The Blog

Art Of Attention: Is Yoga Really Useful?

Instead of trying tosomething from your practice, use your yoga or your meditation to practice expressing how you see and value yourself.
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Recently I got some news that -- in relative terms -- felt as though my world was crumbling. Everything I've said and taught for the past 12+ years was immediately called into play, and I was left with two options.

I could engage the process of draining my own power through blame, rancor and misery (which I did, for periods of time, only to experience profound adrenal overload -- lack of hunger, insomnia, and straight-up anxiety). Or I could refine and express the qualities I've been teaching about all these years, and discover an entirely new way to get closer to my heart and create the conditions for real gratitude to emerge.

[In my last post I mentioned that a solid teacher will touch your heart in a very personal way even though (s)he speaks as impersonally as possible. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.]

So let's break down the two options:

1. Why shouldn't we blame others and/or defend ourselves when things go awry?

If we let pressure arise within ourselves, we are contributing our own charge to the situation, which will hasten and intensify damage -- primarily to ourselves.

To use our precious energy to defend our situation only deprives us of energy we can use to move onward and upward. And to question what's been, to pity ourselves for having been wronged, or having "failed," is also wasteful. Oftentimes the "sacrifices" we make are inauthentic, perceived by others as grinding, cacophonous machinery that only disrupts the smooth flow of the healing. Our work is to devitalize negativity, not revitalize it with our attitudes, thoughts, projections or actions.

Our "opinions" are really the inability to live with uncertainty. And they drain us of precious time in which we can instead generate magnetism within ourselves so we may attract what will serve us most, so that we may serve best. So we work to let them go and return resolutely to the present, to the unknown, again, and operate from there with elegance.

2. And how can we refine and express the qualities we engender through our yoga?

In the moments of the deepest pain and uncertainty, your body is there. Sensing your body is the only way to return to the present and handle ourselves and others respectfully.
Rediscover the energies of your body and attune yourself to your patience and your presence through the simplest breathing in any pose, and you will learn ways to express only those qualities in your interactions.

Esteemed colleague Christina Sell states that your physical alignment in your practice is not divorced from deeper meaning; it is actually the means by which we bring the larger meaning and context of the practice to life. What is the meaning and context of the practice? It's your chance to sense your heart through your movements and, according to Sell, to learn how to "let it be the guiding, organizing principle," initially while you're on the mat, and eventually in everything you do, no matter how harrowing the situation. When we infuse the poses with our heart's attention and respect, we are able to access and express our love, to bring more of that love to our interactions in the world, especially when it feels like that world is caving in.

Our time practicing yoga and/or meditation accumulates in our bodies, and helps us to remember that unsettling events happen to give us a chance to increase the fluency with which we express our heart through our behavior. So instead of trying to get something from your practice, use your yoga or your meditation to practice expressing how you see and value yourself. Let your respect and attention speak for itself -- and healing is afoot.

When you're doing exactly what you're meant to be doing, in any realm of your life, you're operating from your heart. Those who love their work are familiar with this unquestionable, undeniable sensation. But even if you don't love what you do professionally, if you're practicing, you're learning how to communicate your truth in any arena -- not with your words, your eyes, your beauty, your brains, or your job, but with your heart.

Yoga offers you the opportunity to learn how to grant the respect and attention of your heart in every interaction. It might take an insanely unexpected twist in the road to bring us closer to what we've been building within ourselves, but with time, we all magnetize everything we need.