Go ahead and ‘What if?’

What i

Most of us spend the majority of our time living in either the past or the future.  Neither of these states actually exist, nor can we control them.  This lack of control of something we CAN’T leads to a cycle of suffering marked by anxiety, guilt, fear, or self-judgement.

Phrases like ‘I should have’ or ‘I shouldn’t have’ indicate we’re reliving something that has passed and yet, we can’t let go. If you let the mind keep up this pace, you’ll end up shoulding all over yourself.

And, the ‘What ifs?’ can quite literally paralyze us from moving forward in life for fear that something bad will happen.

So, what happens when we answer ourselves with the opposite or confirm that the decision we have made is already done?  We find a little peace.

The next time you find yourself feeling guilty about something, find the ‘should’ or ‘shouldn’t’ statement at the heart of the suffering, and simply answer ‘Oh well, I didn’t’ or ‘Oh well, I did,’ and sit with it.  No need for self-flagellation, just acknowledgement and taking responsibility.  Then let it go.

If you find yourself feeling worry or fear, find the ‘what if’ and throw in the opposite just for kicks.  ‘What if I ask her and she rejects me?’

‘What if she doesn’t?’

‘What if I fail?’

‘What if you succeed?’

‘What if I die alone?’

‘What if you don’t?’

I’m not suggesting that you get caught up in another future state wormhole in which you pontificate scenarios that don’t yet exist, but rather, offer up your ego both sides of the argument it’s making when it tries to take you down.

Living in the present takes effort and discipline.  Don’t let your mind run over you like a spoiled child.

Namaste.

– Your Charmed Yogi

(Photo: MrWallpaper)

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Emotions are like blood sugar

emotional sugar cubes

Since I was a kid, I’ve had to ‘watch’ my blood sugar. If I don’t eat regularly or try to maintain a healthy level, I can get quite cranky. In fact, an ex of mine used to joke that if I didn’t get fed when I was hungry, our whole relationship was on the rocks.

It’s well known that the key to maintaining a healthy weight and eating regimen is keeping blood sugar even.  If you don’t, it can drop.  If you eat the wrong foods, it can peak and send you crashing later. It’s the same thing with our emotions.

Emotions can peak and valley superficially depending on the story we attach to our feelings, and our ability to recognize when they’re ruling us.

The old adage ‘this too shall pass’ is something we often bring to mind when something terrible has happened. But, an astute teacher once told me that we should exercise the same recognition of fleeting feelings of happiness.  Not in a doom in gloom kind of way, but rather noticing that feelings are transient.  It’s when we attach our story to those feelings that the out of control ’emotional blood sugar’ takes over.

Our minds have a fascinating way of taking us on a roller coaster ride, if we let them. The key is training your mind not to indulge in every pleasingly sugary experience or ride the hill of fear at the detriment of your peace.

Know what you feel, and that you feel, and that feelings are finite.  Know that you are bigger than your emotions and there is peace in riding them to the shore.

Namaste.

– Your Charmed Yogi

(Photo: Pinterest)

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You are bigger than your wheel of emotions

wheel of emotion

Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotions

Lately, I’ve incorporated a new ritual into my morning practice.  As soon as I wake up, even before I’m out of bed, I recite a set of affirmations from A Journey into Wholeness given to me by Benita Esposito.  One of those affirmations is, “I find myself big enough to contain my emotions, and know that I am larger than they are.”  It’s an interesting approach to bringing awareness to emotions as part of our being.  Similar to Rumi’s guest house.

Understanding our emotions helps us process them on a conscious level, so our bodies don’t have to experience them on a physical level.

Robert Plutchik, a psychologist and professor at the University of Florida developed an evolutionary theory of emotion supposing that emotions have an evolutionary history. He believed there to be eight primary emotions – anger, fear, sadness, disgust, surprise,anticipation, trust, and joy. Like natural selection, he believed that our emotional responses adapted overtime, and were passed on as part of the psychoevolutionary process.  Think the psychological version of Darwin. He even developed a ‘Wheel of Emotions” graphic to illustrate how nuanced our emotions can be.

He suggested 8 primary bipolar emotions: joy versus sadness; anger versus fear; trust versus disgust; and surprise versus anticipation. Additionally, his circumplex model makes connections between the idea of an emotion circle and a color wheel. Like colors, primary emotions can be expressed at different intensities and can mix with one another to form different emotions.

The theory was extended to provide the basis for an explanation for psychological defence mechanisms; Plutchik proposed that eight defense mechanisms were manifestations of the eight core emotions.

