In my yoga classes this week, we’ve been working with the concept of forgiveness. The Buddha taught that holding onto anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing at someone else. The coal smolders but you're the one who is getting burned. I’ve also heard this teaching phrased as holding a grudge is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.
Anger is incredibly detrimental to our bodies and our peace of mind. I shared with my students this week how several years ago I was consumed with anger toward an ex who had broken my heart. I’d wake up every morning with a slow simmering resentment that lasted days into months. Negative energy like that permeates every aspect of our experience, making it impossible to be happy. I wallowed in that dark place for a while, refusing to let go of the hot coal.
As I struggled with this emotional smoldering, a yoga teacher suggested that I consider making forgiveness a part of my yoga practice. At first I resisted, pointing out that the ex was not sorry, and had not asked me for forgiveness. The teacher shrugged, and encouraged me to forgive him anyway. For the next several weeks, every time I was on my mat, I dedicated my practice to the man who had broken my heart, and imagined I could send all of the benefits I was cultivating with yoga directly to him, to support his happiness.
Sounds counter-intuitive? Radical? That’s yoga. And that’s the practice of unequivocal, preemptive forgiveness. When we are able to mindfully choose to completely forgive someone who has hurt us, whether we feel they deserve it or not, we move ourselves out of the role of victim instantly. The power shifts back to ourselves and we regain a sense of control over our inner landscape. As you move through the yoga postures you realize how the combination of effort and surrender that the body experiences during the physical practice corresponds to the effort and surrender it takes to forgive.
Don’t get me wrong, this was an incredible challenge and at first I did not think I could do it. But, I stuck with it through the discomfort. Eventually, my anger turned to acceptance. From acceptance, I developed an open enough heart to offer my forgiveness directly to the ex. This cleared the space for us to become friends and we now have a connection that I cherish.
Yoga has nothing to do with how our butts look in our yoga pants and everything to do with how we experience our lives and find peace of mind and lasting happiness. What you experience on the mat can lead to profound shifts in your world view and be supportive of your healing process. Let go of the anger and choose to forgive.
Being Mindful About Social Media
Facebook seems to illicit a roller coaster emotions for many of us, depending on what posts show up in our newsfeed on any particular day. A lot of people tell me their Facebook experience is tumultuous. We may experience jealousy over an ex-love who's moved on and updated their relationship status. It's tough sometimes to look at people's exotic vacation pictures during snowstorms. Our mood can be brought down by a chronic complainer's post. Maybe you've experienced hurt feelings when a group of mutual friends post a group-selfie when you weren't invited. The posts that always seems to get me riled up the fastest are racist or radical political opinions.
Some feel that the answer is abstaining from social media altogether but I think that can be throwing the baby out with the bathwater. If I deactivated my account, I’d miss out on keeping in touch with people I’m interested in and all the awesome and inspirational content that my yoga teacher friends post. Facebook is an incredible communication tool that often makes me think, educates and entertains me.
You can take control of your Facebook experience and make it an uplifting and positive one 100% of the time. It’s the Unfollow button that’s your friend for this practice. First, look at your existing list of friends and identify the culprits whose posts regularly upset you. No need to be rude or aggressive and unfriend them, necessarily. Just unfollow them, and their posts will never again appear in your newsfeed.
If you are curious about what they are up to, you can choose to visit their page, and you’ll have control about when and how often you expose yourself to their posts. If you change your mind in the future, you can always follow them back again and they won’t be aware that anything has changed.
After your initial sweep, make it a regular practice to immediately unfollow anyone who pops up on the feed and causes you negative emotions. It might take a couple of months to have your Facebook experience filtered, but it's worth it. Another thing that worked really well for me was investing a few hours on a rainy afternoon and looking up and ‘liking’ spiritual teachers, uplifting quote sites and interesting authors and publications. The checkered landscape of my newsfeed changed from an unpredictable emotional experience to pure inspiration every time I log in.
In yoga philosophy, this practice is called pratyahara, which is translated as the withdrawal of the senses. This is one of the eight limbs of yoga that help us to gain mastery over our external influences with the goal of reaching a more peaceful state of mind. If you aren't big into social media apply this principle to the 24 hour news-cycle or people who gossip when you see them in person.
Simply put, shit won’t upset you if you choose not to engage with it. Take control of external stimuli that affects your state of mind and use your unfollow button liberally. It's a modern application to a proven ancient practice.