For the last few months, I’ve been thinking that I need to shift my teaching schedule. This means that I’m going to have to stop doing one thing and start doing something different, which means that there’s going to be change. And as much as I like to pretend that I can just go with the flow, I’m confessing to you here…change isn’t very easy for me.
I’ve been taking my time with this scheduling decision and feeling it out from every possible angle even though, as soon as it occurred to me, I knew the exact change to make. I need a few more hours to offer to my private clients. Right now, there is this one 45-minute class in the middle of my Friday morning and because of that one class, there is a 4-hour block when I can’t schedule anyone. The class needs a time-shift or to be given to another teacher. Obvious, right? I went along for months as if there really was stuff to consider. Maybe I should just wait and teach the class for a couple more years. What if no one wants private lessons on Fridays? How much am I going to miss all those students? What if I really regret giving up the class? What would my dad think of this? What would my mom think? Does this align with my third chakra? I’ve contemplated every permutation of the above questions over and over again even though the answer was and is clear. I need to give up this Friday class.
This is my pattern: See that I need to make a change, freak out, avoid, fret, spend so much time considering things from every angle and then finally, I bite the bullet and make the decision. Or I might set it up so that someone else makes the decision and then I have to go along with it. I’d like to change this pattern to one that is more efficient, healthy and mature. Thank goodness there’s yoga.
I had a professional development group meeting with some cool yogis and my teacher, Chase Bossart, last week and he shed some light on this thing that I do. He referenced Patanjali’s yoga sutras 2.18, 2.25 and 2.26 and explained that experiences provide opportunities to see how we react under a variety of circumstances. Noticing how we react lets us see more clearly how our mind works. All of a sudden, my decision-anxiety went from neurosis to helpful information on the path to super-yogini.
When we begin to see that the mind is influenced by all sorts of things (what we ate that day, memories of what we are seeing, habits and patterns, hopes for the future, digestive issues), we start to see that the current state of mind has a big impact on how we act. On a day when I’m rested, I might be able to laugh when Nora slides a big pile of spaghetti onto her lap but on a day when I’m freaking out about changes in my schedule, this same spaghetti mishap might become evidence that she wasn’t paying attention or sitting close enough to the table and I get so annoyed. How we behave and how our mind processes the experiences we have depends a lot on how we are feeling.
In contrast, there is something inside of us that is unchanging. In Heart of Yoga, Mr. Desikachar talks about this aspect of ourselves as the “perceiver.” When we can identify with this perceiver inside of us, then we have much more clarity about who we really are. We are different from the mind and senses. The mind and the senses are tools that help us to perceive the world around us and our internal experience. So if we aren’t our mind, thoughts and senses, what are we? What is this perceiver? Aaaaaah. Here’s the question. Even though there are words to help find that perceiver inside of us, we have to do the work that helps us figure this out. We need to pay attention and notice how the changing mind, body and breath behave as we engage in a variety of experiences and then perhaps we also begin to notice that there is something within us with a different quality. (Sutra 2.18)
This is how experiences, both pleasant and unpleasant, can become really useful in understanding both our human and our spiritual nature. I get all worked up when I have to make an adult-ish decision but if I use this experience to notice what happens in these circumstances, I might be able to better understand that this behavior is a response and it can change AND that I have a bigger sense of connection to the world that helps to put this moment into perspective. I’d like to cut my decision-contemplation time by 3 months or so. How do I do it? I begin to consider what it is I’m doing, where that pattern started, and what I can do about it. If I can understand this then I might have more clarity around my decision-anxiety. (Sutra 2.25).
Admittedly, I haven’t come to any resolution or huge self-discovery. I know I’d like to work on really listening to that first hunch I have and be able to place more faith in that voice. I’m pretty sure that this initial hunch comes from somewhere other than the ole mind/senses operation. We’ll see how that goes when I’m faced with the next seemingly simple decision. Patanjali cracks me up because after all this talk about increasing clarity and understanding the difference between perceived and perceiver, there’s sutra 2.27 that says, the attainment of clarity is a gradual process. Thanks for the reminder, P-man. Sure is.
I made the decision last Tuesday. I’ll teach my Friday class through May and then say goodbye. Sigh. On Wednesday (not even kidding), I got a call from a yoga studio. The manager offered me two classes at the location nearest to my house. It only took me one day to decide to say yes to that. Even after all that worrying, things worked out very nicely, and I consider this experience to be a carrot of encouragement saying, “Carry on, Amanda. Carry on.”
Yoga Sutra 2.23*
svasvamisakyhoh svarupopalabdhihetuh samyogah
All that is perceived, whatever it is and whatever its effect may be on a particular individual, has but one ultimate purpose. That is to clarify the distinction between the external that is seen and the internal that sees.
However powerful or disturbing something may appear to be, it is our reaction to it that determines its effects. Therefore, we can, by distinguishing between what perceive and what is perceived, what sees and what is seen, put the object into its correct perspective and ensure that we determine its effect and influence on us.
*This and other quotes from the Yoga Sutras come from the Heart of Yoga by T. K. V. Desikachar, 1995.
If you are wondering about my new class…
Mon/Wed Hatha Star classes at Yoga Yoga Westgate 7pm.
Class begins Monday 5/6! Come on out.