I have been suffering lately and I have been handling it the way I know how. A mix of Yoga, Habit Patterns of Coping and Help from Healers, Friends and Family. I wish I could tell you exactly what has been going on, but it feels like a combination of things super subtle and others right in my face. All aspects of myself have been suffering: Physical, Mental, Emotional, Spiritual. Obviously, the world has been struggling through COVID-19 and within our own country it has been a challenging time of politics, marches, and a lot of disillusionment all around. But, all and all, I have been quite blessed and have suffered mostly mentally and a bit emotionally because of COVID-19. Unlike so many others, my basic needs have still been met and it has just been a long uncomfortable mirror of how I manage stress, change, difficulty, trust and fear (to name a few). Yet, there is still something off and no matter what I have tried or what I have looked up online or in books, I have not felt a shift in the “right” direction.
I am a “fixer” see, which I will discuss in a later Blog Post, and so sometimes even the Tools of Yoga and other Healing Modalities can trap me in Fix It mode. Last Thursday I had a great Feldenkrais Healing Session, and one of the Take Aways for me was to just stop trying to fix myself. I feel off and I am suffering but what if this is just some new uncomfortable place within that I am not yet used to. It appears as suffering because I don’t feel normal to myself. What if I am, in some ways, starting over fresh to reevaluate and reacquaint myself with myself? Like a child who is having all new experiences for the first time. Right now I am in this limbo phase. Which a “fixer” like me doesn’t love. But, this morning Brahmacarya bubbled up in my peripheral and I wondered…
Brahmacarya is discussed in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra-s (Yoga Sutra-s here on out) in Chapter II, Sutra 38 and has been translated many different ways since it was first written down all those years ago. Here is just a sampling of the use of translations for carya.
Like many languages, Sanskrit is a complicated language whose words can change meaning based on context. This won’t be a linguistic discussion or a debate on the philosophy and translation of Brahmacarya. Though, if you don’t yet know, I LOVE philosophy and a good discussion and debate, especially geeking out on the Yoga Sutra-s. But my yoga teacher explains how the Sutra-s are a living text and therefore the context shifts with society and even within the individual.
Chastity is often a common translation of Brahmacarya. Chastity, to me, implies strong self-restraint and though it is referring to sex I can see how self-restraint is important in aspects more than sex. I don’t remember where I heard or read this, but once I was told Brahmacarya can be thought of as “the appropriate use of energy” and this made sense to me. For someone who is already restrained and rigid from controlling all aspects of their life, practicing self-restraint may look different to the person who just takes and does whatever and whenever without thinking first. A little balance for those two individuals may be a little less restraint versus a bit more restraint. And the average person will most likely be on a pendulum of self-restraint depending on the issue being discussed. More self-restraint on eating and less self-restraint on sleeping so much, for example.
As for me, I thought of Self-restraint in terms of trying to fix whatever the hell has been causing my suffering. I think the most appropriate use of my energy right now, might be to do nothing. No Fixing and No Control. Abso-Fucking-Lutly Nothing. I feel burned out. Tired and Drained. I feel backed up and stopped up and over congested. My daily routines are no longer serving me in the way they had been before, and I need to just STOP. My MO in the past is to pause, not stop. I pause to reevaluate for a day and then take charge the next morning with all my new routines to support me. But I have been trying this for the last few months and it feels like climbing a giant sand dune straight up. A LOT of work with not much progress.
So, this blog post is to remind myself and those who might also need to hear this, that sometimes the most appropriate use of your energy and Your Real Life Yoga Practice is to do nothing. To practice self-restraint when your mind wants to over think, figure out and solve the issue. When your heart wants to over feel and then under feel and then spiral out on the feelings. Stop all the self-help books, the uplifting quotes, and educational podcasts. To just Stop Doing and Start Being, as the saying goes. And “Doing” is a “Fixers” baseline way of living, so this is a bit of a challenge for me.
I find myself fluctuating between a state of contraction and then openness each time I check in. Even my meditations have been meh. Yoga Nidra has been saving my ass lately. “Just be. Do Nothing. The body is breathing itself.” Yoga Nidra, for those who don't know, "is a systematic relaxation technique that guides the practitioner into conscious deep relaxation. It’s designed to cultivate inner awareness and relaxes the physical, emotional, and mental systems. It has been called “psychic sleep,” although there remains complete awareness and focus of attention to individual body parts and states of consciousness." according to James Reeves So, 20 Minutes, 30 minutes, 60 minutes if I am lucky. Morning, noon and or evening before bed. Guided or Guiding myself. This level of stillness is NOT a “fixers” baseline. At least not this “fixer.” So this is how it works. This is how a Real Life Yoga Practice works. There is not a one size fits all way of Yoga. Yoga is a personal practice, and it ebbs and flows and each day and moment will look very different from the next. I find it is a way of checking in and then discerning what would be best right now. Not yesterday, not what other people are saying or doing, not how I want it to be or even how my teacher says it should be.
I often use the analogy that when practicing a Real Life Yoga Practice imagine you are like a scientist who has no preconceived ideas about what is about to happen, but may have a few hypothesis. In my mind, I see a Victorian Era Laboratory with beakers, pipes, colored liquids, smoke and glass jars filled with solid items floating in beige liquid. In my case, I also see myself a little like Einstein with my hair crazy from wonder. I have a mental notebook and a real notebook (aka. Journal) and I just jot down my observations. I add a little movement, I change the movement, I add some breath and see what happens when I chant, I observe the silence during meditation and I witness the peripheral bubbling's up within. I have no agenda. I have no conclusions. Some things cause an explosion and others cause the most amazing alchemy. I just experiment and I observe, and I note my findings about me and relating to myself, others, and all parts of my world. If I actually knew more about science, I could come up with a good analogy for what my Real Life Yoga Practice has recently revealed. Adding a nice dose of doing nothing and not fixing might reveal something I wasn’t even aware was there. So, I am taking this scientific method and applying it with some Child Like wonder to everything right now. It’s exciting. It’s scary. But Doing Nothing is exactly what this “Fixer” needs right now.
I would love to share with you how to practice doing nothing and witnessing your Life's Experiment, to Embody Yoga Everyday, Throughout Your Whole Life. 💜