Tuesday, 18 February 2020

Stop Stealing from Yourself - Asteya

Asteya, one of the ethical practices of yoga called Yamas or constraints, is the practice of non-stealing. Now most of us grew up learning that stealing from others is not okay.  We learned at a young age when a playmate or sibiling took a beloved toy, how upsetting it feels to have something taken from us.  I'd call this a basic practice of Asteya, stealing in the physical world.  What Asteya really invites us to take a look at on a deeper, self-transformation level is all the ways we emotionally and energetically steal from others and ourselves.

When I first read Debora Adele's book "Yamas and Niyamas," (which I highly recommend), the first practice I tried that she suggests in her book was to notice stealing other's stories or 'one -upping'.  I thought this was an interesting concept and could think recognize times when others do this to me,
but I wondered how much I did it to others.  Stealing another's story is when someone shares something about their lives and we end up 'one upping them' by jumping to our own story, whether it's positive or negative.  An example would be this: You share with me that you just had a horrendous time driving in a winter storm and right after you're finished, I immediately tell you about my most horrendous time driving in a winter storm.  It may seem innocent, but how does it make you feel?  For me, when this happens, I feel shut down, unheard, invalidated, and even that my experience doesn't really matter. I find when I'm around others that do this often, I stop sharing about myself.  It leads to feeling disconnected.

Practicing this exercise has helped me (though I'm far from perfect) to just listen and let go of my own story I'm reminded of, to be present for my friend.  In the end, my story is just that, a story that I had long forgotten and sharing it doesn't really make all that much of a difference, except that is steals from another.  I believe that we jump in with our own stories because we feel connected due to a similar experience, but in the end our sharing ends up cutting off that connection.  Are there other ways we can convey the connection we feel instead of interrupting with our own story?

The longer I've been practicing the spiritual path of yoga, the more aware I've become of all the layers of how I steal from myself that is ultimately fueled in my own fear of not being ___ enough.  (And the more time I have under my belt in working with others, I realize this fear or a similar version of it, is at the heart of all of most of our suffering).  A few years ago, I was taking a walk in the spring, watching birds doing their thing along the path.  It hit me, these birds aren't sitting around wondering, "Is my wingspan big enough, are my feathers sitting just right, did I lay that grass down for my nest in just the right spot, or am I good enough parent?"  They just do what comes naturally and instinctually.  So do all the plants starting to sprout and the clouds moving across the sky and the insects buzzing around.  I realized I'm the one actually creating, "not enough," which creates self-doubt.  This realization has helped me to practice grounding back into the present by just looking out at nature. Looking at nature helps remind me how to be in the present and in the present I can connect to "I am enough."  What helps you connect back to the present and remember "I am enough?"

Another personal layer of 'not enough' came to my awareness recently.  As suggested by my teacher, I practiced talking to myself in the mirror. When I noticed my mind 'freaking out' (racing thoughts all And, really being honest with myself in this way, I was able to meet the actual issue at hand, feeling totally incompetent, head on to deconstruct the obviously false story my fear had concocted. Within a couple minutes I felt relief, like air being released from a balloon.  This all happened right before bed and I actually slept great that night!
the sudden, ruminating on one topic over and over) one evening, I decided to try something new to practice 'being with it.'  I went into the bathroom, looked at myself in the mirror, and started to have a conversation with myself, just like I would with someone I'm working one on one with.  I was shocked by the horrible words that came out of my mouth to describe myself.

These two examples are about how, without even knowing it, the habits, conditionings and beliefs from our life can keep us stuck, limited, and not living our dreams.  I truly believe that most of the mental health issues in our world today come from this self-stealing energy of "not enough" and our behaviors that increase stress in our lives come from trying to avoid looking at the pain of this belief system for fear it will engulf us.  The irony is that it engulfs us if we do not start to courageously look at it and start dealing with it. The very thing we are actively trying to control ends up becoming a reality.

The emotional and energetic stealing we do to others is actually another way we are trying to prove we are enough and avoid the feelings of 'not enough'.  If we can't stop stealing from ourselves, we won't stop stealing from others.

Here are three Asteya practices in daily life  that helped me in the examples above:

1. Take time to go for walks in nature to be with nature, watching it and expecting it will teach you something.  This is not the same as going into nature to exercise, like running, biking, skiing.  This is
more slow, with lots of pauses, noticing the small wonders in nature.  Remember, everything we experience in this life is an opportunity to funnel through what is not truth and what is TRUE. Nature just keeps doing its thing no matter what state of mind we are in at any given moment.

2. Go to a mirror and start talking to yourself like you would a best friend.  Be honest with what you are really thinking so you can face that fear full on.  I think this is like journaling on steroids.  Looking yourself in the eye is powerful.  This practice is especially important for those of you who, like me, are in a 'caring for others' profession.  Take time to care for yourself!

