To Experience or Not To!
May 18, 2009 § 8 Comments
As a Yoga teacher I get lots of questions and I try to answer them all to the best of my ability. Sometimes people are just curious and they may ask, “I see you are always happy and smiling; what is your secret?” And usually, I keep my answers limited: “There are no secrets. I choose to be happy.” And sure, they always give me a look, a non-verbal communication: “Explain yourself, mister.”
And the best I can come up with is a smile. Sure it gets confusing for the person who is asking questions. And they go again: “You see lots of people are hurting in this bad economy, bad job market. So many bad things are happening as a result. Doesn’t this affect you?” And I realize that my smile is not going to be heard on this issue, unless I answer them further.
Hence, I let them know that a lot of things happen in this kind of economy, and everybody has a story or two to tell. In fact, I have many stories to tell, and they are not even remotely pleasant! But instead of calling them “bad experiences” I call them “challenges,” Or I call them experiences, without using “bad.” What that does in return is that it forces you to ask effective and powerful questions, like: “What will be my next step? How do I overcome these challenges? Who do I talk to? Who can help me get going?” If instead, you call your situation “bad,” then you may sink into an abyss: “Why me? I do not deserve that! I have not done anything wrong in my life. Why do I have to go through this?” But if you are observant, then you will realize quickly that a negative approach is not moving you anywhere but towards sadness, depression and despondency, where you lack motivation, will, and the determination to take any action, and have virtually no VISION!! You can get blinded easily by all that, and then you know what really follows, not something enlightening, and uplifting, but the contrary.
Well, then this brings us to the point where we can come up with some sort of strategy to prevent ourselves from falling into an abyss. What can we really do when we have any kind of challenges (experiences) in our lives, not just only financial in nature, but of any form, any kind?
Well, my simple but profound recommendation is:
Learn not to panic: Breathe as deeply as you can. Focus on your breath and do not let your mind wander away. Calm your nerves down. Keep on repeating ‘til you achieve success.
Do not label any experiences you are having. Not for now. (You can repeat the mantra, “not now, not now”!) Did I just say that? Yes, any experience that you are having right now is simply an experience. When you label it, good, bad or ugly then that will be the outcome! Surprised? Until then it is simply an experience! Learn not to label experiences. Remember, you are here to experience this world and this world is made up of myriad experiences. They are mere experiences, folks, until you label them!
If you choose to label them, switch the words. For example, from “Oh my God, it is so bad,” to, “Gosh, this is going to be challenging.” Once you clearly do that, only then allow your mind to pose another question. Listen diligently. It will follow your lead. Your goal is not to let your mind run into old habits of labeling.
Then take a stance and step away from “your experience” and look at it as if you are looking at your friend’s experience and not yours. Like you are solving your friend’s problem (once you say problem, it has a solution attached to it. Just look for the solution and do not consume yourself with the problem!). Step away from it without worrying and panicking. It will give you a capacity to observe, analyze, study and come up with conclusions and possibly a right, effective and powerful solution as well. Is that going to be easy? Well, yes and no. If your mind goes back to the old habits then “No,” otherwise “Yes.”
Keep on practicing the breathing step, step #1, throughout your handling of your experience. It will be soothing, nourishing, and uplifting.
Keep on repeating these 5 steps. Pick an experience to practice on, which is not overwhelming, or overpowering, but something that you can handle right here right now. This will give you an opportunity to build your skills before something unexpected hits you hard. Then work your way through solving the rest of your problems, or should I just say, “Experience the rest of your life.” You choose!
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Yes, this technique has been very useful when I have been in a situation of panic. It helps me to move away from bad thoughts and immediately life becomes more enjoyable.
I’ll try practicing this….I like the idea of labeling something as an “experience”- it’s just a set of circumstances–and I’m the one who’s defining it as “bad” or negative, which only makes the situation worse.
I’ve also had the thought: “Why do I have to go through this?!”
When I said something like this to my father he used to sing the Rolling Stones song “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you just might find, you get what you NEED.”…
At every moment, we are participating in the wonder that is this life. We have everything we need (nothing more, nothing less). The universe is divine perfection, nothing but a nurturing force. We have the choice to enjoy and appreciate life’s power or fight against it.
For me, doing yoga sadhana (actually and naturally, not obsessively) is making the choice to participate actively in nature’s beauty and the spontaneous meditation that arises as the union between “I” and “experience/consciousness”
My teacher used to say, “All in this Universe belongs to you. Use it wisely but do not get attached”. But is it easy for a common person to practice that? If you are fully aware of the PURPOSE of your life all the time then this blog is just another read. If not, you want to work on it and practice as diligently as you can. If your mind does not go through turmoil while passing through so called good and bad experiences of life then you are done! If you do get disturbed by those experiences, by chance, that only means you need to practice till your mind achieves perfect calm in the middle of the storm.
Yes, the practice is fun, but not easy… and it helps to have a great teacher 🙂
This practice and the conversation in class also reminds me of a saying:
“If there’s something you can do about it, don’t worry. And if there’s nothing you can do about it, don’t worry.”
(maybe a Buddhist aphorism, but I’m not sure about the exact source of it)
Let us see! How can I make it easy for you to experience your world without labeling? Say, for example, you are standing near your window looking at ongoing traffic and you happened to notice someone carrying lot of Red Roses. “Oh my God! I want those Roses” that is the first response pops up in your mind. Observe the elated feeling it creates without labeling. Or you can replace those words with: “Wow! Beautiful roses!” Remove the “I”.
Then from no where you remember that those roses may look beautiful but will die down in few days since they were cut right out of the living-breathing plants and Lo! You have feeling of sadness rise in your mind: “I feel so sad!” Again try not to label this experience. Remove the “I” and observe. This is a very simple example and now you can go back to the blog and use this simple technique to experience your world without labeling it! Is that simple or what? Start with something simple but be practical. I hope this helps…
I have just reread your first blog — do you know it is one year since your first post?
I felt that the blog was talking directly to me. It is funny, I have read it so many times, but not for a while, and the information in it occurred to me completely differently this time, now that I have a concrete, specific challenge. It is good to remember to breathe! It is also so significant to remember that all life’s experiences are just that, experiences. Often I am in the old habit of wanting to put parts of my life on hold until everything is “perfect”, but of course, life is full of experiences that are meant to be challenging. How would I learn anything if everything went smoothly all the time?
Thank you so much for having written this blog. There is still so much to practice and learn!