I find the theory fascinating, particularly how he incorporates the light and the dark aspects of emotions like surrender.  Even though it’s quite colorful, it’s still a little two ‘defined’ for my taste.  It would have been great (if he were alive) to see a collaboration between he and Eckhart Tolle.

The point is, no matter what emotions you experience, you can ride them out by being bigger than they are.

“Rather than being your thoughts and emotions, be the awareness behind them.”

– Eckhart Tolle

Namaste.

– Your Charmed Yogi

(Photo/Quote: Wikipedia)

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Don’t look for thoughts where there are none

let it go balloon

Have you ever been merrily going about your business, perhaps living purely in the moment, when your unconsciousness interjects with some type of made up problem? Perhaps you thought you’d moved on from an earlier problem, only for your mind to bring it back up to the surface, like a jealous childhood friend who gets jealous over your contentedness, and looks for ways to hijack your happiness. Sometimes it’s hard for us to ‘just be.’  I mean to say, that we spend so much time focusing on what’s wrong and how to fix it, we don’t know what to do when our mind takes a break. And, we even go looking for problems sometimes.

If you don’t know what I mean, maybe you’ve observed this in a co-worker, family member or friend who only seems to be happy when there’s something to be unhappy about. Once upon a time, I worked with a few of these people. It’s as if they truly don’t know how to enjoy the peace of stillness. Like their brain is telling them, “Wait there’s nothing wrong right now, what’s wrong?  There must be something I’m supposed to be upset about right now.  No? Well, let’s find something.” This isn’t a judgement of their character, but of our upbringing in general. Let’s face it, we’re a society of scab-pickers who can’t leave well enough alone.

For the over-analytical population (myself included) we have a tendency to exhaust ourselves looking for the thoughts that feed our emotions, when truly we are neither thought or emotion.  And, by simply bringing awareness to an emotion or a feeling that arises enables us to come into the present. Being with the feelings IS presence, aversion is not.

This happened to me the other morning, I was getting ready for work after my morning practice, and noticed that I was feeling anxious. So rather than going on a thought-spelunking mission which would inevitably take me out of the moment and likely cause more pain, I decided just to sit with the feeling for what it was.  Eventually, it went away.  As I became the watcher of all that’s happening with this body and mind, I’m able to witness be-ing. This doesn’t mean that we’ll never feel pain, rather with observance and the practice of letting go of attachment AND aversion, we become the self beyond thought. And that is bliss.

“All problems are illusions of the mind.” ― Eckhart Tolle

Namaste.

– Your Charmed Yogi

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(Photo: Pinterest)

Give it up for happiness

Happiness-Hands

‘Happiness is like a butterfly. The more you chase it, the more it will elude you, but if you turn your attention to other things,  it will come and sit softly on your shoulder ~ Thoreau’

We all want happiness, but what would you give up to have it? There’s a story of a man who, unfulfilled by life, once told the Buddha, “I want happiness.”  Here’s what Buddha said…

i want happiness

Namaste.

– Your Charmed Yogi

(Photo is courtesy of the talented Gavin at Zen Pencils)

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Accepting the unacceptable

mourning statue

At times like this, it’s hard for me to make sense out of the violence and suffering that occur in the world. I talk often about acceptance and awareness, and yet here I sit, a hypocrite, finding it near impossible to reconcile or make peace with what has happened this past week. But, I think what helps me avoid getting stuck in a glut of anger is realizing that acceptance doesn’t necessarily mean endorsement.

In 2012 there have been more than 50 mass shootings in the U.S., the most recent at a Connecticut school that left 27 people are dead, including 18 children. As I type the words, it’s hard for me to digest. I truly have no words.

Although I’ve never met him, one of my most beloved teachers is Eckhart Tolle. His words tranformed me when I was in a not-so-awesome place. I thought this video on dissolving suffering was poignant. It’s not about mass violence, but the message on transmuting suffering into peace is worth watching.

“I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary; the evil it does is permanent.”

– Mahatma Gandhi

Be well. Love and be loved. Namaste.

– Your Charmed Yogi

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(Photo: StLouisCatholic)

Rest your soul with yoga nidra (and Sara Ivanhoe)

yoga nidra

This weekend, I had the pleasure of attending Sara Ivahoe’s Yoga Nidra workshop at the Southeast Yoga Conference.  I wasn’t quite sure what I was in for, as I had not experienced a yoga nidra practice, but when it comes … Continue reading