Being that it's mid-Summer, it seems ironic that so many loved ones I've listened to lately are feeling depressed. So, I am writing about LIGHT as it relates to optimism, that feeling that things are going to turn out well - if not today, then eventually, if you you keep working at it. I want to encourage faith, hope, trust the universe, confidence in yourself or at least a belief in the efficacy of yoga practice.
Did you know we have about 60,000 thoughts per day? 95% of those are the same thoughts as yesterday. AND 80% of those thoughts are negative, pessimistic, dreadful or fear-based!
Optimism is not whistling a happy tune every time things get hard. It is about disciplining our minds to find more empowering explanations for what's going on around us or within us. Whether we're an optimist or a pessimist comes down to how we explain our circumstances to ourselves. We can chose what meaning we want to give all the events in our lives. To choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances is to change one's direction. As the Buddha said:
“Our life is shaped by our mind. We become what we think.”
There was this terrible study with two dogs where they both receive shocks at random intervals:
DOG A has a lever he can step on to stop the shocks. DOG B doesn't -- he eventually curls up into a tiny, hopeless ball and endures what feels he can't change.
In part 2 of the study, both dogs have a lever they can step on to make the shocks stop. The first dog quickly figures it out. He becomes the optimist, always believing things can improve. The second dog curls up as soon as he feels a shock. He never tries. He doesn't find the solution. He's learned to be hopeless.
I often say to be a yoga teacher you have to believe in something. If not a Divine energy then at least believe there is a lever. Yoga helps people stop suffering in countless ways.
We all have shocks, heartbreaks, injuries and losses in life that bring us to the edge of losing our faith. I get it. I've felt darkness curled around me…that cloak that smothers…the weight that weakens. My experience is that yoga lightens the load and attenuates that sense that something is so wrong. What's that quote?… "all the darkness in the world isn't a match for one small flame" or something like that. Yoga teaches us to be that light for each other.
My own practice and experience as a teacher gives me faith that anyone can rehabilitate an injury, re-puzzle their experiences or mend their heart. By practicing poses we start to realise we have the ability to change things. That takes us from feeling like a victim to being empowered. We don't have to live in the grip of trauma.
Here is one of my favorite meditations from Patanjalies Yoga Sutras. Practice often.
take a comfortable seat
close your eyes
allow your body to settle
bring your attention to your breath
watch it without trying to manipulate it
observe the breath moving in and out of the body
bring your attention to your heart
visualise the presence of a light
within the heart is the centre of consciousness
a Divine Light
like the moon glowing softly
and radiating it's cool light throughout the whole body
feel the presence
of a luminous light radiating optimism, hope and faith throughout your entire being
this light is free from grief
beyond the ups, the downs…
it is totally steady
concentrate on that light
it's natural for the mind to wander
when that happens, just keep bringing it back to the light in your heart…