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Story or Sensation?

Posted Mar 23 2013 12:11am

Yes, I do the unthinkable in yoga -- I mix styles. My typical daily practice consists of my own personal practice (based on the style of Krishnamacharya). A few times per week (sometimes every day, depending on how I'm feeling) I'll also do an additional practice in an entirely different style. These past few weeks it's been Kundalini. Perhaps this makes me a rebel (or a yogi with ADHD). What I can say for sure is that it's a far cry from how rigidly I used to practice years ago (one style only regardless of what my body was saying).

Today I warmed up with my standard personal practice (it's been my go-to practice for quite a few years now) and then moved into a 15-minute Kundalini Kriya. An interesting thing happened about halfway into the Kriya -- my mind said quit...but my body wanted to keep going. I kept going and felt quite energized and joyful by the end of my practice. As usual (call me the philosophical yogi), I started thinking about how this very same thing happens off the mat.

A few years ago I had the reverse happen in my life -- my mind was saying stay but my body was saying go. My mind is quite savvy and it conjured up a compelling story for staying. The story was punctuated by fear and doubt. Yet everytime I stayed, I could feel the rigidity in my body. It felt like it was caving in on itself or perhaps rolling up in protective ball anticipating attack. I remember the final straw -- the day that I decided to listen to my body rather than my mind. I noticed that my breathing was shallow and that my mind was practically narrating what was happening (a very skewed version of the actual reality of what was happening). After breathing into it and stilling the whirlwind thoughts in my head I felt something indescribable really...almost like a puzzle piece clicking into place. It was a feeling of sureness, solidity. And it left me with the "I know what to do" feeling. 

There was no looking back after that -- I listened to my body and removed myself from the situation. Not a day has gone by that I haven't rejoiced in that decision. Does that mean my mind has stopped its storytelling? Oh hell no! BUT, the feeling of rightness is stronger than the fear and doubt being pedaled by my mind. Sorry mind -- no takers here.

The thing about stories is that they are compelling. They are seductive. It's easy to get caught up in the story and to place yourself in the imaginary world that's been created. The thing about stories is that they are more often than not fiction. The villains are imaginary. The plot lines are rife with hyperbole. It should be easy to identify when we get caught up in the stories, yet truth seems to fly out the window while in the thick of things.

Same goes on the yoga mat, of course. Your mind is creating a story about the quality of your practice or it's creating drama around something in your life that has yet to happen or it's retelling a story from the past. We get so stuck in the story that we lose what's happening in the present moment -- feeling tightness and going to far into a pose, not making an adjustment in a pose that would take us deeper, or maybe sitting it out in Child's Pose because our mind is telling us it's time to quit. 

My mind is a tall tale teller and is often veeery busy making stuff up. The simple solution for me is to tune into sensation. Are my muscles on lockdown? Is my breathing shallow or deep, fast or slow? Do I feel heat or tingling or spaciousness? This is how I cut through the nonsense and figure out whether I'm in story or sensation. 

So what do you listen to -- your mind or your body? Are you steeped in story or sensation? What quits first -- your body or your mind? Who is your master?

Today I knew that it was okay for me to continue on with my kriya. There have been days when my mind wants to push on while my body is screaming at me to stop and rest. My practice has become discerning what is talking to me and choosing what to listen to. 

Namaste!

 

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