Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Finding What Works for Us

Sometimes, we need a new way of looking at the same thing for us to be able to adopt it fully. I have been doing yoga for the last couple of months now. This is not the first time I've attempted yoga. 

But this is the first time that it has started to work for me. 

I started it with the intention of adopting a gentle practice to feel better physically. 

I wanted to lose weight but I wanted to get away from trying to lose weight by working out. I wanted to work from the inside-out and change in a real way, even if it took time.

I began because I had a sense that working out in a gym (even though it was a cozy, women's only place) didn't work for me for a couple of reasons. One was that I didn't like being looked at when I was working out. Was that an HSP thing? 

I also didn't like the pain. I know you are supposed to say you like it, or at least submit to it for a larger purpose. But that made it harder to want to do it everyday although I did feel a sense of strength after exercising. That, I liked. 

But the most important thing was that I didn't like being asked questions. I didn't like talking about my weight with people there, in any form or capacity. I know that weight is a socially-acceptable area to talk about, where people feel free to give advice, even when you haven't asked for it. 

But it made it unpleasant to go there. 

There are reasons that I have struggled with my weight for so many years. There are reasons that there are so many people struggling with so much weight. And many of them go beyond a basic dietary explanation. And so, when someone talks about our weight, they are usually talking without any understanding. 

They are touching on something very personal, something they have no insight about. 

For once, I made sense of all this, of all my different reasons. For once, I gave importance to my discomfort with talking about my weight. For once, I decided to comfort myself and to exercise in a more private way.

For once, I thought about what I needed and wanted, about what would fit into my nature.  

I was familiar with the works of the somatic therapist Anodea Judith, so I started with bio-energetic exercises and with her take on yoga postures. This was a very different entry-point from the yoga I had attempted earlier. Most of that had been focused on the physical aspect. 

Most of that had either left me cold or left me intimidated. 

This time, the entry-point was understanding that the body has its own wisdom, that this was a practice that could also help still my mind. The focus was on working with the body, not working beyond the body. 

As I read more and more, I like yoga more and more. The physical postures are not the point of yoga, mindfulness is. Doing a simple posture with full attention is better than doing an advanced posture with no attention to yourself and the present moment.  

What yoga philosophy says aligns with what I have come to believe - that the body is an important part of the whole. It is not something to be trampled upon, or something to be made into an ornament. It is an instrument through which sounds plays, the form that our spirit takes. It is sacred. 

As I read more on yoga philosophy, I understand the reasons why yoga practice didn't appeal to me before. The explanations I had read talked about withdrawing your senses from the outside world. They felt like a giving up of the experience of being human - of touching, of tasting, of seeing. They felt ascetic in a way that didn't appeal to me. 

The explanations that I read now explain it differently. They resonate with the truth I can feel inside. The reason we withdraw our senses or meditate is to get in touch with what's inside. It's to experience that part of us that remains constant. 

It is, in fact, to find the center that we might have lost. That calms us down. It does not make us feel less. We are not giving up anything. In fact, it creates a little bit more space inside us. It gives us a better sense of who we are.   

Disconnecting from our thoughts does not mean we no longer think or that our mind is not important. It means that we realize that the automatic part of our mind can run us over. It hangs on to certainty, makes us scared. 

We don't want to live from here. We want to live from a knowing that runs through our body, that is greater than the fear our thoughts can tumble down into. 

My sense is that the change that practicing the postures will bring - whether it is feeling better physically or feeling calmer mentally - will not be dramatic or painful. It will be instead, a gentle uncovering, a gradual process. It will be a shift that does not topple me over, but helps me give up the patterns and beliefs that distort how I think. 

Like other people, I have been scared of going inside myself. But inside me is also the real me. I think it is just fear that misleads us, that makes us feel that we won't be able to deal with what's inside, or that we will just feel emptiness or negation. Sometimes, we do find that. 

We also find ourselves. We get so buried in our thoughts and feelings and reactions, at least I do, that sweeping them out is helpful. Thoughts are not all I am. Feelings are not all I am. There is something bigger, and that's such a relief.   

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