A couple nights ago, I dared my boyfriend to eat a hot chili pepper. “We’ll do it together!” Oh, I was so optimistic. It didn’t look that intimidating swimming in my pool of Thai food.
“One, two, three…”
We popped the peppers. I chewed on my left side, or tried to. It was pretty leathery and tasteless.
“This isn’t so bad…” I said, mid-chew.
“Wait for it,” Evan cautioned.
It came on fiery and numb, a slow burn that enveloped first the left side of my tongue, then my inner cheek while sweat beaded up beneath my bangs. I gulped water. I kept saying over and over, “Why did we just do that?!”
It seemed that the logical solution was to eat as fast as I could. More food to absorb the heat, perhaps? I felt the burn navigate through my esophagus and into my stomach.
“I guess this is a good lesson in temporary sensations,” quipped Evan. Because this is what we talk about at dinner: poor food decisions and life lessons.
He has a point. Nearly every time I’m practicing yoga (if I’m pushing my edge) my mind demands, “Is it over yet?” Maybe for you, too.
It baffles me that short-term and long-term memory haven’t yet struck a deal about such matters. I like to think that long-term rolls its eyes at short-term and tells her to get a grip. But short-term is consumed by red hot chili peppers, and aching hips and “my life will never, ever change” thoughts, and so our emotions and taste buds are fogged by temporary sensations that feel permanent.
Your chili pepper moment
Temporary sensations are mile markers in our lives. Celebration, adventure, grief, routine. When one passes, another comes to pass, and most of the time we’re wishing it could last longer or that it disappear as quickly as it began.
By now you’ve probably figured out that “temporary sensation” is just another way of saying “everyday life.”
These situations are mischievous because they often bind us together, but rob us of healing individually. Such as,
- If everybody feels discontent and depression sometimes, why should I expect any different for myself?
- Everyone in this yoga class is making this pose look so effortless while I’m going batty. Please, oh please, let’s be done with it already!
- Others always tell me I’ve got it all together; why don’t they see that I don’t?
We all have our chili pepper moments. Times when perception is far from reality. Times when we forget that all things are impermanent — when we forget to look at the spaces between our fingers.
“Experiencing peace is like looking at our hands. Usually, we see only the fingers — not the spaces in between.” —Buddhist teacher Dr. Thynn Thynn
Search for the space that separates your sensations from one another. Notice the “down times” — when you are in between tasks, thoughts, postures. Especially, when you ask yourself, “Is it over yet?”
In your continuous becoming is a mindfulness waiting to be noticed.
Your impermanent thoughts, despite how permanent they seem, are not. But you’ll never realize it if you don’t stop to notice the space.
This is why we come to the yoga mat. Create the physical space in your body through asana and the mind will follow.
Try it: Half Frog Variation, Ardha Bhekasana Variation
When you haven’t cleaned your house in a while, and then you move the furniture and wipe down the baseboards, dust the cords behind the couch and clean the bed linens — well, that’s the same feeling you get after Frog Pose.
Most yogis take half frog by bending their knee and bringing their toes up to their glutes. The variation here more closely resembles full frog and lets you concentrate on one hip at a time. Doing this, you’ll discover pretty quickly which hip needs more “dusting.”
Note: If this bugs your knees, pad with a blanket. If the lift in your chest is too much and the lower back aches, practice the pose on your belly. I walk you through it below.
- If using a blanket, place it on your left side near your hip. Lie down on the mat. On an inhale, place your elbows beneath your shoulders, palms flat and planted. Gently and energetically draw your palms back toward you while rooting down into the forearms.
- Inhale deeply and roll the shoulders down and back, leading with the sternum to open the chest. Keep your neck elongated and your gaze forward.
- Inhale your left knee up to about 90 degrees with your hip — or less, depending on your flexibility. Flex the left foot and keep the leg softly engaged as you continue to breathe into the heart and the left hip. Again, firm into the right forearm to keep your chest lifted on both your side bodies.
- If you feel tweaking in your lower back, move the navel in and up toward your spine while keeping the pelvis dropping down and right leg reaching back through the toes. If this doesn’t remove the discomfort, try the pose laying on your belly, right cheek on top of your palms.
- Stay for six deep breaths here, consciously releasing tension in the hip on each exhale. Exhale the knee and leg back in line with the right. Take a few breaths to notice your new space before repeating on the right side.