Lose the “BUT”
By Peter Ferko
My teacher Alan Finger at Ishta Yoga says, “everybody has a but” which always gets a lot of laughs. What he is talking about is the way that we rationalize our negative reactions. You know, that moment when you thought you had it all together and were successfully using your skills and then “blam!” Unhappiness.
The dialogue in your head — or in explaining to your friends — starts like this:
“I know I’m supposed to [pick one: be graceful / live and let live / stay focused on me, not him / surrender to the universe]…”
The next word is a resounding,
usually followed by someone’s name, or the words ‘my mother,’ and some very rational cause of your fall from wisdom to unhappiness.
I have been addressing this problem in class this week, and thought you might try working with it in your practice, or even just in your day.
Most of the time, these lapses from wisdom to rationality occur when something is changing. In that moment of change, unless we stay conscious and respond from the place of clarity that we’ve been cultivating, our unconscious patterns will step in and cause us to react the way we have time and time again.
Those moments of change are called transitions and our yoga practice provides a controlled laboratory for practicing consciousness during those critical events. Here’s the practice on the mat:
- Begin by sitting or lying on your back. Close your eyes. Focus on your breath, and watch your breath cycle. Notice the spaces between the inhales and exhales. Then attempt to regard those spaces as part of a continuum rather than as “nothing” in between two somethings. Remain conscious of the entire cycle.
- Continue with a yoga sequence that you know by heart, or make up a few simple poses that you don’t have to think much about. Pick something easy, we’re just interested in the transitions today. Start the sequence with cat-cow, lifting or lowering your arms, or some other two-part vinyasa. Also include something that challenges your balance, like alanasana (high lunge) or vrksasana (tree). (Don’t watch a video for this exercise, because it will distract you.)
- Begin your sequence with the simple vinyasa you selected and watch the vinyasa as you watched your breath in step 1: first notice the spaces between the two halves of the breath; then include those spaces in the cycle of the vinyasa, moving through them with awareness.
- Continue through your sequence and notice when your attention wavers during the spaces from one pose to another, or one variation of a pose to another. Each time, just come back to focus on the transitions again, without criticizing yourself.
- Begin to focus on the transitions as though they were the important part of the sequence. For example, imagine that lifting up out of triangle pose to standing was your entire yoga practice for the day and see how it feels to be that present during what appears at first to be insignificant.
As you continue to practice being conscious during transitions on your mat, it will become more natural to remain aware during the transitions in your day. That way when your significant other says something that would typically push your buttons, you notice the transition and are able to more clearly see what is happening. Your response is then conscious, and even if you are upset, you are not in reaction mode, but are staying graceful.
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About the Author: Peter Ferko, (www.peterferko.com), writes about finding “Grace” in everyday life for Happiness Series. He pursues happiness on several fronts. He has been practicing yoga for more than 20 years and is a teacher at ISHTA Yoga in New York where he trains new teachers. He is an artist in several media, including writing, photography, music, and graphic design. His latest project is a novel in which the main characters are all looking for a way to gracefully negotiate their lives, and it’s no surprise they are turning to yoga as a path. Peter’s work can be found at www.peterferko.com.