This week’s mantra

Sunday evening I often try to spend some time to mentally go through the next week. What can be challenging? How do I want to deal with possible challenges? What attitude do I want to keep?

In the rush of the day, I often forget the conversation I have with myself Sunday evening, so I have to keep reminding myself during my sadhana or before bedtime.

This week, I want to keep verse 10 from Ch6 in the Gita in mind:

“To attain this godly state, Arjuna, you must become fully immersed in the True Self through the process called meditation (dhyana yoga). You have to control your mind, body, and senses and become free of possessions, expectations, desires, and greed. You must live alone, at least internally, in a quiet place. This inner discipline called meditation is imperative because it is the means for achieving lofty and necessary ends.”

I made myself a little mantra ‘I am free from possessions, expectations, desire and greed’.

I like the idea of living ‘alone, at least internally’. In my interpretation, it means to find contentment and peace internally, to stay centered and let the world be what it needs to be and flow with it.

New week, here we go.

About writing and other reflections

My youngest daughter asked me today if I have a journal to which I replied yes. What do you write in it, se asked. Do you start with ‘dear diary’?

I have been writing a diary for over five years now. It all started when I was living in India, and had recently discovered the mess in my mind. I had just started my Yoga Teacher Training at the Yoga Prasad Institute, and I had a terrible cough. One of my peers recommended me to go see a homeopath. Most homeopaths have a holistic approach to health, so she was not only interested in helping me cure my cough, she also asked me a bunch of questions about my lifestyle and my personal life. I was actually in a quite tricky period in my life with a big mess in my head, and she recommended writing in a diary every morning after my asana practice. She recommended what is called ‘stream of consciousness’ where you sit in a quiet and calm place, set a timer, and write everything that comes to your mind during that set time. You just write, without a purpose, without editing, without even reading what you write. Just to let thoughts flow.

I don’t know how many notebooks I filled with words that many times didn’t make much sense. It was kind of fun sometimes. I would start writing what I was thinking so it had some kind of structure, but then moved to ‘it is hot’, ‘I am hungry’, ‘What’s that noice?’, etc. It was a very soothing experience. It often felt like I was ’emptying’ my mind, and sometimes I would reach a point where I would stop writing because nothing would come to my mind. This would last for a few seconds, but it was a nice feeling.

I don’t remember exactly when, but I was already back in Norway, when my Yoga teacher recommended I start a diary, and this time, he encouraged me to write structured and coherent texts, but allow my mind to express itself freely. I have discovered that writing for me is a very good exercise. It helps me digest what I learn about yoga, and try to apply it to my everyday life. It also helps me digest situations. I consider myself relatively slow when it comes to interactions, so I often see the whole picture better once I have taken some time and distance from the situation and I sit down with my notebook and pen. Writing helps me get to know myself better too although it has taken me some time to be honest in my writing and not write what I want to believe comes honestly out of my mind.

Writing has also taught me to be patient, understanding and compassionate towards myself, because it has become some sort of conversation between me and myself. It sounds a bit scary maybe, like I am slightly crazy, but, who isn’t?…What I mean with me and myself, is between my impulsive mind that functions out of habit, and the more reflective side of me who always tries to find what is beneath my emotions, thoughts and patterns of behaviour.

Writing has also helped me in many situations to detach. I remember once, I sat to write for the umpteenth time about a ‘problem’ I had, and going ‘wait a minute, I’m tired of this. I need to change my perspective, otherwise I will continue filling notebooks with the same old story.’ And I did. I decided that day to write about the same issue from another perspective, and gradually, I managed to detach.

This blog was born out of this habit of writing. I have to confess that it was my Yoga teacher’s idea. The purpose of it is to share my thoughts, share my experiences to whomever it may help or inspire.

So the texts I write here, often start in my diary, and then I feel like sharing them. The funny part is that during the last six months or so, I have been writing more and more in Spanish, which is my mother tongue. It has become more natural, after years and years of writing in English. My writing has become more varied, maybe. I write maybe with less certitude. Lately, I write about my doubts, but I also write a lot about gratitude. I haven’t been feeling that there is any blog material lately, but today I felt like sharing. One thing that I often write about lately is when I experience the magic of taking one step at a time and living in trust.

I was born a doer, I think. Or maybe, I grew up to believe that I ‘have to’ do. Most of what happens around me feels like my responsibility which I know is nonesens. During the last few months, I have been consciously choosing to sometimes not do and see what happens. Not because I don’t care, but because I have come to realise that it is impossible to have everything as a priority. In addition, I am not getting younger, and I honestly notice how I have less energy now than ten years ago, so I am learning to spend my energy wisely. For my own well-being, but also for the well-being of those around me. I am more patient and act from a better space when I feel rested. So, when the to-do list becomes impossibly long with more than one item that needs to be done almost at the same time, I choose what to prioritise, I focus on that and I hope for the best, and you know what? It almost always works like magic! Some of the items are taken care of someone else, or they are removed from the list, or I realise that the world doesn’t go under if I leave some things for later – or for never…

So back to my daughter’s question. No, I don’t start my diary with ‘dear diary’, and I don’t write every day, but I go back to it quite often. What I write varies. I sometimes write a quote and my thoughts around it. I sometimes write what I like to call ‘poems’, because I feel that what I need to express is so personal, so ‘strong’ that it can’t be put in many words. Sometimes, I write long stories, long reflections, and I still go back to stream of consciousness from time to time.

Less judgement, more magic

My yoga teacher recently advised me to to take the process of preparing for and running my yoga classes as an opportunity to learn and develop. This, with the purpose of detaching from ‘ego’. He also advised not to be fixated with the idea that ‘I want to teach’.

