The Learning Journey Challenge
I published a short video in January 2012. It was to invite people to join me on a learning journey. I wanted to intentionally study and apply the best practices for me and my children as we learned and grew as a family and individuals. I extended the invitation for others to take the “Learning Journey Challenge” (LjC) with me.
In the video on the LjC, I explain it is a good thing to intentionally choose to challenge yourself in order to build internal resources so that when external challenges come along, you will have internal strength to meet those challenges with grace and poise.
One of the intentional things I have done to build my internal strength is to start and maintain a personal yoga practice. I have been drawn to Ashtanga yoga which is a memorized sequence that you repeat daily starting with the Surya Namaskar (Sun Salute) A and B series of poses and then adding more poses, memorizing the sequence bit by bit. At first, this doesn’t seem like a big deal, but over time the body and mind change a lot. The “yoga” gets inside and becomes part of you. It builds the kind of internal resources I talk about in the LjC video.
A little more than a week ago I walked out my back door to pick some parsley to add to my lunch. Somehow as I stepped down off my porch my left foot twisted. I heard a sound like an old brittle elastic waist band stretching, but not snapping back in shape. It didn’t immediately hurt too bad, but I knew it was not a small thing to ignore. The first thought I had was, “this is going to interrupt my asana practice”. I had not even showered yet from my weekly yoga lesson with my teacher that day.
My second thought was, “this injury is meant to teach me something important.”
The next morning as I woke up on the couch with my elevated, wrapped foot, I began my daily yoga practice. I have done this practice daily for almost 5 years. I could not stand up, but laying on my back I inhaled and imagined standing tall and raising my hands over my head looking at my thumbs. Then I exhaled, imagining my hands going to the floor as I did a forward fold. I continued to inhale and exhale and imagine doing each pose.
I began to notice that the muscles in the trunk of my body were physically responding as if I were doing the poses. I felt energy going down my legs that had not moved. I felt vitality and life in my injured foot. It was a sort of cooling sensation and feeling of inflammation draining. It occurred to me after several “imagined” poses, that I could actually lift my arms over my head and look at my thumbs without standing up. I could bring my straight legs up and reach my feet toward my head and my hands toward my feet.
In a very real way, I had built internal resources to face the external challenge of an injured foot, which, it turns out, has a break to heal and learn from.
Famous yogi, Paramahansa Yogananda quotes his father, Bhagabati Charan Ghosh who said:
“The one who pursues the goal of evenmindedness is neither jubilant with gain nor depressed by loss.”
I have been trying to develop evenmindedness or “aparigraha”–which could be translated to ‘not doggedly attach to a particular outcome’. Or in the Holding Space Practice vernacular, it is accepting what is and watching with curiosity each experience unfold.
I have not done this perfectly this week. My husband has taken a couple of whining, complaining and venting sessions from me, but I have observed within myself a quality of evenmindedness maybe 80% of the time. I never felt panicky. Bouts of anger, disappointment and depression have been short-lived. I recognized those feelings and allowed myself to feel them. I spoke to myself with compassion and acceptance to process the 20% “not-so-pretty” thinking. I perceive that my consistent daily practices have gradually improved the “fluctuations of my mind” (yoga sutra 1.2). My mantra each day has been, “What is my next step today?” and focus on that.
The mind-trouble comes when I think too many steps ahead (Oh no! Six weeks of THIS???) Or when I look back too much (Why did I step wrong and end up in this mess? I should not have walked out the back door that day and this would have never happened.)
Or, my biggest personal challenge, when I stay doggedly attached to an outcome like having my house clean to a certain (undefinable) standard. Here is a typical thought pattern from this week that was part of the 20%: “The house is a mess. The floor needs to be swept. The dishes are stacking up in the sink. The kids are not doing what needs to be done around here. They never do. I am the “only one” who does “anything” around here and without me doing what I usually do… which no one recognizes or appreciates… “everything” is wrong and this foot thing is so dumb and this is not fair and…” classic fluctuation of the mind (a.k.a. mind chatter).
If you are spending a lot of time in silent, secret suffering (which is triggered by mind chatter you may not even recognize); if you want a stronger mind, body and emotions, then begin or continue a daily practice. I like how Simon Borg-Olivier puts it, “Some people don’t even want to call their practice yoga”. That is OK. Just do some kind of practice every day: Your daily walk. Your daily mediation. Your daily prayer. etc.
If you are looking to begin or increase your daily practice, but you are not sure what the next step is, I can help you. Click here to get started. The first consultation is free.
If you began the 28 Day Yoga Start, stick with it and build! If you haven’t, sign up and start. You you finished it, you can even start over again. It’s free here!
If you have never read or applied the Holding Space Practice book, do it! It’s free here!
I challenge you to consciously and intentionally be on your learning journey. Find and maintain a practice that works for you!