Posts Tagged With: thoughts

Which direction are you going?

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In the yoga sutras Patanjali describes two guiding concepts: abhyasa and vairagya as a key to yoga and to gain control of the mind. Abhyasa refers to persevering practice: a spiritual practice which is regular and constantly practices over a long period of time. Vairgaya can be described as non-attachment or abandonment, in particular from the pains and pleasures in the material word. On the surface these two concepts can be seem as opposites: practice requires the exercise of the will or discipline, while non-attachment seems more a matter of surrender. In fact they are complementary within your yoga practice. Practice leads you in the right direction, while non-attachment allows you to continue the inner journey without getting sidetracked into the pains and pleasures along the way. There are basically two directions you can go in live: towards truth and away from truth. Let’s have a closer look.

Abhyasa implies action without interruption or action that is not easily distracted, discouraged or bored. It means cultivating the lifestyle, actions, speech and thoughts, as well as the spiritual practices that lead you in the right direction. Abhyasa is its own catalyst: the more you practice, the more you would like to practice and the faster you develop. Another meaning of abhyasa  is ‘to be present’. This is a reminder that for an effective practice, you should aim to be intensely present to what you’re doing. Eventually, this mindful doing and being becomes part of your everyday life and is present in everything we do. To truly achieve this kind of commitment and constancy, vairagya or non-attachment has to be included as well.

Vairagya can be translated into ‘growing pale’. Our consciousness is typically ‘colored’ by our attachment to objects, other people, ideas or other things. These attachments influence how you identify with others and yourself. Vairagya refers to letting go of the mental coloring, so your consciousness becomes a transparent jewel. This allows the light of your authentic Self to shine through brilliantly without distortion. You will no longer thirst for either earthly objects or spiritual attainments. Another translation of vairagya is release, surrender or letting go. Though, the first step should involve the practice of discrimination: becoming better at discriminating between what actions, speech, and thoughts take you in the right direction and those which are doing the reverse. Gradually, non-attachment can expand to the depth of the subtlest building blocks or gunas of ourselves and the universe, which is called paravairagya or supreme non-attachment.

Abhyasa and vairagya are often compared to the wings of a bird; every yoga practice should aim to include these two elements equally. The persistent effort to realize the goal and a corresponding surrender of worldly attachment that stand in the way. In life as a whole it is important to alternate periods of intense activity and rest. Abhyasa can also be translated into ‘constant exercise’ and vairagya into ‘dispassion’.

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Within your yoga practice and within your life it is all about creating a healthy balance. At times you need that extra push to get yourself on your mat or to a yoga class. Other moments some more feminine or soft energy is welcome to surrender to the magical experience of life and yoga. At the moment my focus is on vairagya or to surrender to my life exactly how it is now. Letting go of the need to rush the process and developing more trust in the universe and myself. Aim for more rest in my life and in my yoga practice and above all find and enjoy the peace within myself.

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You will die and pay tax

As we know life is full with changes, uncertainties and letting go’s. In fact, all is uncertain; your job, your marriage, your health, your passions and so on. As my father-in-law-to-be would say there are only two certainties in life: you will die and you pay tax. Though, most humans try to hold on to certain circumstances, people, jobs, ideals, objects. Or we are looking forward to have our lives changed soon, since we are not content in this moment. I’m no different from anyone else. I am afraid for change and sometimes a bit excited if the change includes a step forward. Yoga supports me to rest in this ‘unknowingness’, to trust life and to relax in my body, mind and spirit.  

Thoughts, doubts and worries

But sometimes I would like to run away from uncertainty and change. I want to know what is going to happen and how my life will look like. I want to prepare myself for the upcoming changes and more importantly I actually would like to know what I really want to do with my life. In terms of career, I am not really sure where I would like to go. I have my dreams, but I’ve doubts if it will work out, what the best way is to realize my dreams, if I’ve the guts to actually do it and if my dreams are really my dreams. Welcome to my mind and always existing thoughts, doubts and worries.

Being comfortable with discomfort

While practising yoga you can experience discomfort as well; your standing in chair pose (Utkatasana) and your legs are starting to ache and thoughts arise how long we’re going to stay in this pose. You would like to run away from this discomfort, you would like to change your pose. This situation encourages you to stay in the moment, to be with the discomfort, to be content in this moment. Happiness is not gained from future changes or by moving forward. Happiness is waiting for you, here in this moment.

