The first is a kind and compassionate internal dialogue. I really can’t emphasize what a life-changer this is, especially if you’ve been sharing your inner world with a harsh critic. Sometimes people tell me they believe they need that nasty voice in order to get things done. Without a relentless battering, they feel they’d just be sitting on the couch, letting life pass them by. But I respectfully and passionately disagree with that view. I used to have an incredibly unforgiving inner voice. If I screwed up, even in a small way, I’d berate myself for hours, days, sometimes longer. That, to me, is the definition of prison. It’s so debilitating and painful, it’s a wonder anyone can do anything that way. Full of bitter disappointment with themselves, disgust, frustration, contempt. You really want to feed and nurture a kind and compassionate inner voice. One that roots you on, not one that tears you down. None of us is perfect. We will all blow it sometimes– say or do something we wish we hadn’t, betray ourselves to avoid hurting someone else, lie to avoid confrontation, run, deny, or numb out so we don’t have to look our pain in the face. This is called being human. The idea is to learn and grow and develop tools to make the best choices you can, so you can show up the way you want to for yourself, and for everyone in your life. You’re not going to get it right every minute. Let go of perfectionism, starve a shaming inner voice, and grow a loving one.
The second tool is related to the first. Choose one thought over another. There’s so much power in this. Much of our suffering in this life comes from our own thoughts. Not all of it, and I think that’s really important to acknowledge. There are truly some things that will never fall into the category of, “thank you for this experience.” But short of those devastating losses, we can go a long way toward inner peace by choosing thoughts that strengthen us over the ones that weaken us. There’s no benefit to letting yourself spiral and agonize over something behind you that can’t be changed. And nothing fruitful is gained by obsessing over what could go wrong in the future. Training yourself to pick up your mind and bring it back to right now is like a superpower too few people are using. You don’t have to lose a day, an afternoon, an hour making yourself sick over something you can’t undo or control. In yoga, we use the breath as an anchor point. It’s always occurring in the now. You could pause, close your eyes, and become aware of your inhale and your exhale. Just like that, you’d be present. Awake. Engaged with the moment.
The third is the ability to sit with intense sensation, calmly. What are intense sensations, and what do I mean by “sitting with them”? Loneliness, rage, grief, jealousy, insecurity, shame, doubt, fear, feelings around being betrayed, abused, neglected, abandoned, rejected, or ignored. Those are all intense sensations. On your mat, you can practice breathing through intense physical sensation. Your quad may be on fire from holding Warrior II for twelve breaths, but if you train your mind and your nervous system to stay with it, you’ll find you can face those other emotional intense sensations off of your mat. I’m really talking about non-reactivity. So many people go through life feeling like victims of circumstance, happy when things are going according to their plans, and suffering when they are not. There’s no power in that. You can’t control what life will put on your path. You can’t make someone be something they aren’t, or want something they do not want. But you can work on the way you respond to what you’re given. On the ability to stay centered no matter what is coming at you.
The fourth tool is facing reality as it is. It’s not always going to be the way we want it to be. Sometimes we’ll be lost, heartbroken, confused. A lot of people run when they feel those feelings. Of course we all want the good stuff. We want to feel happy, in love, joyful, inspired, understood. We crave those feelings, and want to avoid the painful stuff. Life is full of both. You’re going to get all of it. You cannot outrun that reality, or deny it, or numb it out, but you can die trying. People tend to think facing those feelings will kill them. It’s the not facing them that does it. Yoga by its very nature is confrontational. Sometimes you’ll show up on your mat full of energy and feeling open and strong. Other days you’ll feel tight and tired. There will be certain poses you love, that feel great in your body, and certain poses you don’t like. The ones you don’t like are usually the ones you need. They’re reflecting back a place where you might be holding tension, physical or emotional. Practicing how we face confrontation is good, since life is full of them. Learning to listen, to respond with honesty, awareness, patience, breath, kindness–these are tools that will serve you well. If you learn to listen to your body that way, if you can give yourself the gifts of respect, understanding, nurturing and acceptance, you’ll be able to do that for other people, too.
Four tools. If you want a happiness guide from me, there you have it. Wishing you the healthiest, most loving, joyful, inspired, HAPPY New Year, yet. If you want to cultivate these tools with me online, just shoot me a comment below and I’ll give you a coupon code. Lots and lots of love, Ally