the barefoot budget

unconventional grit for a mindful life

Tapas: How I Practiced Loving My Nightmares

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Greetings from my first out of state business trip, ever! One of the park planners and I are down on the bay in Alabama learning how to use our kickass Trimble GNSS unit, which will be our best friend for mapping all the trails and natural resources across the 2,500+ acres I’m responsible for (the number keeps growing!). I’m excited for the opportunity to be here, but man oh man this trip has been rough on me. I just got back from a weekend in Ohio late Sunday, and I’m heading to Charlotte for some NFL action this coming weekend. So much for settling into my new job!

We drove the 7+ hours down last night, and arrived around 12:30 AM (our time). I slept awfully and not for long. I had night terrors and woke up in a cold sweat, crying. Between daylight savings last week and gaining another hour across state lines, my body is confused. Travelling is always hard with my diet; I end up eating a lot more grain, dairy, and processed food than my body is used to (I also may have gone nuts eating Halloween candy at my parents’ house last weekend). I physically feel pretty crappy, and I miss my man and my kitties. Plus, the Packers loss on Sunday put a dent in my spirits …

Today could have been awful. But you know what? Today, I chose to be happy.

I could have reluctantly crawled out of bed, angry and frustrated by all the above circumstances. In fact, my natural reaction would be to maintain a foul mood, sulking through the day with a chip on my shoulder, feeling sorry for myself. Letting “the bad” get the best of me, blinding me to all the good in my life. Waiting impatiently for the day to be over so I can go to sleep and hit the reset. I have watched myself live so many of these days over the last six months. Finally, I’m asking myself: for what?

I’ve been reading the Yoga Sutras this month as part of a 29-day yoga challenge with good ole’ Adrienne. Last week, I was particularly touched by this sutra:

Accepting pain as help for purification … constitute[s] Yoga in practice.

I love this, and not just because I’m a hardass. There’s a lot going on in this sutra.

acceptance – accepting everything that arises regardless of quality; good, bad, or neutral. It’s easy to accept the good and the neutral, but what matters is how you deal with the bad in your life. I accept it reluctantly, feeling like the world owes me something. True acceptance is not discriminating based on quality, but allowing all experiences as opportunities to be alive.

pain – it looks different for everyone, but we all experience pain. For me it can be physical pain (headaches), emotional pain (depression/ anxiety), intellectual pain (stress over work), or spiritual pain (lack of fulfillment).

purification – using an experience to learn and grow. Allowing an experience to shape you without attachment (good or bad) – the path to your truest self.

yoga practice – love

accepting pain – indiscriminately allowing (not shying away from, or mindlessly living through) painful experiences in your life …

pain as purification – … as a means to grow and become your truest self.

Accept the painful experiences alongside the pleasant experiences with open arms, as an opportunity to practice love, life, and vitality, thereby shedding your layers of attachment in order to grow towards your True Self. In Sanskrit, this is called tapas.

Swami Satchidananda has this to say:

By accepting all the pain that comes to us, even though the nature of the mind is to run after pleasure … we will actually be happy to receive pain if we keep in mind its purifying effects… Such self-discipline obviously cannot be practiced in our meditation rooms, but only in our daily lives.

The intention of this week of my yoga practice is to notice: am I working for myself or against myself?

Reacting to painful experiences with the anger, the aggression – that is working against myself. Accepting the painful experiences as opportunities for purification – that is working for myself.

How do you change the fundamental ways you react to life? These are coping strategies, mood regulators, behavior patterns you’ve developed over the YEARS. You can’t just tell yourself – oh hey Christine, don’t get so upset when things don’t go your way! Just smile and be glad your head is throbbing!

That’s why I must practice. Find ways to bring love to my life, so that when things don’t go my way, I have something supportive to fall back one. Something supportive to remind me not to take the painful experiences so personally, so seriously.

Last night I sat on the edge of my hotel bed and meditated. Just for three short minutes, I watched my breath and let go of thoughts that floated through my head. I rolled my shoulders and neck. I thought of Andrew, and a big smile came across my face. How simple it seemed, to call to mind the name of a loved on, and feel the subtle happiness of association. I grabbed the pen and pad on my night stand and wrote down, “thought of you and felt happy.” This morning when I woke up, so flustered, I took a moment to breathe. I did a big full body stretch in bed. And when I sat up, I read my note, and it clicked – just let it happen. Don’t react. Don’t get emotionally attached. Just let it be.

You don’t need some big fancy plan of how you’re going to overhaul your life to choose happiness. All I need is little reminders. Little cues that even in the pain, there is good. I could have resisted all the “bad” experiences of the last few days. But why? Just let it happen, so you can move on to the good. Watch how your mind moves from one to the other, and you may notice that the good and the bad really aren’t that different after all.

One thought on “Tapas: How I Practiced Loving My Nightmares

  1. Pingback: 2015 | the barefoot budget

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