Mindful awareness

Monday, October 4, 2010

Observing without Reacting

Observing without reacting: This is my most difficult lesson on and off the mat. Where does my mind go when I fall out of bakasana (crow pose)? Excuses like “these pants are slippery.” Where does my mind go when I don’t go as deeply into hanumanasana (monkey pose) as I know I can? Excuses like “the room is too cold” or “the teacher didn’t include enough prep poses in the sequence before going into this advanced pose.”

My habitual mind does similar things when complications arise off the mat. I tend to react immediately when another car cuts me off on the highway. I fret and worry about what has happened to our relationship when a friend neglects to wave from across the street. Reacting often seems to be my immediate response. I’d prefer to just observe.

My yoga practice has helped me to at least recognize when I’ve reacted to a situation. I am more often now to reflect on a missed opportunity to “just observe”. To take my practice to the next level I sometimes decide to work on this very lesson. This is when I work with challenging standing sequences. Moving from trikonasana (triangle) to ardha chandrasana (half moon) to virabhadrasana III (warrior III) to parivrtta ardha chandrasana (revolved half moon) to parivrtta trikonasana (revolved side angle) isn’t easy. It requires me to move mindfully and deliberately.  Working with this sequence also means that I am likely to fall out at some point. Practicing with this difficult sequence affords me plenty of opportunity to practice observing without reacting. I practice using my breath to stay in the present moment. I practice moving meditation by observing, “I’m unbalanced” and finding balance again. Without reacting.

It isn’t easy. It takes practice. I've practiced with this all week. And I'm grateful to my students for working on the lesson with me!

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