Last week I had the unexpected joy of staying with two friends who also happen to be yoga instructors. In addition to the many fun adventures we had, one morning, while one friend was at the gym, the other offered to guide me through a private yoga class. Having done the same sequence of yoga poses at home for the past ten years, I welcomed the opportunity to try something new with a teacher I trust. The pandemic prevented my friend from teaching classes over the past year, so he was happy to have someone to guide. I love that it was a mutually beneficial situation.
They practice Kriya Yoga, which I learned incorporates a lot of intentional breathing techniques (called pranayama) with intentional movements. Some of the breathing techniques I had done in past yoga classes. Some were brand new. There was one I found particularly challenging. After a minute or two of inhaling through one nostril and exhaling through the other using my thumb and index finger to hold the opposite nostril closed, I started to feel a slight burning sensation in my nasal passages. It was very uncomfortable to have that much air passing through my nose. I was surprised by how resistant I was to keep breathing that way. I knew I had to keep going if I wanted to reap the benefits of this ancient practice.
I reminded myself that I would not have to breathe this way forever. Many times throughout the practice, my friend offered encouraging words that helped me to push past my discomfort. Eventually, we moved on to other breathing techniques that were not as uncomfortable and quite fun. One required some left to right hand coordination as the time between inhales and exhales got shorter. When the tempo reached its fastest, I’ll admit I got a little discombobulated, but I did my best to keep up and not get frustrated. After the pranayama, we moved on to some poses that were exactly what my body was craving.
I’m so glad I took advantage of this opportunity and didn’t just do the same routine I always do. Although I had only gotten 4-5 hours of sleep the night before, I felt fantastic when we finished. I usually don’t function well with less than 7 hours of sleep, so I was sure I would need a nap at some point later that day. To my surprise, that was not the case. I had plenty of energy to do all the things I needed to do including my Friday evening online A Course in Miracles study group.
What a powerful lesson! How often do we resist the very thing that we know will help us feel better or move forward? I’ve noticed the same thing in my practice of the principles found in A Course in Miracles. Even though I have been studying the Course since 2006, I still find myself resistant to applying it in certain situations. If I release my resentment towards someone who appears to have wronged me I know I will feel better. If I stop focusing on an upsetting situation, I will inevitably return to peace. So why is it so hard to do? It’s like a popcorn kernel stuck between your teeth that your tongue simply can’t stop wrestling with. Try as we may, we keep going back there!
This subject came up during the “Afternoon of Miracles” workshop I facilitated in Dallas last month. We were speaking about addiction to substances when one participant pointed out there are many other types of addiction. In addition to substances and behaviors, we can be addicted to limiting beliefs, suffering, struggle, and drama. I believe these all fall under the domain of the ego because they keep us from experiencing what we truly want: peace, love, and joy. I heard Marianne Williamson once compare following the ego’s thought system to being addicted to heroin. You can only do it for so long. Eventually you either quit or you don’t survive. Throughout A Course in Miracles, we are reminded of the importance of choosing joy over pain. It seems so obvious, yet we don’t always do it. Why?
Brené Brown spoke about our resistance to fully experiencing joy in a recent episode of her podcast Unlocking Us. The conversation with her sisters was around being fearful of joy. We know it won’t last forever so we don’t fully welcome it. Many of us sabotage the expansive feeling of joy by imagining what bad thing is going to happen to take it away. Fear immediately obliterates joy. While researching her book, The Gifts of Imperfection, Brené theorized that people who were able to throw their hands up and let joy completely wash over them were people that had a strong spiritual connection. The research did not prove that to be true. Instead, the common denominator was gratitude. People that expressed gratitude while they were experiencing joy were more likely to experience more joy more often. Those who were cautious of joy waiting for “the other shoe to drop” were not as successful at experiencing joy fully.
This is really good news because the solution is quite simple, though not always easy. Can I find something (no matter how small) for which to be grateful about the person who appears to have wronged me? Is there another way of looking at the situation that upset me to discover a blessing in disguise? And when I am experiencing joy, can I take a moment to express my deep gratitude for it? In that same podcast, Brené apologized to her fellow 12-steppers who use the slogan “the attitude of gratitude.” She believes gratitude is not an attitude, it’s a practice. Why not share one thing you are grateful for as you sit down to every meal, not just on Thanksgiving? Perhaps you can start (or recommit to) a gratitude journal in which you write down 5 things you are grateful for every day. Whatever you do to express more gratitude, I believe Brené’s research that it will lead to more joy. I am so grateful for my family, my friends, A Course in Miracles, my yoga practice, and all of you who read these weekly stories!
If you find it difficult to fully experience joy or suspect that some of those pesky ego addictions are lurking in your unconscious mind, maybe A Course in Miracles is calling you? The Course is a psychological mind training that teaches us how to choose joy over pain and love over fear. To learn more about this practice, please join us for one or both of my weekly ACIM online study groups. For one-on-one assistance, I would be honored to help you with a series of Life Coaching sessions. You can also join me for a very special online workshop on Saturday, July 17 from 2-5PM Eastern where we will be “Exploring Independence from Addiction with Family Constellations.” Last month’s workshop sold out, so if this topic is of interest, purchase your ticket soon! Please look around my website for more information about all of these joyful opportunities.
Until next time, may rain showers of joy and gratitude completely drench your soul…
Tolerance for pain may be high, but it is not without limit. Eventually everyone begins to recognize, however dimly, that there must be a better way. As this recognition becomes more firmly established, it becomes a turning point.
A Course in Miracles ~ T-2.III.3:5-7