I’ve been thinking a lot lately about things. More specifically, about thoughts becoming things.
About how when I wanted to win so badly, but then that new kid in 5th grade beat me for best D.A.R.E. speech, even when I used the Forrest Gump cliché (“Life is like a box of…”) as a metaphor for staying off drugs (awesome, right?).
About how I had every intention of donating the red shirt with the tiny holes in the armpits, but snatched it out of the bag right before the Goodwill attendant handed me a tax document with his signature on it.
About how I’m having a hard time remembering just how difficult yoga used to be for me when I first started in an Iyengar studio in Knoxville, Tenn., with nearly nine mirrors that our teacher always had us turn our backs to. It made me wonder why they were there at all.
This morning I looked in the mirror, as I always do before I leave the house, and I saw a girl who neglects her eyebrows and is trying so hard to beat this 13-year acne thing with a bunch of products that make her face peel and sting.
All my thoughts have become things: my self doubt of losing a competition; my desire to hold on; my complexion that slowly continues to improve.
But I couldn’t quite place why I don’t remember how hard yoga poses can be until I realized my Most Epic Thought-Becoming-Thing Moment ever:
I thought myself out of depression.
Shortly before I started doing yoga, I was prescribed Zoloft. The side effects were awful. I couldn’t sleep for two weeks. I felt nauseated in the morning after I took it. I vowed that I would do whatever it took to leave antidepressants behind for life.
This is such a touchy subject and I don’t have health credentials that would qualify me to give you medical advice. But here’s one thing I do know.
You need to listen to your mind and you need to listen to your body.
When you’re depressed or even just in a low mood, it’s as if you lose control of doing what’s best for you. You probably eat poorly (or forget to eat); you sleep too much, or too little; you forget that there are 7 billion people in the world Just. Like. You.
You’re all Mama Bear or Papa Bear when you need to be Baby Bear. (Turns out, I really love this Goldilocks metaphor.)
When we feel the worst, that’s when we need to listen carefully. That’s when we need to sit in stillness for just 5 minutes, maybe 10, and let the tears drip.
After that’s done, get on your yoga mat and move. Move one foot and then the other. Before you know it, all that listening is leaving your head and going into your heart. Over time, on a yoga mat in savasana, you’ll realize that your new hopeful thoughts are becoming your new thing.
Thoughts become things
Last week, I wrote about how the things in our lives can hinder our thoughts in a Q&A with The Minimalists.
But what about when we want our thoughts to become things? This, in other words, is the power of intention. This is why I’m baffled by yoga practices that lack intention — that lack this beautiful, self-affirming purpose that pervades us even when we hide from it.
When you go into that dark place, whether it’s deep or a shadow, the most important thing you can do is intend to get out of it.
I did this five years ago by declaring “My depression is not me,” but really it started in high school when I got my first taste of the blues. In last weekend’s purge, I came across an old notebook where I had written a list of things I wanted to accomplish in my junior year, including:
“Don’t allow myself to suffer another winter depression (and don’t think that you were born to suffer).”
I didn’t know about yoga then, but I sure did understand the concept that I was in charge and depression was not. It wasn’t until I took up yoga that I had the strength to become my own boss again. Why? Because yoga made me listen to my mind and my body at the same time.
We’re not victims. We’re not born to suffer. Don’t let a rerun become your future.
Make these thoughts your things and joy is inevitable.
Try this: Side Crow, Parsva Bakasana
What in the heck does this all have to do with Side Crow? Well, most of us look at this pose and automatically think, “I can’t do that!” I sure did when I first started practicing yoga. In fact, I wrote Side Crow off for years until one day, I tried it and wouldn’t you know? I did it.
After reading what you just read, how can you continue to think you can’t? I hope you’ll stop. I hope instead that you’ll try.
P.S. You chose the photo above! Join on Facebook if you want to get in on the fun.
- Squat on your mat with your knees and feet together. Turn your torso to the left and plant your palms flat, one elbow lining up with your hip and the other just below your knee.
- Take your gaze between the palms and keep it there throughout the pose. Keep the face relaxed and the breath calm as you proceed.
- Shift the weight on to your hands. Stack your left hip above your left elbow and your left knee above your right elbow. Continue to bend on to your new “shelf” as you lift the toes away from the mat, keeping your legs together as best you can (unless you have monster calves, like me) and hugging in to your core to find lift.
- Stay for five to six deep breaths, then lower your toes back to the mat. Pause by sitting on your heels before coming back into a squat for the right side. It’s common for one side to be more attainable, so be sure to leave your judgment off the mat in order to enjoy your new wings!
So tell me: What was your Epic Thought-Becoming-Thing Moment? Inspire others below.