This resonated with me, also when it comes to reducing stress. The process would then go like this: I get an idea, I plan a layout, I advertise, and I run my classes with a clear intention. The rest is out of my hands, and therefore, I don’t need to worry about it. If the idea works, if people sign up and get something out of my classes, I feel humbly happy, if not, I’ll try something different next time, or try again. I don’t know how this idea transferred into my ‘other job’ in a slightly different manner, but it is still helping me a lot this first days of the Fall semester.

Usually, the start of the school year is quite stressing for me (and for many other teachers, I guess). I have tried in the past to take it easy, but it has been as if my nervous system has a life of its own.

So, this year, I decided to take a different mental approach: 1) Prepare as well as I can in the circumstances I have (time, resources, space, etc) with the intention of receiving my students with awareness and respect. 2) Refrain from having a personal opinion on everything that happens in a school day. Unpredictable things happen, changes happen, mistakes happen, and they sometimes feel like obstacles in the course I had in mind when I planned my lessons, but the less time and energy I spend rejecting these obstacles and getting all emotional about them, the more present I can be to grasp the situation and turn it into a learning experience for my students and myself.

This is, in a way, one of the main principles of Karma Yoga. Do your thing without attaching to the action or the fruits of the action.

I saw the magic of this attitude happen today. Since we started with our new schedules today, one of my colleagues made a mistake, and sent her students into my classroom before our lesson was over. When she realised this, we agreed that it would take too much time for her students to move back to her classroom, so they could stay and continue working silently on a task she had prepared but had thought they didn’t have time to do before she sent them up to my classroom.

Instead of getting caught up in the frustration of having to deal with an unforeseen change, and feeding into the emotion with the whys and the hows of this mistake, I first tried to see if I could tweak my lesson plan. I was attaching to ‘my plan’. I gave my students ten minutes to revise some vocabulary, and while they did this, I realised how great the idea of my colleague was.

After my students were done revising, I decided to let them do the same reading activity their peers were doing, with some adjustments. The last 20 minutes of the lesson went smoothly. I walked around to see what my students were reading, ask and answer questions. Thanks to this little mistake, I have a new idea in my lesson repertoire. No stress. No attitude from me towards my colleague. I just allowed myself to go with the flow.

I don’t know what this school year will bring. Every year brings its challenges, and we also have the pandemic adding uncertainty to the whole equation. I only hope, I will remember the advise from my teacher. I hope I’ll remember to be present, be humble, learn, and continue flowing. When I let go of judgement, stress, and worry, magic happens.

Where did you loose your key?

According to Yoga, we seek happiness and love because that is the natural state of our Higher Self. This Higher Self (Atman) is who we really are. The issue is that most of us don’t have contact with this Higher Self. We live deluded believing that we are our lower self which is our physical body, our thoughts and everything we perceive and identify as ‘me’.

One way to the Higher Self is through meditation which requires practice and non-attachment. This non-attachment is our tool throughout the day and during our practice to reach the state of meditation. Sitting in silence every day is a way to train the mind to slow down and focus which in turn is a tool to gradually detach from what is in our way to see our Higher Self.

The challenge is, that this Higher Self seems so difficult to reach. Most of us are dealing with a very limited mind. So, it is easier to reach towards what we can see in search for happiness and love getting lost in our senses, acting in selfish ways and in worst case scenarios acting in self-destructive ways. Unfortunately, nothing in the tangible world can give us lasting happiness or a lasting feeling of being loved because everything is in constant change including our perceptions and expectations. What made me happy today, might not be enough tomorrow. The most trusted and loved person you have can suddenly change his/her mind and walk away from your life.

Once a seeker in the path of yoga accepts these basic principles, life’s small and bigger challenges take a slightly different form. We are affected by them, but we have the tools to work ourselves out of the negativity that can be created by our emotions, especially those like anger, fear, jealousy, desire and greed.

In the Bhagavad Gita, we meet Arjuna, a great warrior who finds himself paralysed by fear and anxiety right before the battle of his life. The more we study the Gita, the more we can identify ourselves with Arjuna and realise how limited and limiting our mind can be. We learn to observe our attitudes and behaviours, and with practice, discipline and patience, we manage to make adjustments that bring us to a steadier calmer state of mind.

Learning about the limitedness of our minds, and the absurdity of pursuing happiness outside ourselves is also a powerful tool that helps us better interact with other people. When you start observing your mind and realise all the internal work you need to do in order to live a more peaceful life, you are also able to recognise the same struggles in other people. You might be able to forgive easier when you acknowledge the fact that we all are seeking the same but act (out?) in different ways to achieve it.

Think about this next time you have struggles with someone you expect something from. How can you expect the other person to give you what you believe you need, when the other person is busy in his/her own mind? If you are lucky, this person is aware of his/her struggles, but most of us spend a good part of our lives completely oblivious of our own limitations.

My advice is 1) If you are lacking something, see how you can provide it to yourself. If it is love that you are seeking, find this love inside yourself. Or at least be very clear of how this love should look like and give it the same way you expect to receive it without expecting anything in return. 2) Next time someone hurts your feelings, think about the cliché line “It’s not you, it’s me”, and believe in it. Whatever people do is an expression of their own inner world, of their perceptions and expectations. Even when someone acts in response to your actions, they are acting with their mind as the puppeteer. Just observe this in yourself during the next days. People are just people doing their thing but we have decided who we like, who annoys us, who we hate, who we want to have by our side, and who we want to push away. This connects to another way of interpreting the same line, ask yourself why am I reacting like this? In most cases, it is because the other person’s actions did not meet our own expectations.

I once heard a story, I am not sure if it comes from Buddhism or from the Yoga tradition, but I think it fits here. When we keep looking for what we feel we lack in the outer world or in other people, it is as if we had lost the key for our home, and keep searching for it at the wrong place knowing very well that it wasn’t there we lost it.