Have you noticed your anxiety levels being ramped up in these uncertain times? Have you noticed how often the sound of the springtime chorus is being drowned out by your internal chatter? Read on!…
The first word of the Yoga Sutra text is NOW! (Atha) It’s a carefully chosen word that calls us to pay attention and listen. The Sages of Yoga understood that we rarely experience Life in it’s moment by moment unfolding. How we rob ourselves!.. it’s only in THIS moment that Life can be lived!
The writer Phillip Shepherd suggests that we are walled off in our heads – in the ‘tyrants castle’ of the cranial brain that separates us from the beauty and mystery of the world. The experience of separation serves only to increase the volume of the mental chatter which in turn amplifies our anxieties … on and on in a viscous cycle.
The current crisis requires that we stay at home, and for some that means indoors, potentially magnifying our separation from the sights, sounds and smells that keep the world feeling real.
How can Yoga help us to live more skilfully at this time of challenge?
According to Yoga philosophy, this inner chatter is the turning of the lower mind (Manas) which left unchecked in it’s busyness overwhelms itself listing /labelling/ ordering and organising the information it’s receiving. In these moments, deeply unconscious and cut off from the real world that surrounds us – we are literally lost in thought.
Yoga reminds us that we are designed to live in the experience of the world, not through thought, but through our senses. In our Yoga asana practice we can re-frame our language of ‘listening to the body’ to ‘listening to the world through the body‘. A simple re-phrasing that creates a powerful shift in our awareness.
When we recognise that our nervous system is over activated, that we are lost in thought or anxiety, take a practice that anchors your attention, through any of your senses; touch, taste, sight, smell or sound to the present moment reality. Our aim here is not to subdue the mind, but to focus and give it support; the following practice uses the sense of sound. Gift yourself 5-10 minutes of your day, sitting comfortably in your garden or by an open window or if you need to be indoors. Take off your socks and shoes- be bold!
Turn down the volume of your internal dialogue
Imagine the universe is about to whisper the answer to your deepest questions…
Sit quietly, receptive and alert.
Let the sounds come to you effortlessly.
Noticing more with curiosity than judgement
when you find yourself returned to the ‘tyrants castle’ .
Be glad you noticed.
Let your ears receive once again
the rippling rise and fall of the birds musical duets.
Our purpose in this practice is to reduce the tendency of the lower mind manas to become a trap that hinders the free flow of our lived experiences. When present moment by moment, with life unfolding through you and as you, there comes a quiet joy, deep within the heart.
It is my heart felt hope that your Yoga practice continues to support you in these extraordinary times, and that despite the challenges may we stay in friendship with Life. I shall close with a few verses from ‘For the Senses’ by poet John O’ Donohue.
‘May the touch of your skin
Register the beauty
Of the otherness
That surrounds you.
May your listening be attuned
To the deeper silence
Where sound is honed
To bring distance home.
May your soul beautify
The desire of your eyes
That you might glimpse
The infinity that hides
In the simple sights
That seem worn
To your usual eyes’
Please feel free to share this for the benefit of all.