Slow Culture, Fast World

The honeymoon is over. The bubble has popped. Reality slammed me in the face at 6 am this morning.

That tender space of suspending thinking, in which you float between the time you return from vacation and the return to the day-to-day, is filled with wonder. Your brain has emptied. Your thoughts are fluid. Your consciousness is elevated. You are on a cloud, feet barely scraping the ground. You wonder how long you can keep up the feeling. You hope it lasts far longer than it will. But you hope nonetheless.

2017-02-23 13.49.05“Maybe it will be different. This time.”

And then Monday morning comes. You wake up before the alarm with a startled thought. It’s nothing really. You made a less than optimal decision about something so banal that it’s not even worth thinking about. But you do. And then you get mad that your bliss has been disrupted by something so meaningless.

Just yesterday I chat with my neighbor, revealing I had just returned from the most life-changing trip to Nepal and India. His eyes lit up and he began his tirade about what’s wrong with Western civilization.

“Why do we keep running? Toward what?”

He summed it up beautifully.

“We are distracting ourselves from the thought of death.”

Perhaps he is right, I thought. But I wasn’t ready to take on those thoughts just yet. I guarded my bubble carefully, going on to my yoga class for a moment of “Om”.

In the evening I wasn’t feeling particularly fearful or distracted or worried or annoyed. I drank lots of water and went to bed early. And then morning came with the reality that I had some even harder decisions to make that might rattle even the most Zen-like person. I watched my age-old fear awaken from its slumber, stilled only for the time it took me to realize it is alive and well.

Stay in your center, stay in your center, I told myself as I brushed my teeth, feeling like Julia Robert’s character, Elizabeth Gilbert, in Eat, Pray, Love.

Momentarily, I have regained ground on myself. Filled with Slow Culture, I cannot deny that it feels strange to be back in a fast, fast world.

The feeling is slipping slightly. I have lost a noticeable grip on the ephemeral sensation of alignment. But I know where to get it when I really need it.

Deep within in the archives of my memory of what has been, what is and what shall be.

 

Everything is Neutral ~ Yoga Psychology

Yesterday I had to navigate very icy roads to bring my son and his best friend to a Carnival party. It was stressful as people around me seemed to be driving at a normal speed while I was turtling along, sweating bullets.

Robert Butera offers great insights into why traffic jams are neutral and what we can do about our reactions to stressful events. It all begins with how we frame things.

Read on and enjoy!

Yoga Psychology on Stress Management

By Robert Butera, PhD

How do you face your daily challenges? How often do you feel subtle or extreme stress? Are you constantly reacting to your surroundings without awareness, or are you paying attention and discerning your choices?

Let’s take the universal example of traffic. What do you experience when you are stuck in a serious traffic jam? Often the answer to this question is some kind of negative emotion such as anger, frustration, or pressure. But what if you thought of the traffic jam as a small blessing that allowed you some unexpected time to reflect, relax, or enjoy some deep breathing? It is interesting to note that 20 people stuck in the same traffic jam will have 20 different reactions to the situation. This phenomenon offers a simple yet profound lesson – the traffic jam is simply a traffic jam. It is how we react to the traffic jam that creates and sustains unnecessary levels of stress in our daily lives.

This concept that everything is neutral is one of the primary underpinnings of traditional Yoga Psychology. It is a unique perspective, because when we contemplate this idea, we must ask ourselves: If everything is neutral, then why does stress exist? Yoga teachings tell us that anything that clouds our understanding of reality causes a corresponding amount of struggle in life. To understand how to have positive reactions to life requires us to understand the deeper reasons, values, beliefs, and life events that have shaped our approach to living and relating.

The traffic jam is really just a metaphor for any challenging situation we face throughout the course of the day. When we are emotional, it is hard to take a step back and see things as they truly are. Learned emotional responses trigger unaware reactions.  When we become aware of our triggers, take a deep breath, and review the situation, the possibility of emotional transformation arises. In those few moments, a situation that might normally bring stress into the mind/body can instead bring about a sense of equanimity.

Six Ways to Apply Yoga Psychology to Daily Life

Every time you recognize and understand a personal stress, there is an opportunity for positive change and personal growth to occur. Use stressors you identify as a way of learning more about yourself. Whatever you learn will be interesting!

This six-step process can be used any time, but for many, the end of the day (before falling asleep) is best. Even the busiest person has 5–10 minutes before bedtime to reflect on the events of the day.

  1. Think of one minor stress from the day – something as simple as traffic is better than a profound catastrophe.
  2. Think of the emotion you felt during that situation. Refrain from stating the cause of the emotion. Phrase the statement, “I felt (emotion) while I sat in the traffic.”
  3. Consider how the situation could be neutral. The traffic is just the traffic. It did not force you to have any specific emotion. You had the emotional reaction to the traffic. Some people like traffic, such as salaried workers who get a break. Notice how your perspective toward a neutral situation affects your emotional response.
  4. Understand your underlying belief pattern that creates your reaction to the situation. For example, “Traffic is annoying because I do not have enough time to spend with my children after working all day.” The issue to be understood is not the traffic but the fact that you feel as though you don’t have enough time.
  5. Re-evaluate how you can tailor your belief pattern in a fashion that allows you to have your deep values without evoking stress reactions. “I accept that working will alter my life with kids. However, this is my life and I will accept that children are raised by a village – and I trust my village.”
  6. Let your stressful situations be permitted. Let self-understanding be permitted. As you understand your situations, see yourself as a wise person and integrate the idea that all things are neutral, and you can reduce stress to a minimum.

