I have been having a rough week. I woke up Monday morning with what a former YTT student calls the “Charlie Brown’s” – meaning everything was kind of “wha wha.” While this somewhat lethargic energy dissipated after I taught three classes on the subject on Monday, by Wednesday it had returned with a vengeance.
What caused the return you may ask?
In short, I saw my orthopedic surgeon and the P.A. who works with him and was essentially told that things hadn’t progressed as they’d had hoped. Specifically, I wasn’t as strong as they had thought I would be a this point and so surgery was back on the table. This single sentence – “you’ve not progressed as far as we were hoping” – was soul crushing. Instantly I was crying uncontrollably in their office – making both men exceptionally uncomfortable despite their jokes to the contrary.
While I knew that PT might not work – that is, some people show no improvement in symptom relief while others reverse all symptoms of pain – I figured I would be in the latter group. After all, I walked out of the first appointment not only feeling stronger, but also experiencing less pain. My subjective experience, signaled for me, that I was on the right track. Yet, to receive feedback from two experts that essentially boiled down to the notion that whatever strength and relief I was feeling “wasn’t enough” was like they’d stabled me in the heart.
In this state of sadness, anger, confusion, disappointment, and despair (lets not forget that these other feelings there amongst the tears) I walked to the train station. While waiting for the train, I drafted a rather hopeless text, that, in all honesty I shouldn’t have sent and basically read – “All is lost. I am permanently broken.” The text didn’t say that verbatim, but it might as well have. Wallowing in my poor pitiful me’s, a train approached the station. I looking at the call signal to make sure it was my train and then boarded the train.
Aboard the train, I attempted to read as I normally do. On this day however I couldn’t focus enough to read and instead looked out the window. As we continued on our journey, I recall hearing the train conductor announce the station name and destination each time we stopped. And yet, it wasn’t until we passed something I had never seen before and heard myself say “Oh, I’ve never seen this before,” that I realized that I was on the wrong train headed in the wrong direction.
At this point, the R rated version of “Oh grief,” and its companion statement “I don’t have time for this,” passed through my mind. Immediately I scrabbled to get off the train in order to board a train headed back to where I had been – all because I wasn’t paying attention.
The interesting part to me – the part I haven’t mentioned yet – is that prior to this ordeal I have been working on developing a better sense of trust and faith in the universe. Specifically, I have been working to believe that all things are always happening for my highest good. This intention was set in an effort to over come my normal Negative Nelly and Depressed Denise tendencies to see things in a ubiquitous negative light – which make me a not so fun person to be around – even for me!
What’s I find fascinating about all this, or at least synchronistic, is the fact that the book I was unable to focus on in that moment was discussing what I was living in that moment: Yoga and Psychotherapy: The Evolution of Consciousness by Swami Rama, Rudolph Ballentine, and Swami Ajaya. (One could go so far as to say that through the content of that book the Universe was supporting me by providing an alternate means of looking at what I was experiencing! :))
In a nutshell, I believe the authors were saying that our ability to take in surrounding information (what in sankrit is called manas) is to a certain extent directed by the interplay between our sense of self (i.e. our Ahankara), our memories (i.e. our chtta), our habits that tend to play out as result of our past experiences (i.e. our samskaras), as well as our higher sense of discernment (i.e. our Buddhi).
Applying their discussion to the previous example: My habit to paint every experience as either “good” or “bad” (i.e. my samskraras) is to a greater extent dependent upon my past experiences and expectations where things were labeled as either “good” or “bad” (i.e. my chitta). These past experiences and expectations in turn have influenced what information I take-in in any given moment (i.e. my manas), which then shape how I see myself in any given moment (i.e. my ahankara). These perceptions of who I am at any given moment then reinforce which actions or habits I recreate in any given moment (i.e. my samskaras).
The end result is one giant loop.
The only way to get out of this perpetual loop is by interrupting this circular train of thoughts with an intervention by a higher level of awareness (i.e. my buddhi). To do this requires that (1) I am paying close enough attention to all the information that is actually present (and not just seeing what I have trained myself to see) and (2) my higher level of awareness is strong enough to override my habitual ways of being in the world instead of sucombing to them.
So the questions of the week, the questions I am working to answer for myself, are these: Which train of thought are you on? Are you on a train of thought (perception and action) that is headed towards your desired destination? Or is it taking you away from where you want to be? What information are you absorbing and how is it impacting your ability to live the life you desire for your self? And when you are derailed, are you able to notice this detour and redirect?
These questions might apply to our physical health and recovery, where we either push ourselves too hard or not hard enough. These questions might apply to our relationships, where we stay in a relationship longer than we should or bail out quickly when things become challenging. They could even apply to our hobbies and careers, where we do the same thing we’ve always done because that is what we’ve always done.
Wherever they apply for you, are you willing to allow yourself to become more curious and more intentional with your actions so that if you are on the wrong train, you can notice that and get off at the next station in order to redirect yourself towards your heart’s longings and life’s goals? Doing so may not be easy, however, to not do so may result in a live one did not wish to live.