satya: self-care and self-talk.

When it comes to self-care, chugging organic juices and getting tons of physical activity is the easy part for me. What’s most challenging (and perhaps more important) is listening skillfully and responding honestly to my self-talk. More important than massages, pedicures and all the other self-care rituals I absolutely adore is the practice of satya: truthfulness, integrity and sincerity in my own internal narrative. 

(We started talking about satya, the second yama of the yoga philosophy, in the previous two posts: satya: say no to junk e-mail and so you don’t eat meat?)

Practicing satya means that I listen to my self-talk with honesty and a healthy does of skepticism. For example:

I can’t EVER seem to make it anywhere on time, it just takes me FOREVER to get out of the house and I ALWAYS feel so unorganized.” Um, False. What’s true is this: some mornings, I’m really distracted and I spend time putting away dishes instead of getting organized to leave the house.

or

“I’m ALWAYS SO TIRED and NEVER have enough energy to be a good dog mom or good boss or good wife.” Again, False. What’s true is this: some evenings I’m really tired because I’m lucky enough to have a job that is physically active and I already walked Russell Clive three miles that day.

or

I’m ALWAYS missing important texts and e-mails; the teachers who work for me probably all think I’m a slacker.”  Double False. What’s true is this: it’s good for me to have a “no-phone day” where I’m focused on being with my family and actually, no one hates working at Westport Yoga because our community is so welcoming and our yoga classes are amazing!

or

“I CAN’T afford that. There’s just no way. And I’m NEVER going to be able to.” Possibly true, but mostly false. Some things (i.e. a new Subaru Crosstrek and daily acupuncture sessions) are just way out of my budget. But purchases are always a choice; choosing how to spend resources can be empowering. Saying “I can’t, I can’t, I can’t” only plants seeds of frustration in my mind (and wallet).

or the last one, which is the kicker. And something I hear ALL. THE. TIME. (Not exaggerating.)

“I am SO BUSY, so overwhelmed, and I’m ALWAYS working… I just don’t have the time to do yoga or meditate.” False. Here’s what’s true: time is something I choose how to spend. And if I want to opt out of an activity because I don’t think it’s the best use of my time, then that is honest and a practice of satya. Opting out of an activity is different than lying to myself with, “I’m so busy; I can’t,” The true story is that I have the same minutes as everyone else in the day and I get to choose how to spend those minutes.

The practice of satya requires that I practice sincerity and honesty in how I talk to myself as a way of caring for myself mentally and emotionally. It asks me to listen to my self-talk with understanding and then respond with compassion as a way of self-care (remember the first yama: ahimsa.) It’s really important!

How do you practice satya in your self-talk? What limiting self-beliefs are you listening to that just aren’t true? How can you practice a self-care by listening with both understanding and skepticism?

learning to polish the mind.

When I was a little girl I collected every shiny gemstone I could get my hands on.

I LOVED those big bins of polished rocks at old-timey stores; I loved the treasure hunt of sifting through all the precious “gems” (probably just rocks put through a tumbler and not that precious at all) and finding the perfect one to add to my collection.

According to yoga philosophy, my thoughts, my emotions, my vrtti-s are just like these polished rocks.

In English, we loosely translate “vrtti-s” as “thoughts.” A more accurate translation is “turnings or cyclings of the mind.” Every thought or emotion is a little gem of energy cycling through my field of awareness. In Yoga, the aware mind encompasses both heart and mind—it’s called the citta. Everything I see, hear, feel and experience throughout the day is absorbed within my mind and is turned, over and over again, like rocks in a tumbler.

So, when the Yoga Sutras define for us in chapter 1 vs. 2 the primary aim of yoga as:

“Yogahcitta vrtti nirodhah”

What it means is NOT that we should completely cease, stop and abolish the turnings and thoughts of the mind, but that we should use the techniques of yoga to polish the vrtti-s until they gleam and point us toward the True Light of Inner Awareness.

Vrtti-s aren’t necessarily a bad thing; we need to be thinking and feeling and perceiving to enjoy living this life as a human. But vrtti-s, when left unchecked, can cycle out of control. If the rock tumbler is left on high all night long, it’s going to start smoking and burn an engine belt. If the vrtti-s are left to their own devices, they can easily spin out of control.

I’m sure you can remember a time when your thoughts were spinning pinballs and your emotions were all over the place and smoke was coming out your ears and your mind was completely trapped in a cycle of unhelpful thoughts. I’m usually an incredible sleeper, but every once in a while, my brain just WON’T shut off when I lay down at night.

I have so many ideas! And so many worries! And so many things to do! And probably I won’t get them done! And even if I do, they will probably fail! And I’m not really sure I’m qualified to do all these things anyway! 

These are the times when the vrtti-s are less than helpful, when the constant turning of the mind does not enhance my ability to be happy, healthy, and whole.

We use the techniques of yoga—the breath, the concentration, the meditation, the poses—to help us refine and polish our thoughts and emotions (vrtti-s) so that they do not distort our perception of the world, but instead enhance our perception of the world as being a place of unity, trust and abundance.


The techniques teach us to take in all the things that we see, hear, think and feel throughout the day and polish them up so that our mind is not preoccupied with raw, ragged and rough misconceptions about the world, but instead our mind sees what is true: that there is enough, that we ARE enough, that the inner light of awareness inside our heart is connected with that same light in others. That the Universe wants us to be in yoga, in union, with it at all times. That is a pretty little gem of wisdom worth collecting. 

Here are some yoga techniques to help you polish the mind:

Letting Go of Thought Meditation

Be Still and Know Meditation

Happy Polishing,

-lisa


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