There is no doubt that long term stress leads to strain and left untreated can cause other chronic conditions. If you are suffering with prolonged mental, emotional and physical health conditions, a visit to your GP is your first course of action. In the meantime, it’s worth examining the helful ideas of the old seers and sages of yoga wisdom e.g. Patanjali and others.
These pearls of ancient wisdom, gleaned whilst meditating (with some yoga postures for stretching) still speak directly to the root causes of modern suffering. Patanjali and his team of scribes gathered the ideas together into the Yoga Sutras, of which there are many translations and subjective analyses available.
I have been breathing, moving, resting and indeed living, with the following ideas for some years now and I want to share them with you:
The kleshas (causes of suffering):
a) Ego (asmita) – we all have it and when we go through life we gather up a canon of experiences, events and situations. Over time they develop a slant that becomes our own defining story. We can unconsciously get locked into and defined by this story and the ego corners us with it. Our ‘story’ can trap us into a physical cage of rigidity (it can hurt at times). Letting go of our story can be tough as it gives us an identity, that perhaps at times we may be afraid that we are nothing without. Moving the body in yoga, twisting it about, turning it this way and that, even upside-down in some movements, can help us to physically and literally shuffle off some of this story, thus opening the body up to new stories, options and possibilities.
Asmita Practice – Keep your mat where you are likely to see it most often and practice some simple postures, just for just one minute every day. Journal any changes/perception shifts you notice.
b) Not-seeing (avidya) – continued over-identification with these stories of I, Me, Mine, keep us asleep to or unconscious of our True Selves (Purusha). In yoga the physical/material world, aswell as thoughts and feelings about it, is Prakriti. Staying stuck with stories of I, Me, Mine blocks out and keep us asleep to our deepest and purest selves.
Avidya Practice – Continue to move and practice yoga just for just one minute every day. Afterwards sit comfortably, eyes-closed and go inside to yourself. Try to connect with your True Self even for a fleeting moment. Journal any observations.
c) Attachment (raga) to outcomes, events, successes and goals is driving us crazy. Our socially networked every waking moment, driven by high speed broadband is perpetuating attachment further and faster. When we haven’t arrived where and when we thought we should have by a particular point in time, misery ensues. Feelings of failure envelop us and shroud us in depression or we try harder, push more, burn out and end up with chronic anxiety.
Raga Practice – Take a post-it note and put the five year plan on it, the goals, the attachments, the outcomes, the whole shebang (small writing may be required) and place it beside or under your mat with a question mark on the opposite side of the post-it note. Continue to breathe, move, turn and twist about safely with a few new yoga postures to your mat, try it for 2-4 minutes each day. Then rest – whilst resting, notice any perception shifts around what ‘has’ to happen in your life, look out for new feelings, thoughts, possibilities and options about your life.
d) Avoiding (dvesha) the unpleasant and veering towards the generally fuzzy and cosy stuff of life is human nature, when it runs to extremes it causes suffering and sometimes addiction. A daily practice of adopting a more neutral approach in between the attaching and the avoiding will lead us to a place of feeling just fine with whatever conditions are present in our lives. Perceived ideas of ‘positive’ and ‘negative’ will fall away and we will learn to be more at one with what is – ‘good’ or ‘bad’.
Dvesha Practice – sit in a busy room/place, avoid asking anyone to be quiet because ‘I’m meditating’, simply sit, eyes-closed and get as comfortable as you can within the limitations of the environment, sit as quietly and still as you can, sit for a minute and say to yourself ‘all is as it should be’. Takes practice but it’s real life.
e) Abhinivesha – so what is all this running around for? The story creation, the unconsciousness to our pure self, the clinging to stories and attachments and the tendency to avoid the unpleasant? What are we at? Packing it all in before we go, as we live in fear of death? True, it’s the stuff of life, and yes we do have to live in the world within which we find ourselves, the days of cave-dwelling are behind us. But can we instead consider life from the point of view of the breath? After all we are only given a Finite number of them. With this in mind, we come to our breath more fully and more gratefully instead and enjoy the current moment a little more each day.
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From my heart to yours.