lives. So as we began our asana practice, warmed up the abdominals and moved into cat/cows, I offered the first chance to try out this practice. I asked my students to think about the story they hold on to regarding cat/cow– perhaps that it is a linear action of arching and rounding without room for exploration. I offered them the chance to ask themselves “Is my belief about cat/cow true? Maybe it can include shifting from side to side and making circles with the hips—perhaps that feels better in my body today.” If we shift the belief then the thoughts, feelings and actions can change as well. And if we find the actions that serve the body, then our destiny can change in small ways with regard to pain and discomfort in the body.
We continued to test this theory as we moved through our practice… We asked questions such as “What if I change the belief that both sides should feel equal in each pose… would I become less frustrated and angry about the side that feels tighter? Would that in turn allow me to soften in my emotions and actions and from there would I find more space and acceptance?” “What if my belief that I need to “Do it all” on the mat (or off of it) isn’t true? How does that change my thoughts and feelings about myself and my actions both on the mat and off? Could that lead me to a place of deeper acceptance of myself both physically and emotionally and how can that change my destiny?”
What we practice on the mat, we get better at off of it. So, I asked my students to think about how this works off the mat as well. We each set an intention at the beginning of class to identify a story or belief about a situation or relationship and ask ourselves “Is this belief or story true? What if it weren’t completely true? How would that change my thoughts, feelings and actions and ultimately my destiny?” With mindfulness we can discover if a story we are telling ourselves about a relationship or experience isn’t actually true.
We have all experienced moments when we interpret a situation or interaction in a specific way only to find out later it was not at all what we thought. Versions of that phenomenon happen all the time in the mind. And it is from this place that we often have feelings, thoughts and actions that effect our destiny
Back on the mat we moved through a challenging asana sequence using eagle arms and eagle legs to access the upper back and then some deep back-bending to open the heart eventually finding our way to Pigeon pose and a settling into the hips. From there, we transitioned onto our backs and settled into our final rest and it was time to let go of this practice in the body and transition fully into the mind. As they found stillness in the body and came into the final meditation I reminded them of the gift we have the opportunity to give ourselves… the gift of clarity, the gift to change our destiny with just one simple question. “Is the story true?” Namaste.