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" You are not your thoughts "

Updated: Nov 15, 2022

It's easy to get swept away by the busy mind, our past stories, and dreams. It's even easier to believe that everything we think and feel is true. We feel it in our body, our breath rate changes, our heart rate fluctuates, we sense feelings arise. How can it then not be true when it feels so real?

Do this simple exercise: Sit comfortably, spine erect, close your eyes if it's comfortable, then try to recall a moment when you were excited, maybe it's your birthday, or you're looking forward to reading a book, looking forward to seeing someone you love, or anticipating a much needed holiday. Sit with the feelings that come as you remember this special and exciting moment. Notice your inner smile, lightness in your body, a feeling you perhaps get in your heart or tummy. What do you notice, what do you sense? What feedback are you receiving? Now imagine, the complete opposite, a time you were fearful (nothing too traumatic). Perhaps you were going to present in front of a group, you're about to take a an exam, embark on a new task or hobby or meet someone new. What do you sense as you recall this moment? Do you feel uneasy in your belly, is your breathing starting to change, heart rate increasing?

As we recall these moments, it can feel real for us as if we are reliving it in this moment. Our mind can have an abundance of these thoughts, at times we notice it, often times we don't. Somehow it affects our actions and the decisions we make in daily life. We become identified with these fleeting thoughts and begin to personalise them and become closely identified to the narrative that transforms into stress, anxiety, worry. We end up leaning into distractions to numb this sense of confusion, overwhelm, or fear. We end up engulfed in our own mental fog.

I have been there many times and even after many years of practice I still find myself lost from time to time, and the way I find my way back, the way I let the sun shine through the thick fog is through my yoga practice. Whatever it is that may be going on in my life, mindful attention to movement, body, and breath, helps create space to so I can start to de-personalise, not buy into the story. You may have experienced this shift , the morphing of sensations, thoughts and emotions after yoga. At times we experience a sense of clarity towards right action, other times by simply allowing things to come to the surface and letting it be, we already notice a shift deep within. When we do not let our thoughts define us we can feel our feelings, notice our thoughts, without attachment to the story in itself. When we are feeling afraid, we do not have to identify as the fearful person who can never overcome such fear, we can see ourselves as a human being experiencing fear. You may have experienced failure, however, remember that you are not a failure. You are not your thoughts, feelings and experiences. You are the awareness that notices it all.

Mindfulness practices such as yoga, through movement and meditation, are gateways to freedom, and being able to “see clearly” what our direct experience is and to enquire what is really so. Over time we begin to trust the messages from the body sensations, the feeling tones (pleasant, unpleasant, neutral), our emotions, and we perceive and discern the difference between a passing thought versus being lost in proliferating, ungrounded thoughts that capture and hold hostage the insightful and wise being that “knows".

When we rise above the fog we get to tap into our creative juices, we have a sense of focus like no other, and we're able to connect to a deep appreciation for the messiness and joy life brings.

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