Don’t Take Things Personally

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In my last post I mentioned the injury that occurred while I was practicing my headstand. I went to the chiropractor and, thankfully, I’m better now, but the injury put me into my own head. It phased me. I thought to myself “why me” and “why now” so close to the yoga competition. I got into a place where I wasn’t in the moment for a few days after the injury and I felt this weight on my mood and my mind. Then I listened to a podcast where Oprah interviewed Jon Kabat-Zinn, the man credited for bringing mindfulness to America. He discusses the concepts of mindfulness, which he defines as “paying attention, in the present moment, on purpose, and non-judgmentally”. While I had the awareness part right, the piece I had been missing was the non-judgmental aspect of mindfulness. I had the awareness that I felt fear and anxiety about the competition, fear about my injury, and some resentment as well towards the injury. I knew I wasn’t living in the present moment, and so while I was experiencing these thoughts and feelings, I was also experiencing dismay by these thoughts and feelings. The dismay was caused by my judgment that these thoughts and feelings were bad, wrong, unwanted. Eckhart Tolle says “What you resist persists, and what you fight, you strengthen”. By fighting my feelings and emotions, I was actually making them stronger. Part of being in the present moment is accepting whatever is your reality at the time and one of the core components of mindfulness is that when you simply notice a negative thought or emotion, the thought/emotion will fall away naturally. I stopped resisting and moved to a place where I simply noticed negative thoughts and negative feelings. The thoughts/feelings fell away (seemingly magically).

The second component of the interview was Kabat-Zinn’s description of our tendency to “take things personally” (not just actions from other people, but also, with experiences). I often get this concept in social situations, however I had never thought about the concept of “not taking it personally” in life situations. For example, I was taking my injury personally asking myself “why me” and feeling sorry for myself. It wasn’t personal. Shit happens. The better question is to ask “why not me”. Eckhart Tolle talks about how the situation is always neutral but that our thoughts and reactions to the situation are what make us deem the situation either good or bad. Accordingly, our emotions are affected by our thoughts on the situation. We cause ourselves so much more suffering by taking it personally.

If you find yourself stuck in a negative rut like the one I just described, where you realize that you are not living in the present moment. Stop. Take a few deep breaths and just observe. Let yourself stop judging or fighting whatever it is that you are thinking or feeling and just notice. Observe. Whatever you are feeling or thinking is okay. If you do this, you will truly be in the present moment, and I bet, you will begin to feel better, lighter, and freer.

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