I have to admit: my head’s been all over the place this week!
Crazy busy at work, yoga ideas whizzing around my mind, excited about the yoga show next week, feeling a bit anxious for the two nights I was home alone because my husband was away with work , and wondering if/when I’m going to hear about a permanent part-time job with my employer as my current role is finishing soon…
The result? Forgetting to meet someone before yoga class, leaving a gas hob on overnight (yes, one of the nights I was home alone) and a call to the emergency gas hotline in the morning, and a very frazzled Stella!!!
But actually it was not the situations themselves, or being busy itself, that have affected me. No, it’s been my busy mind, running away all over the place, that’s sapped my energy and sent me off-focus.
A busy “mind-full” week
My mind has this week been busily trying to convince me of, amongst other things, monsters (8-legged or otherwise) lurking in the shadows; that no, that isn’t gas you can smell so go back to sleep; that I haven’t got time to do everything I need to and I should panic; and that shortly I won’t have a regular income and that I’ll never be able to make a living teaching yoga. Gee, thanks!
But while all this has been going on, throughout this particularly busy, mind-full week, there’s been part of me noticing the thoughts jumping around my mind.
Part of me has been calmly observing the rushing around and forgetting to do things; wryly smiling at being on guard for the appearance of 8-legged monsters the two nights my husband was away; rationally explaining why the lounge door rattled so loudly when there was no-one else in the house but me; singing the Louis Armstrong song “We have all the time in the world” to gain a sense of perspective; logically telling me to call the emergency hotline for gas leaks just to be sure that everything was safe when I got up to a house filled with the smell of natural gas; and reminding me to breathe and let go…
Who am I?!
Where is this calm voice coming from? Why does it contrast so much with the crazy, anxious voice pushing and pulling me around? Which one of these is the “real” me?
For me, the busy, anxious voice is my ego-mind: judging what should and shouldn’t be; comparing to other people; wishing things were different. It’s easily changeable and feeds off real and perceived anxieties.
The calm voice is my true spirit, heart, soul, higher consciousness, instinct – call it what you will – which does not change. It knows what is right and good and is full of compassion, joy and humour.
It’s a silent observer and knows the right thing to do in any circumstance. But it’s not ego-driven so won’t try to shout down my chattering monkey mind. No, instead it waits for when I’m ready to listen and then reveals my inner wisdom to me.
The enemy within?
So, does this make our mind the enemy within? It can be tempting to think so. But we need our thoughts; we need our mind to make decisions, to learn, to reason and to act in this world.
But our mind needs to work in balance with that calm, quiet, inner observer. And all too often in our culture, which values the loud and extrovert, we forget to listen to that inner voice of calm – we ignore it for so long we don’t even realize it’s there.
So, no, our mind is not our enemy. But it requires discipline. And this is where yoga can help us.
Understanding our true nature
Yoga helps us get out of our head and into our body. It helps us to connect to the power of our breath. We can release tension from our body which helps us to learn to relax.
And when we relax we create space between our thoughts. And in that space we can hear our inner voice of wisdom – our spirit guiding us.
After all, Patanjali tells us: “Yoga is stilling the thought-waves of the mind” (Yoga Sutras 1.2).
If you were to ask me what is the single most important thing I’ve learned from yoga; the greatest benefit I have experienced, then I would answer: gaining the knowledge that I am not my mind.
And you are not your mind.
You are not just the thousands of images, words, feelings running through your mind every day. You are not just the worries and judgements. You are not only the qualifications, experience and achievements your mind has enabled you to attain.
Yes, all these are part of you. But you are also wisdom, love, compassion and light. You are peace. You are acceptance. You are the smile that lights up your whole being. You are the breath that breathes you and every living thing. You are connected to me and every being on this planet.
And you are perfect just as you are.
Do you identify with this? Does this make sense to you? I’d love to hear your thoughts – whether they come from your mind or your heart!