Mind Improvement, part 3

Mind Improvement

I have been writing a bit in other articles (and this one too) about how the pandemic has impacted my practice. Specifically, the stress of the pandemic has impacted my practice.

The stress was caused by so many unknowns. Will my kids be able to go back to school? Will I be able to have in-person classes again? If I hug my mother will she get the virus? These are all difficult questions to carry around day-to-day.

Luckily, some of the above questions have been answered. Which has helped to lessen my stress load. The kids are back in school. My mom is fully vaccinated (and came to visit!). And now I am fully vaccinated. And, I am working on a plan for the in-person classes. (The in-person classes will happen eventually. For now, waiting a little longer seems like the best approach.)

Before the pandemic these unknowns were already present in my life. In fact, unknowns are always present, everyday. But they just don’t register in our minds as clearly.

Studying the mind

I have been using this period, during the pandemic, to observe the ‘mind’ aspect of my practice. When I started practicing yoga over twenty years ago I was taken by the physicality of the poses. It took many years to begin to integrate the breath. Only in the recent few years I have started considering the mind and it’s role in the poses.

When I say I have been “considering the mind in the poses” I mean I have been trying to observe my thoughts, emotions (hopefully the state of my consciousness) in the poses today. And how today’s practice influences tomorrows practice.

An example of questions I have been asking myself: When I notice an agitated state of mind–can I recruit the breath to help calm me or energize me? And does that effort make a difference? What is the result after a week of this type of consistent effort? Or, why can’t I keep up the effort?

After a year of closely watching my mind, I am happy to report that a lot of the mind chatter is just a habit, left over from earlier phases of my life. Some of the chatter is caused by today’s events and therefore should be dealt with so that tomorrow I don’t have that residue lingering.

The good thing about the mind chatter being just a habit is that I can anticipate it and do something about it in advance.

I brought this up with my teacher and she suggested I do more inspirational or prayerful reading. Other spiritual advisers suggested the same thing. Because I want to be a good student I have been trying to follow their suggestions by praying more in the mornings. The prayers have been really helping the habitual mind chatter. I feel a lot better.

Yoga is not a theory

Looking at my Yoga Sutras book now I read Sutra II.44 which says “Self-study leads toward the realization of God or communion with one’s desired deity.” I am flabbergasted to realize that this has happened to me. I spent this period studying myself, comparing my practice with the eight limbs, and the result today is that prayer has brought me closer to God.

Yoga is not a theory–it is philosophy to be experienced.

Over the years I had read Sutra II.44 countless times. I never argued or thought it wasn’t true. But now I see why and how it can work in your life. Now I know.

None of this would have been possible if I had given up on yoga. And I am very grateful for the students who didn’t give up and kept me working and studying.

Even though there have been improvements in my pandemic life, it’s important for me to remember that the pandemic is not over. There still exists a lot of unknowns concerning the state of the world. People are still getting sick.

I don’t know how this year is going to turn out. But I am going to let go of the outcome, surrender it all–hardly any of it is in my control anyway.

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