Ahhh….so let’s face it – stress is part of our lives. Triggered by our kids, family, job, friends, media or relationships – our attention can become consumed by a challenging situation, and result in a snowball effect of growing insecurity and frustration. The Amygdala – two small organs in the brain the size of a small almond – becomes overstimulated as we continue to feed into the stressful situation. We may feel for that moment, or maybe longer, that our primary modus operandus is fear….anger…..anxiety. Sometimes, it begins to feel…almost normal?..to be driven by stress.
Harshada Wagner, a meditation teacher based in New York, led a class that made me question this idea of being dictated by stress. Centering on a translation from the Bhagavad Gita (6.23): Yoga is the severance of our union of pain, he discussed how we can become “addicted to” or “crave” pain, and our actions become motivated by these feelings, overshadowing the feelings of happiness and joy that lies within each of us.
The pain he referred to was not that of a physical, or gross pain. It is a pain that presents a challenge. Something that rubs us the wrong way, and becomes the main thrust of our attention, pushing other thoughts, actions and ideas aside.
When we are honest with ourselves, we can observe this pain. For example: You heard that someone said something bad about you, and your attention is ignited, and this negative idea dwells in you. Although it may have only been said once, sometimes we may repeat it, latch onto it and it grows at a furious rate inside our heads, for that moment, or maybe even for years. It completely erases the fuzzy warm moment we recently felt, or dissipates from our mind the nice thing just said about us in the same conversation.
Take this situation – someone said that I was rude. There are plenty of ways to work with this – I can agree, apologize, and let it go. I can re-examine the situation and think perhaps they were having a bad day, let it go, and move on with my day. Or, I can dwell on it. I was rude? No, they were. How dare they say I was rude? How dare they say that out loud in front of all these people? What a jerk! Next time…. I think you get the picture.
The restraint of the modification of the mind-stuff is Yoga.
Yoga Sutra 1.2
The Bhagavad Gita speaks to our union with pain, and how we value it. There is an understanding that part of our life is pain, part pleasure and part all the things in between. This is all part of life. But how do you nurture your value with pain? What do you do?
Each time we have a feeling of pain or sensation that we are not comfortable with, a chemical is being released in your body. The Amygdala is feeding off of these chemicals, and mixing up the balance within our bodies. Our bodies adjust to this balance. As our bodies come to balance with this new mix, is it something that we want? Or is this an “addiction” to a pain? Ask yourself, do you want to be cut off from that particular addiction? Or do you want to move to a more positive way of nurturing ourselves? Think of how you feel when you take a walk, go fishing, read a book, or simply savor a perfect moment. When we move to nurture ourselves, we can infuse more of a pleasurable experience in our body to lead our actions.
Harshada led a meditation – at first recognizing where our pain was, and secondly breathing through this pain and clearing it out of our system. Find a comfortable seat and breath into your body, softly, feeling the sensation of grounding down into the earth through your seat. Let your body soften. With your eyes closed…
Scan through your life – your work, friends, last thing that you did, your relationships with others, your family…and begin to notice the places that are painful. Notice the places that rubbed you the wrong way, ones that made you unhappy.
As you notice them, recognize where in your body this pain originates…Each of these spots are “addicted” to this pain, or challenge that we have acknowledged…On the inner level, just notice how these things make you feel. Look at these spots and see what you notice things that you can and can’t change. There are some things we need to accept, but other parts that we are able to change. Again, notice how these things feel.
Our very nature is free, blissful, and powerful. There are things that can help us resonate with that goodness within us, instead of falling to the addiction to pain. Focus on the more pleasurable moments within us…
Make your breath be more robust, and your exhalations will move deeply through your entire body, from your head all the way to your seat. Repeat this breath a few times. Now, bring this attention right into the middle of your body.
Remember a moment of tremendous bliss that you had in the past. Breath into this moment fully, deeply. Feel the sweet, inner glow it creates inside of you, right at the center. Just as you can remember painful moments, use this same power to remember the moments that are nurturing, blissful, happy, all are part of our being. Let the breath take that joyful memory and breathe it throughout your entire body. Let it touch every part of your body – your heart, your head, your ears, arms, legs, hands… feel it in through your senses – of taste, touch, sound, sight, smell, and hearing. Feel this full, happy deep feeling. Let this be what you are united with. Let this be what you gravitate towards. Let your attention be excited about these feelings, these memories.
Yoga is the severance of our union with pain.
I thank Harshada for reminding me why I practice. To be more able to serve, to love, be happier and be our very best and bring out the best in others.