By Therapeutic Yoga Teacher, Karen Hargot
Are you stuck on automatic pilot?
We live our lives by patterns. They help us function in our day to day routines, whether it is the routes we take to work or the way we get our children ready and out the door for school in the morning. As we grow, we develop ways of behaviour or habitual patterns. At first we just get used at doing things in a particular way. Most often, they allow us to be efficient with our time so we can spend less time on the things we have to, and more time on the things we want to. When completed often, habitual patterns can put us in a state of automatic pilot and our body knows the pattern perfectly, functioning effortlessly, so there is no questioning of purpose required anymore. It is as if someone flipped our “on” switch and we get done what is required of us without much notice on our part as to how or why we are doing what we are doing. Take a moment at think about how you got home from school or work today. Can you recall something you experienced with your senses on your way home? Do you remember a particular smell that you enjoyed or that irritated you? Did you see something today that wasn’t there yesterday? Did you notice the change in weight against your skin as you took off your coat? While patterns help us function, they can also tune us out of our lives so that we stop noticing the small details around us. Our field of observation narrows and our appreciation diminishes. We get stuck in the pattern of “making it through this” or getting it done, whatever it may be. We fall asleep to our lives.
Wake up to your patterns
Tibetan Buddhist meditation teacher Ken McLeod talks about how when we try to change any aspect of our lives, be it our thinking, emotions or behaviours, we often experience frustration and despite our best efforts, revert back to our patterns. In order to change, we need to wake up to our patterns as they may no longer be serving or contributing to our optimal state of being. So how do we do this? By resting our attention on them. Sounds simple enough. However, in order to change the pattern, we need to develop the capacity to experience the sensations and emotions that arise from focusing our attention inwards. And that is where the frustration shows up. Without establishing our inner resources, self-inquiry into our patterns can be overwhelming or easily slip into self-criticism or judgement. It is at this exact intersection of life where yoga therapy can be incredibly beneficial to your well-being.
Imagine yourself sitting on top of a hill, enjoying the warmth of the sun on your skin. As you sit there, you notice the river at the bottom of the hill. No end, no beginning in sight, you just watch the water moving through. Ask yourself: what do you want to do next? How does that show up as a pattern elsewhere in your life? This type of reflection is what yoga therapy is about. Through the combination of movement inquiry and development of the capacity to sit with oneself without judgement, we begin to develop the observer within you to recognize and be with your patterns with loving kindness. It is this expansion of awareness and compassion in our lives that can bring a feeling of aliveness and presence into our everyday lives!