Did you ever hear the story about how our thoughts are like waves on the ocean? If you could get underneath those waves, there is a spot where the water is clear, still. Well, the wee hours of our second Yoga of 12 Step Recovery meeting and practice that I hold at Dig, found me wide awake at 4:00 am with huge ripples, okay waves, of self-doubt. The meeting was sandwiched between long and exciting days of assisting Grounded Kids Yoga Teacher Training with colleagues and my mentor Cheryl Crawford. Here went my brand of stinking thinking.
“you should have said ...” “the lesson would have been clearer if you…” “the other teachers..? Do they think I am..?” “who are you to ...”
When you hold the space for the Y12SR meeting, higher power comes along and playfully tests your understanding of the meeting topic. The topic I had chosen to introduce for our session, that included optional individual sharing, was based on Tommy Rosen’s categorization of aggravations/addictive thinking: Self-Doubt, Negativity, Procrastination and Resentment. Thinking Addictions: thinking behaviors and habits that we repeat despite the fact that they bring negative consequences to our lives. These types of thoughts ring with the frequency of addiction and often lead us to other self-destructive and addictive behavior.
It occurred to me, as I watched my thoughts, that this sort of mind pattern was very old. Though I was triggered and off to the races, I was able to slip below the thought and discern it. Without going into the roots of this in my “story,” this type of anxiety was what I was treating when I inhaled smoke for the very first time. It was this self-doubt and the ensuing anxiety that had me “waking and baking” in order to face the world in my otherwise hyper-vigilant and codependent state:
“Am I enough? Will I know what to say? Did I make myself clear? How did my words affect you? Did what I had to say I upset you?”
Some of you may be thinking, “wow, sounds awful – who knew?” Others may think – “yup – self doubt. I get that too.” Maybe your flavor of aggravation takes on the taste of resentment, procrastination, negativity or any other unhelpful thought recording. Well, here I was, wide awake at 4:00 am, hearing my thoughts and stepping back to the pains of adolescence and the confusion of experience from long ago. I felt the loss of my true self, of my ground and the need to scurry for protection. This anxiety had the same frequency as my mind in a traumatic state, only the threat was not really present. I breathed in and stepped under the wave of thought, there was light, sunshine, the best disinfectant. Another breath. Name it to tame it. Self doubt. Here it was, I could respond from calm, not react from whatever triggered me. The grip released, the pattern broke. What a blessing! I was certainly ready to hold space for the meeting.
Here are some jewels I have gathered around what yoga and mindfulness based practice has to say about these thinking aggravations.
Yoga Sutras of Patanjali :
1:30 lists obstacles that distract the mind from freedom… including 1) physical and mental disease 2) indolence/confusion 3) doubt 4) carelessness 5) lethargy and laziness 6) awakening of worldly mindedness, sensuality 7) delusion 8) failure to reach desired state 8) instability. This sutra describes how the thinking aggravations of procrastination and self-doubt can take away our freedom.
2:33 By cultivating attitudes of friendliness toward the happy, compassion for the unhappy, delight in the virtuous and disregard toward the wicked, the mind-stuff retains its undisturbed calmness. 2:35 In the presence of one firmly established in non-violence, all hostilities cease. This sutra reminds us to curb the frequency of resentment and resentment turned inward, remorse.
Kundalini yoga speaks of the value of the negative mind when it is balanced with the positive mind to attain neutrality. We need to consciously become aware of which way our mind leans and bring in the other type of thinking mind to find balance.
What helps us to gain awareness of the thinking aggravations?
How do we clear the thinking mind of its deep and self-destructive patterns to take our power back? For some time after abstaining from drugs/addictive behavior of choice that pain that we have been avoiding shows up. We need to gain tools that allow us to lean into our breath and gain clarity. We can practice yoga (what did you think I might say?). We can find guidance, tools and wisdom from those who have found ease. Personally, I have found wisdom in all eight limbs of yoga including living by universal virtues and vows, practicing physical postures, breath work, practice expanding and withdrawing senses, increasing concentration, learning meditation and sometimes, experiencing the bliss of total absorption in my experience.
In this second Y12SR yoga asana practice, we practiced strengthening standing poses to ground ourselves, root and stabilize. We used the wall for extra support. We repeated poses to develop strong committed and confident connections. In our physical practice, we listen to our body and experience it with a loving acceptance. Sometimes, this loving acceptance happens for the first time ever in a yoga practice. In our asana practice are asked to challenge ourselves in positive ways, whether that means holding a pose to develop endurance and patience or “hit the pause button” in child’s pose if our body and mind are calling for this. We take this type of reflection off of the mat and into the world.
In our inner work, we used breath work and yoga nidra (guided relaxation) to take “time in.” By repeatedly practicing sitting in a clear space beneath our thoughts, we change neural patterns in the brain. Neuroplasticity is gained. The relaxation response is initiated and our inner pharmacy kicks in. We cultivate a sense of stillness, a centered place from which to respond to the great demands and joys life presents.
Come practice with me every Sunday at Dig Yoga at 9:15 AM Gentle Yoga plus Yoga Nidra. Join me at Yoga for 12 Step Recovery – a themed meeting and practice where we meet and then twist the issues out of our tissues, closing with Yoga Nidra. Evolve. Thrive. Laugh and let go. Dive under those waves and catch a beam of sunlight through clear water. Over the past nine years, teaching yoga and Yoga Nidra has offered me the most profound recovery of my true nature, joy and compassion. As AA says, “to keep it you’ve got to give it away.” It is my deepest blessing to share and facilitate this coming home.