Heard of The Antidote by Oliver Burkeman? If you’ve not yet read it, do. It struck a nerve as I recalled recent conversations; some snippets:
“I just tell myself I shouldn’t be thinking that and then I force myself to be positive.”
Or: “I tell my mind to stop, and start thinking something nicer.”
How about: “I feel so bad for even thinking negative things!”
You get the idea. In the spirit of full disclosure, I’m sure I’ve said all of the above myself. What is this pervasive insistence on unicorns and lollipops all of the time? Burkeman will open your mind and let you lose the guilt over negative thinking.
It’s getting easier to feel bad for not having a glossy, swishy, joyful life every waking moment. Between facebook, photoshop and miracles in sound engineering there’s little room for imperfection. We should be happy. All. of. the. time. Thinking bad thoughts means we’re flawed, if we’re less than joyous it must mean our lives, and more importantly our selves, aren’t good enough. We have to think more better more of the time.
Burkeman explores how we’ve become trapped by this insatiable desire to have life be more perfect. He believes the dark side of our thought processes have become an unfair source of distress for many. He explores a few of my personal favourites, talking about mindfulness meditation(which we’ll be exploring in my Tuesday night sessions), has an interesting encounter with Eckhart Tolle on my old stomping grounds, and gets to the crux of fear in devoting a chapter to death, something I think we should all ponder more seriously.
Burkeman, himself an advocate of “negative thinking,” had me smiling with relief and agreement. In essence, this book is an ode to surrendering and accepting life equally in its lows and highs.
If you’ve read some previous posts you’ll know I’m not full-tilt positivity all the time. I’m comfortable admitting what any given situation is stirring up in me. I’ve always believed life has its ups and downs, and you learn more, grow more, and get smarter once you’re through the rough patches. I think the more we can be authentic individuals the sooner the world will be on its way to actual positive change. Ironic huh?
So how can we take this need to be daisies and gumdrops all the time and apply it to yoga? Are you thinking one hundred percent good thoughts in yoga class? Doubtful really, as yoga practice usually take us to uncomfortable places. Isn’t it so wonderful we have a tool that enables us to encounter our negative thought patterns on a regular basis without necessarily attaching it to anything in particular?!
The next time you’re in a place you’d like to wiggle away from, mentally, emotionally or physically, just leave it. Try not to “do” anything about it. Don’t waste energy trying to undo a thought, or regret that you were annoyed that the instructor had you in a posture longer than you’d prefer, or that this explanation is so silly and you don’t need to hear it, or that a wonky breathing technique makes your nose feel funny; accept every moment of class, as if it were all meant to be, precisely as it was. Good thoughts and bad.
All beautiful people think less than beautiful things some of the time. Let them move through you and get on with the practice of life.
On Sunday I spent a few hours in a workshop with Eoin Finn studying blissology; it was a glorious day of embodying a fun, challenging vinyasa practice that will be reflected in my upcoming classes. Much of what he said resonated. As a yoga teacher who wants her students to love their bodies, a mum who is constantly thinking about the world Turd Bird will encounter as a woman, an environmental fundraiser who can at times be overwhelmed by the state of our planet and equally inspired by the people working together to mend it I think Eoin’s hit the nail right on the head.
The time to really change our perspective on what equates to success is right now. If you have time, do have a read, or a listen to what he says. I think the more we can embody Eoin’s powerful blissology philosophy into our lives, the better chance we and our children will have of authentic prosperity in the future.
Which brings me to my favourite part of the day – well there were a few – I was the lucky recipient of an Eoin back massage in the group close; nice strong yogi hands I tell you, but I digress.
There was one goofy exercise that sparkled me. Eoin started chatting about running. Being a former avid runner, I got the “running” imitation he did up at the front of the room; the serious expression, rigid head, arms in solider mode in precise rhythm with legs. He then instructed the class to join, everyone pretending that we were running along the path on Cottesloe Beach, our responsible adult selves getting in the allotted elevated heart rate for the day.
Next, we were instructed to imagine we were three-year olds running to the beach. The room erupted into bubbling laughter, arms flailing, heads lolling and legs zig-zaggedly making the way to nowhere in particular. It was a simple yet profound reminder. Despite being accompanied by my own little joy-bot everyday, (Have you ever witnessed a young child in day to day action, life is all about finding the fun!) I have been in a bit of a funk.
For whatever reason, I’m in a space of getting things ticked off the list, moving along to the next thing, as adult life requires. I realised I’ve not been making room for real joy. What happened to my inner goof-ball?
Thankfully I have a beautiful source of inspiration in her highness. The pre-bedtime routine is a simple joyous one for us all. Counter to the “advice” out there we like to ring darling’s last bit of energy out of her, and she relishes it. We dance together, admire her twirls that give her the dizzies, help her with somersaults and have a good wild run around the house. When she’s tuckered out she let’s us know with a wave and a wander to her room. It’s such a fun way to end the night, and I think a nice memory for her to snuggle up to before she goes to dreamland. The great thing about being a parent is being a goof-ball really is part of the job description, one that I just need to open myself more to for sweet pea’s sake.
In tonight’s yoga class we’ll explore feeling joy in things that might not feel particularly joyful at the time. Perhaps the after effect yoga buzz will get the joy bubbles fizzing for you. But I would never suggest it ends there; this week I am going to propose students reconnect with that joyful, buoyant feeling of unfettered happiness. Not a conditional experience, but a spontaneous, organic burst.
My hope for you is that it’s easily found in the beautiful things that lay before you; family, friends, pets, nature. I believe most joy is in life’s little moments today, not necessarily the big ticket items we anticipate.
When did you last feel this? Who were you with and what was going on? How can you bring little joy drops to each day in the mix of your obligations and routines and pass it along to others?