Some days I just can’t seem to get it right. I watch myself make the same mistakes over and over again, day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year. It seems endless, these habitual misdemeanors that end up creating a cycle of self-doubt, self-criticism, frustration, hopelessness, and inevitably, depression. And then I break free of it, remembering that I’m not really such a bad person after all, only to end up forgetting this lesson at some point and starting the cycle all over again.
How do I break free?
I attended a yoga workshop over the weekend, led by David Williams, a student of my guru’s grandfather and quite a guru himself. During the course of the four day workshop, we learned how to do pranayama, or breathing exercises that help put you in a meditative state. There’s no levitating in the workshop or any voo-doo doo-doo. Rather, pranayama is a methodical approach of getting more oxygen to your brain and training your brain, or your mind, to stop thinking. STOP THINKING, I SAID! It is so counterintuitive to what our brains are normally doing, which is constantly thinking about ten things at once, and then getting distracted, forgetting what we were thinking, and then forgetting that we forgot what we were thinking (getting confused and lost in the process). And being that it is counterintuitive to our very core to get our mind to stop thinking, it is a very difficult thing to do.
Why would anyone want to stop thinking, you might ask. Simple – to clear your head so that the thoughts that eventually do come into the brain are the thoughts that are “good” for us (and so these thoughts are also more focused and more closely reflect our “true beings”). If your brain is anything like mine, it’s constantly thinking, going round and round. And 85% of my thoughts are completely stupid, repetitive, pointless. Not to say I’m a complete numbskull or anything, but if we’re really really honest with ourselves and think about what we’re thinking about most of our days, I’m sure you’ll find that you do the same. Unless you’re some sort of super-human buddhist yogi avatar from Mars, you’re thinking about stupid shit most of the time. Thoughts that don’t REALLY MATTER. Thoughts that are hurtful, negative to yourself or others, thoughts that rehash the past, cause worry for the future, and, therefore, give way for you to start beating yourself up over it. And these stupid thoughts are such a WASTE OF ENERGY.
Most people, I’d guess, in order to stop this endless cycle of stupid thinking, DO things. Which is good. If you like what ever it is that you are doing. People do things to keep busy so they don’t have to think about what REALLY MATTERS. But other people do things that are not so good because they don’t know what else to do. They think they are “bored” or do what they think they are “supposed to do”, when actually it may not be what they were “supposed to do”, but what someone else thought they should do. The world is a wild, wondrous place – if someone is bored it’s because they are too scared to venture into the unknown. If someone is unhappy with what they are doing, it’s because they are doing what they are not supposed to be doing.
But getting back to what happens when you do stop thinking…you create space. Space allows us to step back, take a look around and examine our lives. And that’s what happened to me today – I was able to step back and watch my mistakes unfold, my guilt rush in, my energy dissipate, and finally, my own self give me an ass kicking that left me feeling sad and depressed. I saw this whole process happen from some corner in my brain that I don’t normally use, I guess, and as it all went down, I was thinking “OH! THIS IS WHY I CAN’T SEEM TO BREAK FREE AND CONTINUE TO BE SELF-TORTURED! NOW I GET IT!”
I don’t know if it had anything to do with the pranayama and finding this “space between the thoughts”, but probably it did. I have never before felt like I was in the audience watching myself do something instead of being in the thick of it, but today I felt like an observer of my own actions. And I’m not going to go into detail about what it was that happened because, frankly, it’s too trivial to write about and you’d just get bored with my story. What’s more important here is that, now that I know how this entire process works, I feel like I will be able to put an end to it before it begins, (at least more often than I had been able to).
And if you really want the gist of what happened today, I guess the lesson learned is that it’s pointless to get irritated with people, that some people don’t even deserve our irritation because it’s usually something else that’s irritating us, not them, and by letting them irritate us, we’re inevitably just wasting OUR OWN ENERGY. Of course I’ve known since I was a teenager that it’s not nice to be irritable and get short with people, and yada yada, but when I see what a toll it takes on my energy level…well, I just don’t want to waste any more of my energy. I’m too old for that.
So instead of me trying my very best not to get irritated with someone because I know it’s “wrong” and will bring me bad karma, I’d be much wiser to not get irritated with someone because I know that in the end, I don’t want to go through that cycle – guilt, criticism, depression, loss of energy. I don’t think I realized how much of my allowing someone to get me irritated caused that cycle. I wasn’t sure what DID cause that cycle before today. Previously I would have blamed that other person for their stupidity/ignorance/rudeness and I’d go on about my day…not even realizing why I had a loss of energy and felt depressed.