I don’t know

I don’t know how my job situation will look like in a month’s time. I don’t know if I will be a Yoga Teacher in the end. I don’t know if I will continue writing. I don’t know if I’ll be living in New Zealand for the rest of my life. I don’t know if I will start a family in a couple of years. I don’t know if I’ll run out of money soon and so on. It can actually feel quite refreshing to realize you don’t know anything at all. My challenge is to rest in this unknowingness and to transform obstacles into challenges and opportunities. Don’t enjoy your job? See it as a possibility to explore other work areas and to discover your dreams.

Happy smiles

Are you moving to the other side of the world, far away from your family, friends and familiarity? See it as an opportunity to start all over again; make new friends, choose new careers, explore new sports and hobbies, improve your work-life balance. It is almost like you are born again, fresh. I feel very grateful I actually have this opportunity to start all over again. It sometimes feels a bit egocentric and at the same time I feel blessed to live in a beautiful country with a great partner and a good work-life balance. At these moments, I realize work doesn’t really matter that much. Work doesn’t have to influence my state of happiness. I think about all those big smiles I met on the faces of children in rural Africa. In a materialistic way, they have almost nothing, but in a spiritual way they are fortunate and blessed. Let’s count our blessings and BE content.    

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Taming my Monkey Mind

I am barely awake and my mind is overactive already; thinking about the day to come, what to wear, what to eat and if I will take the car or my bicycle to work. Without much notice I digest my breakfast and full of thoughts I experience my bike ride, mostly with my mind focused on the future. This mind you can consider to be a typical monkey mind.

Monkey mind is originally a Buddhist term meaning ‘unsettled, restless, confused, indecisive or uncontrollable’. It refers to the continuous chatter that goes on in your head, a mind that cannot be at rest. Your mind jumps from one thought to the other, producing up to 100,000 thoughts per day! This can drive you nuts for sure. Even if you are reading this, sub-thoughts can be occurring alongside the words your mind absorbs; maybe it’s a silent whisper of judgment, a word of confirmation or what you’ll have for dinner. Swinging from branch to branch, rarely focused solely on one thing, always on the move.

Nowadays there are even more distractions than ever. It is estimated that our brains are bombarded with seven times as much stimuli compared with our grandparents. In addition, most people are working with their mind the whole day, are stuck in traffic jams and experience rising stress levels. Monkey mind alarm!

Luckily, there is a solution for this monkey mind syndrome. Interestingly enough peace is much more nearby than you imagine. More clearly, inner peace is always here, right in this moment: NOW! Sounds easy, isn’t? Though, I know from my own experience that we can make it pretty hard for ourselves. It is rather a process then a single push on a button. A process in which you get to know yourself more, open up, fall and stand up again and always having the possibility to start freshly. It is like looking for your key everywhere, in and around your house and then discover that the key is in your pocket all the time already. So close by, but not aware of it yet.

So what to do? It always helps me not taking myself so seriously and don’t try too hard or fight. What you resist persist. If you feed your monkey mind with attention, energy or fight, it will definitely grow and develop itself, in maybe an aggressive gorilla. It is not the monkey who is the problem, rather our relationship with it. We all have experienced moments of flow. If you do something you really love, time flies by before you know and you’re just doing that one thing you are passionate about. Your mind is still and you’re here, in this moment, in your body. So called peak experiences.

This weekend I was walking in the bush with a group of people. Our planned 4 hour walk turned out to be a 10 hour walk with the last hours barely able to see the marks. There you’re, walking in a cold dark bush, not sure were you’ll end. Not sure how your unfit group member is going to handle at least another hour of tramping including river crossings and steep hills. It makes you aware of this moment while adrenaline is rushing to your body. You’re focused and your energy levels seem to rise in your body even though you’ve walked for hours already. I had thoughts for sure, but not so much as my usually crazy monkey mind. I used my mind as a strength to come to the best solutions and stay focused.

Awareness is the key to transform your monkey mind into a well behaved pet. Through becoming aware of your mind and understand how it work, you become able to change the relationship with your mind. It can even turn out to be a really sweet quiet peaceful little monkey on your shoulder, just here to assist you if you need it. Peace is always here and never goes anywhere. Observe a child and see how joy naturally flows. No mind chattering, just this moment of play and another….  

 

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