3. Start paying attention to your reactions to everything!  Asteya challenges us to stop blaming and making excuses for our behaviors and start taking responsibility.  We alone are in charge of creating change in our lives - the good, the bad, and the ugly.  You get angry and yell at someone. Get curious about that reaction. "Why was I so angry? Why? Why?" Keeping asking why and I guarantee you'll connect to the deeper reason, which has nothing to do with the other person.

It's a process, it will take time...lots of time and practice, so let go of trying to be something you aren't and slowly you will be come the most amazing you. I like this acronym for fear: Face Everything And Rise.  Use fear and all the uncomfortable feelings as guides to where you need to look in your life for the stealing you do and that's exactly where the change process begins.  The only way out is through.

Remember, always be kind to yourself as you become aware of the painful parts of the self. We all have these parts and they can be some of our greatest teachers.  Thank these parts!

Thursday, 23 January 2020

SATYA (Truthfulness) - A Practice of Self-Love

When we hear the word "Love," many times we think about others.  We have been conditioned to search outside of ourselves for love and that we aren't 'complete' unless we have an 'other.'  Love is taught to be more of a feeling than a state of being.  In America, most of us have been brought up on Disney fairy tales that, historically, have the message of living 'happily ever after' once you find that special 'other,' be it a prince or princess. 

From a yoga perspective, love is a state of mind or being and we all possess the ability to connect to at anytime. Our limiting beliefs, which are more fear-based, keep us either in delusion that we can only find it outside of ourselves or that we aren't worthy or don't deserve to connect to the love that is already us.  The practices of yoga are to unlearn these limiting beliefs and learn practices to help connect more and more to the beings of love we truly are.

One of those practices comes from the Yamas, five of the ten ethical practices of yoga, which is about restraints for 'right living.' Right living is about living a life both externally and internally that connects us more and more to Truth, God, Divine, the Universe, permanence.  For me, a big part of this is coming from a loving, heart-based state of mind when interacting with the world.

SATYA is one of the Yamas, which means Truthfulness, and is an important practice to connect to love, and even more importantly self-love.  If you want to be a more loving being, you must learn to love yourself first. All the negative mind states we find ourselves in with the 'drama' of life come directly from our relationship with ourselves. (That's something to reflect on!)

Satya directs us to consciously be aware of when we are speaking our truth and being authentic, versus not.  In America and many other cultures, we are conditioned that many of our emotions are not okay to express or that we should be able to 'buck up' and get through rough times, which ends up silencing parts of ourselves.  This makes coming from a place of truth a difficult thing.

I know an area in my life where practicing satya has been (and is) important for me is when people ask me to do things. I tend to say 'yes' too quickly and too often, which leads me feeling overwhelmed, spread to thin and anxiety builds to eventually burn out.  My body and mind on a roller coaster.  Others may get their needs met but it's at the cost of my own well being.  Whether this comes from trying to control others viewing me as a 'kind and wonderful person,' proving my worth, or a number of other fear-based beliefs, I've come to realize I can not continue on this way.

If you find yourself relating to this, the practice of saying, 'no,' is important.  Trust me, I know how challenging this can be.  How guilt and self-doubt love to come up when saying 'no', but over time, saying 'no' and dealing with the guilt as it arises has helped me use my time more wisely, have more time to take care of myself and relax, and people actually respect me MORE!  Being truthful (in a respectful manner) has strengthened all my relationships and those relationships that were 'energy suckers' have faded away.  It's a practice of Satya I use every week.

Other practices of Satya:

1.  Taking a pause.  That age old saying of 'just breathe' helps to connect to our truth.  Whether simply taking 3-5 deep breaths before responding or getting into the habit of saying, "let me think about that and get back to you," pausing slows down the impulsive "yes" response.  Also, waiting until initial emotions subside to connect more to facts of reality is another good policy of decision making. It's amazing how much to emotions of excitement and a swing of happiness can sweep us off our feet, causing us to make choices that might not be in our best interest.

2.  A daily meditation practice.  This can be finding a guided meditation you like (Insight Timer is an amazing free app with tens of thousands of guided meditations), a moving meditation practice, a breathing meditation practice, a sitting meditation practice, or just sitting in silence and observing what comes up.  Anyone can access a meditation practice...anyone! 

A regular meditation practice conditions the mind and body to pause, reflect, and let go of our bodies pre-programmed reaction behaviors.  It will change your life, guaranteed.  There's even research out there that shows positive effects up to six months later just from practicing one time. What?! I offer regular meditation workshops or private sessions at www.samyayogahealing.com.

