Every now and then I am smart enough to take my own advice. It doesn’t happen often enough and when it does it’s definitely a forehead slap kind of moment. I was ill for several days last week, just a nasty virus, but miserable still. About a day after my fever broke I decided to go to the gym. It seemed like the right thing to do. Get a little sweat on, take some time to chill, do some resistance training. About 15 minutes into my workout I was a mess. I was shaking, weak, mildly nauseous… Deep down I was embarrassed at my sorry condition and angry with myself both for being so pitiful and also for pushing myself so hard. I spun up into a story making excuses and allowances for myself and then, all of a sudden I hear my own voice, the one that encourages and sometimes pushes students. “Let go of your story”. I realized I could let it all go, just be in the state I was in without excuses without blaming or wishing it was otherwise. I continued with a real sense of freedom for sure and ended up feeling pretty darn good about my hour at the gym. It didn’t make me any less shaky or weak but instead of pushing I had the opportunity to practice some compassion and observe what I was really experiencing.
As a teacher of asanas I see the spectrum of inner stories across my student’s faces. Everything from “I’m so pathetic” to some serious hostility toward the teacher, me. The inner dialogue spins up and its objective is usually blame. If we allow the story to continue we could narrate every last moment of practice. We might even start to think that the teller of the story was the practice-er. I suppose this would fall under the Klesha – Asmita, false identification with the ego, or the intellect. How to avoid this nasty pitfall? Work on neutrality, stop making excuses. Own the experience you are having without becoming attached to it or any perceived outcome.
Yeah, it’s nice to work on this stuff in isolation, or when you’ve exhausted all other options and need to find some peace. But what about in the moment? On the mat breath by breath stop telling the story about your hamstrings and your lack of upper body strength. It’s conditioning on a whole new level.