I was driving home from class today and stopped at a stoplight. I was waiting for a turn signal, just like I’ve stopped and waited for the turn signal at this light many, many times before. But today, I wasn’t just stopped, I had this whole thing going on in my head, thinking about a friend of mine who’s in town and about the year or so that we dated, about the very particular dynamic we had and how I felt when I was with him which was a strange mix of interesting, intrigued, sexy, and ungrounded. As I was thinking about him, all those feelings were swirling around in my body and when the light turned I made the turn, but I was paying much more attention to my experience of all those feelings that with driving. I turned into the inside turn lane instead of onto my side of the road, which could have been a major problem. Luckily, it wasn’t. I embarrassed myself which helped me to snap back to the present moment and to what I was supposed to be doing: D-R-I-V-I-N-G.
And this is how it has been lately. Thoughts come and go. I can have an idea and then it just floats away like a cloud that I can’t really hold onto. I’m having a hard time calling up people’s names. I’m not paying attention to time in the mornings and then run out of time for breakfast. (Skipping meals is a sure sign that things aren’t quite right with me.) Sometimes, I’ll be bombarded with lists of things undone and I’ll have all this anxiety, then these things will float away and I won’t be able to remember them which creates more anxiety because I’m sure that my not-doing will cause a catastrophe. During these times, I’m also much more susceptible to the easy sparkly invitations to waste precious time…the internet calls to me or bright and shiny Netflix starts to sound like a good idea.
This is not an ideal situation and this happens every year around the holidays. It’s a real drag, but here’s the silver lining: I didn’t get into any major accident today, and these spaced-out experiences are evidence that I’m out of balance and I can actually see it happening!!! Even if I’m not able to prevent it and even if it kind of sucks, at least I can see it. And if I can see ‘out of balance’ that means I also have the experience of what being ‘in balance’ feels like which is a big wonderful change that has come with yoga. Since yoga, not only do I spend more time feeling balanced and focused, but I have some practices that are tested and tried and really effective means of coming back to and maintaining balance. I’ve seen that when I can stick to my bedtime, eat regular meals, and practice at the same time every day, I come back to a place where my attention is better and my mind is more settled and more calm. I know movement, breathing, chanting, nyāsa (special placement of fingers or other body parts), visualization, and meditation practices that are good for me which is so self-empowering. And I have teachers who help to make all of this possible. I’m feeling particularly grateful to my teachers this Christmas.
The other thing I have is a little space. I used to be so hard on myself when I was like this. ‘Spacey’ was a weakness, a reflection of some character flaw, and I’d feel so bad about myself when I found myself in these modes. For a long time, I was angry about the way I was, which made for some really difficult years and some long bouts of depression. These days, I’m not so identified with the flakey-spacey symptoms of being out of balance. Yoga offers a perspective that lets the changing stuff change (prakṛti) and for me to be able to discover and become more anchored to the feeling inside that doesn’t (puruṣa).
I’m so glad that I’ll eventually come back to a place where my attention is better and my mind is more settled and more calm. And I’m glad I know what balanced can feel like, not just for a day or two at a time, but what it feels like to be in balance as a natural way of being…and all the other drivers on the roads out there probably are, too.
Merry Christmas! xo, Amanda