3 min read
I recently read Untamed by Glennon Doyle. When I finished her story called rules, I shook my head and said to myself “Sad, I would never do that!” Right – I would never do that – code words for STOP, LOOK AGAIN, you totally do that!
Glennon’s story was about a friend who was told by the instructor at her first hot yoga class that no matter how hot she got or how she began to feel, she could not leave the room. She suffered through the 90-minute class feeling so terrible that she threw up as soon as it was over. See, aren’t you shaking your head and saying “Sad, I would never do that”?
I smugly thought that I would have listened to my body and left the room when I started to feel ill. However, a few days later I was participating in an online meditation retreat. I had a comfortable set-up on the floor and I was fine when the 45-minute meditation began. But then my knees started to ache. I knew that part of mindfulness practice is to not move if you feel a sensation. Rather, investigate the sensation or feeling and watch it change and eventually pass. It’s part of training the mind that everything is temporary – this itch, this ache, they will pass just like thoughts will pass. I don’t have to react to every fleeting thing.
The problem was, the ache in my knees was not passing. It was getting worse. I knew there was a comfortable chair just a few feet behind me. When I opened my eyes, I could see it in the reflection on my computer screen. I really wanted to change positions and sit in that comfortable chair for the rest of the meditation. But I didn’t, because the general rule is to not move during meditation practice.
And then it hit me, I WAS that woman almost passing out in the hot yoga room. I wasn’t listening to my body at all. So, I mindfully got up and shifted to the chair to relieve the pain in my knees and continued with the meditation. No one cared. No one even knew – they all had their eyes closed! And I got the benefit of the meditation without constantly being drawn to the pain in my knees.
This experience was important to me for two reasons. First, it reminded me to take a closer look whenever I find myself having a strong reaction to something. “I would never do that” is often a subconscious warning that I do some version of that very thing, and I know that it’s not good, and I want to pretend to myself that I don’t do it, so I don’t have to address it, and I can feel really good about myself, because “I would never do that!”. Denial. You get the picture.
It also reminded me to be kind to myself and listen to my body. As my yoga instructor said today, “do what you need to do, not what I’m telling you to do.” Her other phrase that I love is “if that is available to you today.” Not all poses are available to every body, every day.
So, I will practice mindfully listening to my body when it screams NO to see what it needs and investigating my mind when it screams NO to see what it may be trying to hide.