While The Yoga Sutras explains the importance of contemplation, meditation, and self-study (svadyaya), it seems to lack the details of “how to” really examine our thoughts in sorting the real from the unreal.
I’ve been reading a book by Byron Katie, Loving What Is, where she describes a method to analyze our thinking. At one point she asks, “[what is] your way of mentally arguing with what is. In reality, there is no such thing as ‘should’ or ‘shouldn’t.’ These are only thoughts that we impose onto reality.”
For instance, there is a large, popular grocery store in my neighborhood and it is constantly overcrowded. Every time I go in there I get annoyed when people are in my way and not paying attention to the compact space we all have to share and navigate.
I’ve even begun to notice I have this same irritation in yoga practice when a teacher has us meditate for a long time or stay in an extended savasana and I challenge why we’re doing this or muddle over how much I don’t enjoy this part of class.
Yet the truth is, the store is always going to be packed and difficult to get through and sitting still is going to take as long as it takes. It’s these subtle expectations that these situations should be different than what they are that is causing me to be disgruntled.
When we’re at odds with reality we’re in an agitated state of frustration, criticizing, or questioning what is happening. This adamant, mental tug-of-war leads to reacting with anger and judgement because we’re attacking something with our rigid opinions and perspective.
Instead, when we’re open to receiving the moment as is, then we become more flexible to expand on feeling grateful and peaceful rather than constricted and unbending.
I must admit, the less I protest and the more I just accept these times for how they’re supposed to be, I feel more tranquil and find myself being kinder, more patient, and making light of the situations that once bothered me.
We’re alchemists. We have the ability to contribute something, either positive or negative, to wherever we are.
Can you notice where you’re carrying these little agitations and let some of them go? Maybe it’s when you’re sitting in traffic at rush hour, your child is acting up, or you’ve encountered an unexpected delay. Where do you keep harping on the “should?”
By cooperating with reality instead of fighting against it we have more ease in life. We’ll never be totally free of disturbances but at least we can try to lessen them.