The mind is a powerful tool of transformation. When aligned with the heart, the mind is a supportive and indispensable ally. But when misaligned, steeped in negativity, or overly concerned with its own welfare, the mind becomes your worst enemy.
How many times have you done something or said something unskillful that you wished you could take back but you can’t? When the untamed critical mind gets a hold of this, it can incessantly denounce you. This becomes a huge obstacle to clear thinking. There’s usually one prominent voice that’s shouting at you. But sometimes there’s a whole group of voices shouting at you. I call that the “Itty-bitty-shitty-committee.”
When something bad happens – you experience the death of a loved one, you lose your job, you catch a cold just before a big commitment to teach, the mind can become a loud-mouth judge shouting at you, “You’re a loser. You f####d up. You shouldn’t have said/done that. You’re stupid. You are unworthy.” Like the 24/7 news channels on TV, while the main news is shown on the large screen, there’s a simultaneous ticker-tape of commentary running at the bottom of the screen. This commentary of the mind underlying your experience is very distracting. Without the skill of observation without judgment, you can become trapped by the mental patterns of judgment.
Through the practice of meditation, you become more skillful at being able to identify non-constructive thoughts and let them go. The bottom line is that you DO have control of your thoughts. But it takes practice.
A few weeks ago I finished teaching the final module of Ashaya Yoga Advanced 300-Hour Teacher Training. It was an amazing and beautiful experience. We focused on teaching the chakras, transformational workshops, and how to facilitate a heart-opening. I felt so elevated afterwards. Hearts opened, love and light flowed, and it felt like we all broke through the threshold of limitation into a place of vast and spacious clarity and joy. It was heavenly. I rode that good feeling all the way home and after arriving home and putting everything away, I cooked myself a wonderful dinner.
While cooking, I took the large glass pan out of the oven to turn the vegetables and chicken like I’ve done hundreds of times. I set the pan down on the counter with one hand while closing the oven with the other. But to my horror, the entire pan of chicken fell off the counter onto the floor!
It all happened in slow motion. I watched as the pan fell upside down to the floor with a loud bang spilling all of its contents everywhere. Thank god, the pan didn’t break. In a state of shock and disbelief, I took a breath and assessed the situation. I figured that my floor was fairly clean and I could pick it all up and pop it back into the oven to cook side two. The heat would burn off all germs. So, this is what I did. Once everything was cleaned up, I said to myself, “Huh! That wasn’t very difficult and it could have been so much worse. And best of all, I didn’t have to throw out my dinner.” I let out a sigh of relief and went on with my evening.
A few hours later, I remembered that I spilled the pan and simply smiled. I realized that I had no additional commentary in my mind about that event. This type of experience would have normally triggered all kinds of self-judgment and negative shaming comments about the mistake I made – I was careless, distracted, stupid, inept, and a failure. But to my surprise, there was nothing like that happening inside of me. I was clear. There was zero commentary aside from gratitude that it was a non-issue. I resisted the temptation to make this any bigger of a deal than it needed to be.
How do you work with your mind? I invite you to practice letting go of your negative commentary using these three simple steps which I refer to as the 3 A’s:
Step One: Awareness
See if you can become aware of the mind’s chatter and just allow it to be. Give it space to exist without the need to change or suppress it. Awareness opens you up to a bigger energy, a broader perspective. This takes humility and trust that you are bigger than your mind’s chatter.
Step Two: Deep Acceptance
See if you can accept the nature of your mind to judge. After all, that’s what the mind does. It makes judgments which is what keeps you alive. Think about the function of your mind to discern the right time to cross a busy street. For deep acceptance to happen, you have to find a way to embrace your own goodness. Remind yourself of your deeper intention. Permit yourself to include mistakes and imperfection as part of the journey of learning. Perfectionism strangles acceptance.
Think about toddlers age 9-12 months who are just learning to walk. When they fall, they don’t say to themselves, “Bad baby bad. I’m a jerk for losing my balance. I’m never going to get this. I might as well give up.” No. Babies don’t give up and they have no commentary. They are in the experience of having total delight in standing, falling, trying to stand again, and falling again over and over until they’re able to walk.
Step Three: Appropriate Action
Choose to let go of the negative commentary and replace it with positive affirmation. Ashaya Yoga is the path of radical affirmation. You need to develop the skill of coming back to the truth of who you are. Sometimes all it takes is for you to take a deep breath. You are not a “bad” person. You are good. Life is intrinsically good and life is always happening for you, not to you. Everything in life is for your awakening.
There are no mistakes, only learning. I love this teaching because when I used to play jazz, I said, “There are no mistakes in jazz, only solos!” What you think is a mistake could be considered part of what creates your unique style. In fact, if you study the music of Miles Davis (legendary jazz trumpeter), he built his career around cracked notes. He focused more on the feeling, timing, and use of silence around the notes, than on the notes themselves.
When you’ve become aware of your commentary and accepted yourself, you’ll always act in the most appropriate way for yourself, others, and life.
For the 3 A’s to work, you have to be able separate your reactive mind from your cognitive mind. If you can’t do this, then you have no space to see anything other than being in your commentary, which is natural in the beginning. But you are more than your commentary. And you can change your commentary to be more affirming and supportive.
During this holiday season, give yourself the gift of the 3 A’s and replace the ticker-tape of your mind with commentary steeped in affirmation and love. Learn how to embody these teachings in a community of great beings by attending an upcoming workshop or retreat. Choose from the Ashaya Yoga New Year’s Retreat at Kripalu in December, Tropical Retreat to Costa Rica in January, Neelakantha Meditation Initiation (date TBD), or a 2020 weekend workshop!
|Dec. 27-Jan. 1||Stockbridge, MA||LEARN MORE AND REGISTER|
|January 11-18||Blue Osa, Costa Rica||LEARN MORE AND REGISTER|
|January 31-Feb. 2||Lansing, WV||LEARN MORE AND REGISTER|
|April 2-5||Toronto, ON||LEARN MORE AND REGISTER|
|April 17-19||Raleigh, NC||COMING SOON|