As you work through these six steps and apply these lessons, remember that the easier part of the process is recognizing that all things are neutral and that you have the power to react without stress. The harder part of the process is accepting the pain that you find when you examine the “whys” of your reactions. Stay present with what you uncover, and use it as a learning tool to positively transform your experience of daily life.

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Robert Butera PhD is author of The Pure Heart of Yoga: Ten Essential Steps to Personal Transformation (Llewellyn, $21.95), publisher of Yoga Living magazine, and director of The YogaLife Institute in Devon, Pennsylvania, where he trains yoga instructors as well as students. Visit www.pureheartofyoga.com for more information.

Life Lessons from Yoga

Yoga Living magazine’s Robert Butera provided these great lifestyle tips disguised as how to get more out of your yoga practice. He recently authored the book The Pure Heart of Yoga: Ten Essential Steps to Personal Transformation. Honestly, you can apply these tips to your life, too. You needn’t be a yogi to benefit. In fact, Robert says it’s better to focus on the inner transformation first, which, in turn, allows the external one to unfurl. You betcha. Robert is a fan of taking it slowly.

So give it a read, then tell me what you think.

Ten Steps to Transformation in a Yoga Pose Practice

Step 1: Intention. Setting an intention to practice yoga immediately connects your mind and body to the practice in one seamless unit. From beginners to advanced students, practicing a yoga pose with a specific intention in mind brings power and focus to both the yoga and your intention.

Step 2: Attitude. Closely aligned with your intention for doing yoga, an awareness of your attitude helps you connect with the nonphysical essence of yoga pose practice. Maintaining a positive attitude while you practice will improve your yoga pose experience — and your daily life.

Step 3: Posture. Attention to the correct physical alignment of yoga poses improves the nervous system; the musculoskeletal system; the digestive system; the circulatory, immune, respiratory, endocrine, and cardiovascular systems; mental function; and emotional health. I recommend attending a yoga class when possible to have an experienced yoga teacher further assist you with physical alignment.

Step 4: Breathing. Learning how to breathe very deeply is the one of the primary benefits of a yoga practice. Breath control increases oxygen in your blood, instantly reduces stress, brings clarity of thought, and stills the mind. You will find that doing different types of breathing exercises when you practice the poses will change your experience dramatically.

Step 5: Archetypes. Yoga poses are based on things observed in nature and in the human experience. By understanding the story of each yoga pose and where it comes from, you can develop a deeper perspective on yoga by discovering the qualities that are inherent in the pose – and how to apply or internalize these characteristics in your practice and in your life.

Step 6: Energy Centers. This step explores the mind-body connection of the chakra system (energy centers), and how different yoga poses stimulate energy flow to these chakras in different and powerful ways. This is a vital component in learning how to deepen your awareness of the relationship between your body and mind. You can use the poses to address specific health conditions or weaknesses in your body.

Step 7: Concentration. This step lets you explore the distractions in your physical environment and mental landscape that are keeping you from achieving a deep meditative state. The better you get at applying concentration techniques, the more profound your yoga experience will be.

Step 8: Energy Seals and Physical Locks. Step 8 delves into the power of symbolic energy seals (mudras) and physical locks (bandhas) on the body to deepen your awareness of the body’s energy. This step will help you understand subtle energy and how to consciously understand the flow of energy throughout your body – and is particularly useful for advanced students to combat “yoga burnout” or “yoga boredom,” as it helps them cultivate a beginner’s mind.

Step 9: Psychological Blocks. Yoga has the power to help you see aspects of yourself more readily than through thought or self-reflection alone. In this step you explore afflictions of the mind (klesas) and identify obstacles in your psychology that may be keeping you from moving ahead in your life and your yoga practice.

Step 10: Emotional Transformation. This step teaches you how to transform emotions to master the ego and merge with the infinite. Practice these concepts and you will learn new ways to manage your daily life.

Treat these steps as a gateway to experiencing the richness that yoga has to offer rather than as a strict, methodological program. It is a template that will grow with you over time as certain steps become more relevant at different times in your life than others. Be careful to not be in a rush to experience all the benefits that these 10 steps have to offer. Enjoy the process and honor your patience, and in doing so, you will notice shifts in your practice in the months and years to come.

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Robert Butera PhD is author of The Pure Heart of Yoga: Ten Essential Steps to Personal Transformation (Llewellyn, $21.95), publisher of Yoga Living magazine, and director of The YogaLife Institute in Devon, Pennsylvania, where he trains yoga instructors as well as students. Visit www.pureheartofyoga.com for more information.