What many people don't realize about yoga is that more than poses, breathing techniques, inspiration or pants, yoga is about habits: how to release them, how to establish them and what they are for.
In the Sutras, Patanjali (the guy who gets credit for writing down the note-like sentences in that book) talks about samskara, or grooves. In scientific lingo, these are the probabilities that certain neurons firing will lead to certain others firing. We experience them every day as our routines, our cravings and in many ways the framework for our experiences.
We can let go of, cling to or transform the framework of our experiences. All that is required is awareness, compassion and patience. Just three things, but each a deep and inexhaustible process.
This morning I experienced a break through of sorts in my habits, one I've experienced before and will, no doubt, experience again. Having recently changed my work identity, place, process and focus, I've been feeling a bit of anxiety for the last month. I resigned as a Paramedic last month and though I'll still hold my license for another year or so, that will fall away, too. I made this choice because the time necessary to maintain that license and the proficiency that it ought to represent was taking away from the time I had to grow as a yoga guide and business owner. I had a wonderful party with my yoga peeps to celebrate and lunch with my paramedic peeps and it was as graceful and joyous a transition as I could imagine. But even these come with anxieties born of doubt, fear and other delusions like identity and security.
And when I feel anxious or destabilized - even for really awesome reasons - I have a set of habits, like tics, that I find deeply comforting and reassuring. I go to the gym, which is my happy place from way, way back. I check email too often and very early. I check the bank accounts and update the budget with annoying accuracy. And I do these things upon waking, before practicing yoga, hiking or engaging in any of the other deeply nourishing practices I've established as an adult. Luckily I've pruned out the truly unhealthy habits of younger days and each of these activities has value in the grand scheme. They paradoxically give me great comfort while undermining my equanimity. They involve a certain grasping over-focus that encourages the shadow side of my personality to emerge: the Control Freak Worrier. But it's only when that Control Freak Worrier emerges that I can invite her to tea.
And I learned a long time ago that fighting these tendencies does not lead to their lessening. Just as Patanjali says, what we resist, persists (he, of course, says it in fancy Sanskrit). So when I begin to recognize my need to control freak check things, be in proximity to metal plates and loud music and do tedious math... I just do it. I've learned through years of observing my own patterns that this is temporary and fighting it just draws out the pattern. So I wake to NPR on the East Coast, make the Black Lightening coffee, fire up the computer and counter to everything we know about productivity and peace, I check email, website stats, bank accounts, budgets and then do yoga, hike and head to the gym. I give in. My little Control Freak needs to be heard, seen, brought into awareness, listened to and this is her language.
It's been three weeks this time. A few days ago I started longing for my more peaceful morning routine - still with the Black Lightening coffee, but in quiet, reading Dogen, with a shorter trajectory to my mat and my hike and longer one to email. It took me about three days of being aware of the urge to return to my Dogen routine before it felt okay to have it, so for a couple of days I sat with the tension between not-reading-Dogen and checking-on-things before giving in to my Control Freak. She had a few more cries to get out, a few more things to say.
This morning, making coffee and petting John Denver (our Husky puppy) in the dark before dawn, I awakened to the lack of that tension. Little Control Freak had gone back for her nap, down under the fertile layers of consciousness for more integration, digestion and warmth. I know she'll be part of me for as long as there's a me, but I've grown fond of her and her quirky needs for reassurance. I've learned that the less I fight, the more I bring to awareness, the easier it is to have the "healthy" habits that Little Control Freak would like to impose but can never seem to establish. Oddly, by letting her have her freakish moments, we both get what we need.
It's the process of awareness, of compassion and of sometimes putting our grand plans to the side for a bit so that what is freakish, quirky and seemingly all-we-do-not-want can shine and burn brightly: this clears out the pipes so we can have our clear, peaceful mornings that seem so ideal.
This is why you won't find "challenges" here, or 30 day plans to re-vamp your self. While they have their place in learning skills, tools and techniques, they aren't the path to organic transformation. Go to the other websites for boot camps and 21 days to your yoga booty. Come here to find support for unravelling all that on your mat and looking at and holding dear everything it stirs up and covers up. They're both useful activities, the learning skills and the unravelling; there just aren't very many places to support the unravelling and raveling, though. It's not as category-friendly as skill learning boot camps. But it IS the missing ingredient. Add a little into your recipe. Let me know what it looks like for you - leave a comment about your stirring and covering and letting go. That's what this is here for: let it go.