Once, many years ago, I received a trash can for my birthday. I’ll admit, it was a fancy stainless-steel smudge-proof one, but still…a rubbish bin. It was one of the first lessons for my then boyfriend, now husband, to not take everything I say so LITERALLY. I had happened to call him while in the Container Store one afternoon, and having seen the price tag of said trash can, exclaimed, “Wow! This is like a birthday present!”
Expectations and communication fails. A constant practice between myself and others and between my mind and body. All too often I can misinterpret someone’s facial expression and internalize it as something else; registering language through my own filter.
“You look healthy” imprinted in my brain as “you’ve put on weight.”
“Your job must be just so much fun” imprinted as “you are dumb and have a frivolous job.”
And THEN that negative filter continues into a pattern of defensiveness. “My weight has always fluctuated. It’s taken a lot of hard work to not equate virtue with thin-ness or to base my self-worth on my body.” “I take my job very seriously. This is why I spend lots of money to continue to train with senior teachers, to read philosophy and anatomy books so I can continue to grow. Sorry there isn’t an advanced degree this adds up to!”
ALL OF THIS IS AN ILLUSION. None of these thoughts are real FACTS. Even IF there was an ill intention in someone’s comment, my mind will distort any information, positive or negative through my patterned filters. It’s my job with the help of yoga to see them and either stop or divert them. THIS is real yoga. Choosing the samskaras/patterns you want to keep, stopping the ones that don’t serve you and creating new ones that bring you more in tune with the divine piece inside all of that flesh.
How do we do this inside the physical part of Ashtanga yoga? Start noticing what you are thinking about as you practice. Watch how your mind directs your body to do things.
Examples of my own:
“I’ve been doing kapotasana for weeks just fine. Why can’t I do it today?! Let me try it for the 5th time.”
“Ugh. My left hip is achy. WHY IS THIS HAPPENING?! There’s always something!”
These are prime examples when my mind tries to choose what my body SHOULD do or want my mind WANTS it to do. It’s a failure again to listen to what is actually available. Trying something SO many times over and over because you are forcing your body into submission demonstrates a lack of compassion, care and body awareness. Associating my whole practice with flare-ups also limits my understanding of what constitutes practice. There are SO many ways to practice and perhaps an injury happened because I wasn’t paying attention to other pieces as well.
Poor communication, distorted filters, forced results and a lack of compassion only create more disordered thoughts and increase suffering. Catching yourself in those moments and focusing on what your body is ABLE to do that day respects your body but also strengthens your mind to listen to what is actually in front of you. Creating curiosity rather than frustration is a choice that only strengthens with practice.
So even on the days when all you want is gold but you get a trash can, respect whatever is in front of you for what it is without turning it into a heaping pile of garbage.