Cat From The Mat

Mind the Body Gap

“Pain is inevitable.  Suffering is optional.”  This saying implies a choice.  It also speaks to the mind/body relationship and the possible disconnect between the heart and the head.  When I am emotionally in one place and telling myself that I should be in another, I can feel pain, which is real. But what if the suffering is just my own resistance to reality? 

We live in a culture of chronic pain management, an industry that has grown since the 1970’s.  Having surgery, popping a pill, or numbing ourselves with alcohol can be short-term strategies to help alleviate acute symptoms.  However, the pain may come back in another form, since the origin of the discomfort may not be fully addressed.  Our bodies will speak to us until we listen.

The documentary film “All the Rage” (http://alltheragedoc.com/) explores this topic via the unconventional work John Sarno, MD.  Recently deceased, Dr. Sarno originally focused on how back pain could be an expression of repressed rage as well as other unresolved feelings.  Emotional memories stored in the body manifest as physical symptoms when oxygen is cut off from muscular tissue.  Over time, this O2 deprivation might create dis-ease, turning a local problem into a systemic issue.  

Muscle memory lives in the correspondence between muscles and the Central Nervous System.  Sensory nerves send messages from the muscle spindles to the brain giving feedback.  Then the motor nerves respond from the brain back to the muscles to complete the ongoing communication loop.  This happens so quickly, like a mere reflex.  There is though a moment before and after the nerves enter and exit the brain, known as the synaptic gap.  This is where choice occurs.  If this happens on a micro level, why would we not practice this on a macro scale?

When I get frustrated, I notice that certain muscles contract.  It’s as if I react without thinking.  This contraction creates a holding pattern.  And overtime, when under stress, this tensing has lead to back discomfort. Rather than a nuisance, this physical limitation indicates that my cells are not getting the nourishment that they need.  In that moment, I can recognize this tightening and choose to feel the emotional message before I can address it.  

Slowing down to pause offers agency in how to respond. Trying to control my external environment, as well as other people’s behavior, leads me down a path of increased frustration and mental contraction.  Pain comes from the incongruence between what I want to have happen and what actually is occurring.  I feel relief in knowing that I have the awareness to manage my inner terrain, so that I may find ease.

Yoga is defined as skill in action.  It’s a practice of minding the gap: between the origin and destination of nerves, between inhales and exhales, or pausing before a knee-jerk reaction.  Beneath anger often resides sadness and fear.  Until those emotions are embraced, the root of the issue might never go away.

The next time you get enraged, I encourage you to not try to fix anything; rather, feel the surge of energy in your body and breath into it.  The holding pattern might just pass quicker without leaving any emotional receipts that your muscles have to file away.  This might also alleviate the urge to blame others as well as yourself.  Suffering might be optional, while self-regulation is all the rage!

 

Cat From the Mat

September 2017

Let Freedom Be

It’s the first day of attending a Living Compassion seminar with my local Nonviolent Communication cohorts. I’m sitting front row and center, excited to learn about what I don’t know that I don’t know.  I want to get the “it” there is to get.  

As the session begins, I notice that there are two ongoing loud sounds from the back of the room.   My judgmental mind immediately jumps into the all too familiar terrain of “something’s wrong,” wanting to do change it.  The culprits: two struggling air conditioners. My thinking is that by fixing the issue at hand, I am honoring my need for self-care as well as care for others, since I believe that this racket is distracting to the whole room.  But no one else seems to be as bothered as I am.  The reality is that there’s nothing to be done, but to sit with my discomfort.

Cut to…Day Three.  I am in the same chilly room, with noisy ACs going on and off at whim.  And I no longer hear the relentless din.  When I do focus on it, I am now amused.  I imagine that there are two distinct birds singing back and forth to one another.  So what has happened?  How is it that I am finding ease in the previous annoyance?  What immeasurable steps brought me peace of mind?

My brain is quick to try to figure out every experience that I encounter.  I’m well versed in connecting my feelings to their associated deeper needs.  However, I’m not so patient pausing in that space between experiencing feelings/needs and naming them.  I tend to quickly define my experience then leap into the next stage of taking subsequent action.  This process of slowing down is one way to connect my human being to my human doing.  It’s so simple, yet not easy. 

The ‘it” that I ended up receiving in the weekend intensive was an unexpected inner calmness.  Since then, I have been enjoying ease within my immediate, habitual doer-ship.  When I think that I am stuck behind the slowest person at the grocery store, I first acknowledge and feel my frustration without making it wrong.  I then practice agency…whether to be okay with the leisurely pace or to change to another queue.  If I skip over the preliminary step of pausing to first feel, then I might not shift my relationship to the experience.   There’s no expansion when I get stuck in the contraction of my judgments.

What if I could make room for everything to be as is, without having to edit it?  What if the obstacle was the path itself?  Welcome any irritant as an invitation.  This endeavor is anything but complacent.   This is also my current inner approach to self-care. 

Self-sovereignty, not anxious tyranny, is where the rubber meets the road.  May your month of July be full of hosting moments to observe acceptance of self.  Inner freedom might be most liberating event you’ll ever celebrate!

 

 

Cat From The Mat

July 2017 Blog

Filing for Emotional Bankruptcy?

When life is uncertain, it’s helpful to anchor into certainty.  In the realm of science, measurability determines existence.  As concrete tools of calculation continue to refine, does that mean that if something is not quantifiable yet, then it doesn’t exist? How is it you measure up?

Culturally, success is often determined by income or achieved accolades.  Financial security affords a sense of freedom, ease, and support. It can also place the focus solely on external sources.  Measuring just one type of currency can be limited, by not gauging one’s deep worth.

You might have all of the money that you need, but what if you feel emotionally bankrupt inside?  What if you inner savings account is overdrawn or your checks are bouncing? If you no longer feel solvent, how can you reinvest in yourself?  You might consider building up a different type of nest egg. 

One of the things I treasure about yoga is that I never know what someone does for a living.  The question “What do you do?” rarely comes up in class.  The unspoken invitation of asana is to discover who you are being each day with curiosity and compassion.  The practice is a way to assess an ongoing quest of self-awareness as you step off the mat. 

Dignity is your greatest asset. It’s your principal.  Only you can discern how secure you feel inside.  Value is generated within.  Your appreciation appreciates, like a high interest fund.  Gratitude yields immense dividends, which can be contagious.


To quote the Bhagavad Gita, “On this path, no effort is wasted, no gain is ever reversed; even a little practice will shelter you from great sorrow.”  Consider bringing your focus to that which is working in your life, especially the incalculable.  Just because you don’t see immediate results, doesn’t mean that you are not benefiting from your labor.  Foster the relationship between your intrinsic and extrinsic wealth and share your “enriches” with the world.

 

Cat From The Mat

June 2017