As we are in the thick of the Holiday season, it seems as though no matter how much I try to avoid it, stress rears its ugly head. Seeing as my livelihood is partially based on helping others reduce stress, it is very obvious when it is happening to me. And I feel so lucky to have the tools to handle it.
Taking just a few minutes to go inward and notice my breath gives me the space to open to a new perspective. This reminds me that all of my stress is a matter of choice. While often cannot change the causes of my stress, I can almost always influence my reaction to it. In fact, I have the potential to completely control my reaction to any given situation. I know this because what is possible in the microcosm is also possible in the macrocosm. When I succeed in changing my reaction to a small stress that is out of my control, I know that there is also the potential to do the same with a bigger stress.
Opening to my own potential gives me a feeling of empowerment. This leads me to remember that I have choices. The reason that the serenity prayer is quoted so often is that it cuts like a knife to the heart of the human dilemma.
Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change
the courage to change the things I can
and the wisdom to know the difference
I would add:
the insight to find the gifts within each one.
I live in a world of infinite potential. I have made a conscious choice to believe that anything is possible. Why? Because I have found it to be the most effective way to live. I am well aware that sometimes life is hard and there is nothing we can do about it. But once that is acknowledged, I choose to move forward and focus on what I can do, what I can change, and what I can receive from any given situation. The yogis call life the ananda tandava, or the dance of bliss. We create this experience for our lives by focusing on the good, the potential, the opportunity.
There has been some backlash in recent years against “excessive positivity” or magical thinking. I see this as a normal reaction to people who have oversimplified the practice, or taken out the gray area. No, our thoughts alone do not create our circumstances. However, they do create our reactions to our circumstances and that does influence many things in a very real and physical way.
Sensitivity + Intention = Balanced Action.
This is my yoga practice. It is always first about becoming more sensitive. Without sensitivity, there is no way to react appropriately to the world. Perhaps this is so key to me because I was not born with it. Yoga has given me a taste of what it is like to live life with sensitivity and I am hooked.
Intention comes from our deepest desires. Many spiritual traditions disparage desire as the root cause of all suffering. And this makes absolute sense when we are talking about shallow desires. However, desire is also the root cause of movement and growth. So for me, it is not about eliminating desire, but rather staying sensitive enough to discover what our deeper desires are. These would be the ones that bring us closer to others and the world around us rather than separating us. The desire to serve. The desire to discover our gifts and use them. The desire to know god.
Even these deeper desires can be dangerous, can lead us into suffering as easily as into bliss. Once again it is our ability to be sensitive that leads to “the wisdom to know the difference”. This is balanced action, and rather thinking of it as a static place, think of it as a dance. Sometimes you’re the leader (intention) and sometimes the follower (sensitivity), but this dance with life is what you’re made for and it is the key to living the life the fulfills your potential.
My daughter Ciel frequently reminds me in a very physical way that life is about dancing. If you need a reminder, watch this short video of her shadow dancing in front of the credits of a movie.