3. Speak up!  So many times it's the things we don't say that we regret later.  Practice saying what you really want, even if it's not what others want.  I can't tell you how many times over my 16 year relationship that I just went with what my partner says, instead of my own gut instinct, and I end up feel resentful and angry. Even just speaking up allows for a conversation.  And yes, this can lead to conflict...and conflict is a part of relationship.  Working through conflict effectively is also a practice of Satya by finding out what you REALLY are reacting to.  Empower yourself to trust yourself by speaking and sharing what you want and need.

I encourage you to choose just one of these practices to focus on for a month and then see where things are at for you in regards to your relationship with yourself.💓


Friday, 3 January 2020

Desire to Change is a Form of Self-Aggression...?

I've been reading"The Five Invitations, Discovering What Death Can Teach Us About Fully Living," by Frank Ostaseski, which is a wonderful book and I highly recommend it.  There have been so many wonderful morsels in this book that have stopped me in my tracks to be with before continuing. 

He included a quote by Pema Chodron, an American Buddhist Nun, that is one of those morsels for me. "The problem is that the desire to change yourself is fundamentally a form of aggression toward yourself."  Wow.  At face value, this goes totally against all the cultural conditioning I've had.  So, I wanted to dive into it!

The first word that hit me when I reread it was "desire."  In yoga scriptures, Kama is noted as the first of six main reactionary emotions which are inner enemies of the self that keep us in delusion.  Kama is the desire binding to sense and transient objects.  For example, seeing that new iPhone and you have to have it for life to be complete and feel happy. And you can't stop thinking about it! Only when you get it, that 'happiness' is fleeting. Our minds love to desire so many things and when we don't get them or we get them and don't want to loose them, the other five reactionary emotions occur.  This is attaching to impermanence and thinking it is 'Truth' or permanent. 

Going back to the quote, it is known that change is inevitable, it will happen.  We will all change and in fact, the basis of self-transformation is about changing from attaching to what is not real (asat) to what is real (sat).  Now change is being aggressive? What's wrong with wanting to be better?! So what does this quote mean??

What Pema Chodron is talking about for me is when we become attached to the idea (desire) that we aren't good enough, need to strive to be better, compare to others, and beat ourselves up when we 'fail.'  This is what most of us are conditioned to at a very young age. In school, it's about grades, being the best in activities, striving to do better.  Comparing ourselves to peers, to ideas of what success looks like.  Then we get an award or a grade and we still don't feel enough.  We push and push or don't tray at all.  This is the aggression towards ourselves. We strive for changing ourselves out of fear and self-doubt, like a hamster running in its wheel.  Never getting to the top.

This fall I was reflecting on the six inner enemies of the self and really, it all came back to Kama or desire.  Desire, for me, leads to future thinking and planning.  My mind loves fantasizing about the future (Moha) and what I've noticed when my mind is doing that, my body is tense, right shoulder rising towards my ear, jaw tight and head forward.  My breath is short and shallow or I'm barely breathing.  My body tells me it's not a good place to be but my mind thinks it's on top of the world. The desire of things to go a certain way or look a certain way is exhausting, yet my mind is so conditioned to it. It's a comfort zone, even though not a healthy one. 

When change is about focusing and attaching to an outcome, then inevitably it opens up for aggression.  What I have found and been taught, is that setting an intention and doing actions is what we can control, the outcome is whatever it will be.  An example for myself is setting an intention of living a more present and peaceful life.  I keeping this in mind, it has led me to changing how I work so that there is less stress, more down time for me, and doing enough financially but not needing to be the best.  There are times I've had to redirect my mind back to the intention rather than the future fantasy my mind desires. 

This just brought to my mind an innocent and culturally normal question I've been asked lately with an upcoming transition.  "Are you excited?!"  This is actually such a loaded question.  There's been an assumption on some level that what I'm leaving is "bad" and what I'm moving towards is "good."  If I answer that in the moment, in the present, my response has been "I'm just trying to stay where I'm at finishing things up here."  In those moments, I really feel neutral.  If I've had a challenging day or a draining day, I'm more likely to feel "so ready" for change and the future fantasy thinking can start, which really doesn't help or change how I'm feeling. I just love seeing how such a simply and often used question around change or transition can be so limiting to the full experience.

I've been on the path to slow down and discover more and more what it means to live from a place of love and compassion, especially towards myself, for some time now. Since, as a person who works with others, I can not be my best if I'm not my best towards myself. 

When I take a breath, come back to what is happening right now, everything relaxes in my body. I feel at ease and content.  I'm able to be kind and compassionate to myself.  I can let go of the story more easily.  It's not as exciting or flashy or sexy, but it feels like exactly where I need to be.

The question come to my mind is "What would it be like if I could live each day as 'I am enough.'"