I have some big stuff to talk about this week. But first of all, how are you? Have you fallen into a Fall rhythm yet? In my last post, I wrote about predictability and boundaries as necessary ingredients for creating a grounded and easeful Fall rhythm. Creating such a life takes work. And, even when we get to a place where we feel pretty grounded and easeful, there are going to be curve balls, and curve balls always test our resilience. This is where daily regularity of practice becomes crucial.
An honest assessment of most anyone’s life reveals that certain stresses and challenges will show up daily in some way or another. Some of these challenges and stresses will be quite predictable. I can count on the fact that school day mornings will be hectic at my house, and that parenting my tween and teen will have its challenging moments pretty much every day. There are the other stresses that are going to happen that are unpredictable: household plumbing problems, unexpected health issues, accidents, the loss of a loved one, natural disasters and human tragedies.
I experienced a curve ball Sunday morning when I went down to the kitchen to fix breakfast for my kids. My 14 year old was listening to the NPR coverage of the shooting incident in southern Oregon. I already knew about the incident, but I hadn’t yet created the time to properly talk about it with my kids. At the moment of entering the kitchen, I had other things on my mind. But, as I heard the latest coverage and watched both my sons intently listening, I realized that I absolutely had to switch gears mentally and be present for what they were listening to and to sit down and talk about the event in a candid way.
I talked to River and Sage about how this could possibly happen. Of course, I don’t really know. Such crimes are unfathomable to me. But I explained to them in yoga terms about the notion of samskaras, the impressions that life leaves on the medium of life itself. Whatever we think, feel, experience or do leaves an impression on the mind-body. These impressions are samskaras. They are patterns that are etched into the body-mind. These samskaras can be positive, negative or neutral. Each day, we accumulate more samskaras. In the case of someone who commits a heinous crime against humanity, one can only surmise that that this person had a very large accumulation of negative samskaras, a tremendous amount of hurt and pain housed in a human body, and quite likely, a life situation severely lacking in sufficient love and support.
I told them that this is where yoga practices come in. As we mature, we have to take responsibility for the samskaras housed in our body-minds. Yoga practices are ultimately designed to be tools for the release of negative samskaras and tools for the patterning of positive and liberating samskaras. We practice yoga asana postures and meditation daily in order to rid our body-mind of negative thought patterns, emotions and physical tension and to replace these with more life affirming habits and patterns. In this way, we become more resilient, more able to handle what life throws our way. And, as well, as best we can, given our individual life circumstances, we cultivate a positive community of supportive individuals.
Not a day goes by that I don’t feel the supreme gratitude for the practices of yoga and meditation and for the teachers who have given me these practices. Just over a week ago my meditation teacher, Dr. Paul Muller Ortega, was in here in Olympia offering his beautiful Neelakantha Meditation practice and stressing the importance of the daily regularity of practice. Both my kids and husband were present for this event and I’m grateful that they now they have this practice.
Yoga and meditation are my saving grace. Without them, I would be much less grounded, and I would be a less present parent and a less compassionate spouse. These practices act as a buffer and a balm to help me stay steady and grounded and keep my cool with the day-by-day predictable stresses. Of course, the unpredictable challenges are always going to be hard. It is very tough to stay steady in the wake of a tragedy or surprising health diagnosis. Such circumstances can broadside us. They will make life topsy-turvy. We might wobble. We might fall. However, if we have practices in place, we are in a stronger place to get back up. The daily regularity of these practices cultivated over a long time cultivates resilience, the ability to rebound after adversity.
I want to be resilient and I want my kids to be resilient. So I do my practices every day. No matter how crazy life gets. In fact, the crazier life gets, the more important it is that I do my practices. When time is crunched, I may do abbreviated practices, but I still do them. I consider doing yoga a form of activism. I believe that the world is going to ultimately change from the inside out. I do my practices to strengthen the vessel of my human body so that I can be a strong container to do the work of peace in the world. As more and more people learn yoga practices, there is a greater possibility for widespread positive transformation in the world. Peace on the inside creates peace on the outside.
Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti.
Annie Barrett. Educator, certified health coach yoga instructor.