Have you ever been on your mat at the start of a practice and you are asked if you’d like to set an intention? To be perfectly honest, this invitation always made me feel a bit “less.” Like everyone else has such a rich practice that they are dedicated and committed so much that they set specific intentions. I was never really sure what this was supposed to be or what I was supposed to do. But I had a bit of an “a-ha” moment a few weeks ago……..
I was with someone and we were chatting and I was about to respond to a statement with a probably witty snarky/witty comment meant to be funny - but as it would have been received by the person probably wasn’t so witty and could have easily been interpreted as hurtful. I stopped myself on a dime. What was my intention by saying that? What was that comment going to achieve? That incredibly brief moment has led to quite a bit of thinking and exploring these past few weeks. I started paying attention to each interaction throughout my day and the first things to come to mind to speak in response. LOL - I kept my mouth shut several times.
What if we were truly cognizant about our intentions throughout our day, throughout our relationships, throughout our lives. What feelings might be saved, what might we spend our attention on? What might we achieve? If we want to have a positive, supportive relationship with someone, what do we say to that person to lift them up? To express that we are for them? What do we say to ourselves? How might the way we focus our intentions play out in our experiences? Intentions are the start.
Yes, they are the start, because it takes more than an intention that sits in the mind to actually cultivate a result. It is when an intention seamlessly drives a decision to behave or take an action of some sort. If my intention is a positive supportive relationship with someone, my decision is to keep my mouth shut before saying something, something that even if meant in jest, could be construed as mean-hearted. If my intention is to support my self-love, am I pursuing relationships or actions that feed and nurture that? If there is something I want to achieve - be it cleaning my closet or earning a degree, what action am I taking?
On the mat, when I am preparing for a yoga practice, what is my intention for that time? It could be anything….. To simply keep my attention on the present…. To grow my awareness of my body and how it feels as I move through the practice, to be in prayer or a state of thanks. Maybe at the start of your next practice, the cue to set an intention will be more empowering, I know it is for me.
Do you ever find yourself caught in a worry loop? It could be worrying about how something will play out in the future, or lamenting over a decision made in the past and what could have been if you had taken a different action. How do these worry loops affect us? I am afraid all they do is rob us of time and energy. The past cannot be un-done, it is impossible to fast forward to the future. All we have is right here, right now.
Fortunately we have plenty of options to divert our thoughts and relieve the cycle of worry or anxiety. Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Netflix - all literally at our fingertips to let the eyes gaze and brain soak in some other content. Can this diversion remove us from the worry loop? Probably for a bit. Does it add any value to our life or help us learn how to self regulate our worry thought patterns? Probably not.
What if we could make peace with the fact that there is nothing we can do about what has already happened and there is no way to predict the future. Post worry stress and pre-worry stress are not very useful. Perhaps all of our post-worry stress is generated because something didn’t go as we wanted it to - or our pre-worry stress is the fear that something will not happen as we want it to. What if we could be at peace or accept what has happened and be content with the belief that all we really have any control over is the right here, right now. Can/should we plan for the future by having a sense of what we want to accomplish or who we want to be while here on this earth? Of course. But the more important thing to practice is the ability to not be desperately tied to what actually unfolds. Nothing is a given, especially at this scary time of a global pandemic.
A yoga practice is an opportunity to literally practice being in the present moment and observe our thoughts. Have you ever entered a balance pose that you held so well last week and today you can’t even stand on one leg for the pose much less hold it? Stop - where does your mind go? Does it go to “geez, I can’t believe I am falling over, I have been so great at this pose lately, everyone else looks so great, what the heck??” Or, does it go to “it’s okay, try again.” We come to our mat to spend time letting go of the outside world and just being present to the right here right now. Maybe we can take this practice off the mat and let go of the post-worry and pre-worry and just open our eyes and enjoy the goodness we find in the right here right now.
We have unexpectedly entered into a new reality. Most every routine and relationship has taken a new form. It is all at once frustrating, sad, annoying, scary and unnerving.
What if we could use this quarantine time for good. What if we can use it for some self-care, to learn and practice ways that we can take care of our minds and bodies no matter what is happening around us.
A yoga practice is a wonderful instrument to use to learn to read ourselves. Practicing yoga is a gateway to practicing calming the mind, letting go of thoughts that don’t serve us, using our breath as a tool to feel control within the body. Using breath and movement we can practice experiencing joy in our very own skin. While we are stuck at home, maybe we trade a few hours of Netflix for a few moments on a mat (and if you don’t have a mat, the floor works perfectly fine!)
Peace - Michelle
ve you ever arrived to yoga class and you have a sub or your teacher says class is going to focus on something you were not expecting? Does that ever make you aggravated or disappointed? I find that I can easily set myself up for frustration by getting too tied to my expectation. I read a quote a while back that said “Unrealistic expectations are premeditated resentments" I have found even if it was a realistic expectation, such as having a certain teacher for class, or the expectation that everything will be just as it was last time can really play with the mind/heart.
What if we could simply be open and thankful for whatever is presenting itself to us right now? What if we could just step into the experience without using the mental and energetic energy to complain or whine that “it wasn’t supposed to be this way” What if we could create the space to experience something new, or different and possibly add that to our list of life’s great moments? And even if we are being presented with something painful or hurtful, maybe we can learn to honor the real feelings and emotions we have at the moment and have faith that things will not always be this way.
A yoga practice is a great way to practice the gift of noticing. We are reminded to notice subtle shifts in the body and the impact it has on how we feel. What if we could start taking that practice off the mat and catch ourselves during the day, noticing how we are thinking or approaching something - what if we had a subtle shift, what might the outcome be?
Have you ever noticed that you have trouble sitting in silence? With the hectic pace of our lives and our phones and devices within arms reach at all times, we very rarely are in a situation where we are sitting alone in quiet with our thoughts. The fact that we are always attached and have endless opportunities to “click here” means we have hours and hours of distraction. We can easily go from dusk to dawn going through our day and filling in any free moments with an app or a scroll.
Hi - I am Michelle, wife of one, mother of three, long time yoga practitioner.