Mind Monkey.. pipe down already!

25 Jan

Lately I have been fortunate enough to have a large chunk of free time in my life. I am currently between yachting jobs, so my daily priorities have been that of yoga and.. drinking delicious coffee. Yoga and I really have developed a newly formed love affair in the previous 3 months. Prior to this, I had participated in a few classes here and there in the form of Ashtanga, Vinyasa and Bikram, but it wasn’t until my move to Mallorca in October that I really committed and bonded with this ancient practise.

This morning, my class was Ashtanga, which in Sanskrit, literally translates to “eight limbs (or “eight limbed path”). This is form of yoga with eight components: morality; ethics; posture; breath control; sense control; concentration; meditation; absorption. I have only practised the first (or primary) series; that consisting of about 75 poses taking between 90 and 120 minutes to complete.

Just let me vent quickly: anyone that claims yoga is for “pussy’s” or “stupid hippies” voice their close minded opinion because a) they have clearly never rolled out a mat, taken off their socks and joined in on a class and b) because frankly, they are idiots. If you have given yoga a go, then you surely know that damn, this shit is hard! Not only physically, but also emotionally, spiritually and mentally. It can all be very testing.

Personally, I find that the Ashtanga is very physically challenging but equally, I find it really tough to remain balanced, focused and centred mentally. During a class, the “Mind Monkey” often appears.. and you’ve all met him in everyday life. You know that annoying “voice of doubt, impatience, hatred or negativity” that appears sporadically in the mind. Yup, that is him!

Well today in my class, he came for a visit and the little whisper began. He told me that ‘I couldn’t possibly do that posture’; ‘that my hamstrings are far too tight and they are not good enough’; ‘I wasn’t a “good yogi” because I couldn’t get my shoulders under my knee caps, flatten my hands and hold myself mid air for 25 breathes’… And, ‘that the 60 year old women behind me all twisted up like a perfect animal balloon was making me look stupid.’ All rubbish! One word = TRAP! And I fell deeply into it by comparing myself to others and momentarily becoming caught up into a false train of thought by measuring my “success” based purely on the physical and then proceeding to put myself down.

In the book “Yoga Body, Mind and Spirit: A return to Wholeness” author Donna Farhi touches on how in the west, we are taught from an early age that “what we do” and “what we own” are the sole components for measuring whether we are “successful.” What yoga aims to teach us is that “who we are” and “how we are” constitute the ultimate proof of a life lived in freedom; and if one does not truly believe this, it is likely that they will measure their success in their yoga practise through the achievements of external forms (yes me, momentarily!).

She then goes on to explain that it is easy to measure physical prowess, but then we compare ourselves to others who are more flexible, or more “advanced” in their yoga postures, getting trapped (there is that nasty little word again!) in the belief that the forms of the practice are the goal. BUT these outward feats do not necessarily constitute any evidence of a balanced practice or a balanced life. She explains that this is where we need to remember that the techniques and forms are not the goals in themselves but vehicles for getting to the essence of who we are.

She also states that one of the greatest challenges in practising yoga, is to learn to perceive progress through “invisible” signs; signs that are quite often unacknowledged by the culture at large. Donna asks –
Are we moving toward greater kindness, patience, or tolerance towards others? Are we able to remain centred and calm even when others around us become agitated and angry? How we speak, how we treat others and how we live are the more subjective qualities and attributes we need to recognise in ourselves as a testament to our own progress. She says that If we remain committed to our deeply held values, then, we can begin to discern the difference between the appearance of achievement and the true experience of transformation, and thereby free ourselves…..

Whether it be yoga or any other daily scenario/ activity, It is extremely difficult to master the art of self acceptance. If we were able to magically play back the often unkind, unhelpful and destructive comments and judgements silently made toward ourself in any given day, we would then realise exactly how destructive what we think can be. Imagine voicing these thoughts to another person? The vocalisations would be nasty and vicious and could potentially really hurt another human being. This just proves that violence to the self is not only debilitating, but said simply, plain awful.

So how do we become more accepting of thyself? In my opinion, it is to attempt to recognise these thoughts as they occur and accept them. Rather than fight against them, make them wrong and reject them, be compassionate towards them. Imagine your mind suddenly being filled to the brim with lots of love (rather than hatred). Accept the thoughts for how silly they are and laugh not only at yourself, but at the annoying little monkey that lives within the mind.

Nobody is perfect, we all have moments where we doubt ourselves, our choices and our abilities but it is learning to overcome these thought patterns that is the real challenge. If we can master this to the best of our ability, in turn we will all be much happier people; not to mention more tolerant and accepting who we are and the people around us. I know that this is a challenge for me, not only yogic-ally speaking, but in life in general.

As for my monkey, I feel sorry for him, but I accept him in my life. One thing is for sure, I will not let him persuade me into believing falsities!

Progress comes in all forms and like stated above, the invisible is often more powerful.

Until tomorrow’s class

Gypsy xx

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