I like to consider both of my professions as creative. With writing, I usually have the opportunity to choose my topic, or at least choose how to write about an assigned topic in a unique way. As a yoga teacher, I can draw from an array of ancient (and modern) teachings and practices, to create a unique class. Ok, so pretty easy right? We can write, or paint or sing or teach whatever we want. We ARE lucky. Then comes the dilemma, as our minds do what they like to do most: create problems with things that are perfectly fine, and so we enter the state of being overwhelmed and confused by choice.
Like trying to pick flowers out of hundreds of equally appealing yet varying arrangements, rose, lily, iris or orchid, do I have to choose one? The answer is always yes, even if you are rich enough to buy the whole flower shop, you will still have to choose the one bouquet to actually hand to your loved one. You can't escape choice, but you can escape the effects that it can have if you let your mind run with it - leaving you sweating and pacing through the greenhouse cursing Baby's Breath and why it insists on being just slightly more beautiful that the ivy you bought 10 minutes ago. Unless you are in the film Little Shop of Horrors, chances are it's not the plants and flowers making things difficult: its you.
I think many of us also undergo a similar process of allowing choice become a negative experience with regards to our career and even possibly relationships. The mind always wants more, which makes it unhappy or unable to rest in the present moment, always thinking of the flowers you didn't choose, and which ones you would choose in the future, but what about the ones sitting in vase on your kitchen table in the sunlight, that you can smell RIGHT NOW?
At this point in any dilemma of choice, it might be useful to sit with it. If you having a hard time choosing, whether real or metaphorical flowers, essay topics, set lists or color palettes, if we asked Patanjali, he might say: Choose to not choose. Pretty frustrating right? I find the classic yogic response to problems usually are. This makes me even more frustrated, which then proves to remind me (yet again) that ALL of this turmoil is indeed in head, and I can choose to be bothered by choice, or choose not to, thereby choosing to not choose, but simply to be, and I can come back to more calm state of mind. This state was described by Patanjali in his "Yoga Sutras" as the, "Inhibition of the modifications of the mind". When we are not grasping at past and future possibilities and getting caught up in judgments and emotions: also known as being present.
So how does being present, help us make a decision, (we DO have to eventually walk out of that flower shop, purchase in hand, and get on with our lives, and the next choice). The idea is that the more present we are, and still our mind is, allows us to tap into our intuition, which can be described as knowledge that lives outside of the brain, or consciousness. When we inhabit this space, and trust and go with the messages that we receive, we can cultivate the practice of making choices in our lives more easily, these choices are usually more in line with our real needs as opposed to the perceived needs that our minds can convince us of, and with much less suffering and anguish in the process.
This one is tough to describe so I will ask you to experience it for yourself. Keep in mind this is an ongoing continual practice that you can employ whether you are on the yoga mat or not. And like any art, its benefits will only begin to flower after much dedication and practice!
THE PRACTICE: CHITTA BASED MEDITATION
Chitta essentially refers to intellect, or our the rational thinking perceiving part of our mind. Chitta mediation techniques help clear and detach the mind helping us find equilibrium after periods of work or stress. In general, a prolonged and dedicated meditation practice helps us find emotional and mental stability, which leads to clarity in decision-making.
THE SET UP
- Carve out a 15 minute space for this practice in your day for ONE WEEK (that's only 105 minutes, or the length of an average Hollywood movie, to put it in perspective)
- Turn off any distracting devices EXCEPT for an alarm. This was you are not distracted by thinking about when the 15 minutes are up!
- Close the door, and find your seat: I like to sit either on the front edge of a small pillow, or with my back against the wall, helping me to relax my body so my attention can dive inward
- Begin breathing deeply, feeling the sensations of the breath at the tip of the nostrils, in the chest and the abdomen
- Then bring to mind the image of this flower (chosen for you so you won't have to!)
- Build the image in your mind, notice its shape, texture and color.
- Notice when the mind begins to MODIFY these things and change the flower, maybe place it in a context and start to tell a story about it.
- Gently come back to the singular, unchanging flower
- Don't be OVERLY AMBITIOUS! We all have the ability to focus on this image for an hour, but if we try to do so, we probably wont succeed. Instead, try for one inhale, then one exhale, and then one more....
- Every time you get lost in thought, simply invite yourself back:every time you do this is like a REP AT THE GYM, but building focus strength!
When you are faced with either creative choices or life choices how does your mind start to modify them and tell stories?
In these instances, come back to the mental space you inhabited, if only for a moment, when your mind was still and the image unwavering
From this space, notice what sensations come up in your body when you bring to mind one option, then the other
Does one 'flower' FEEL better, irregardless of what it looks like?
Notice how you might start to approach choice differently by the end of the week
What resulted from making choices in this way?