A few weeks ago, I sat in yoga class at one of my favorite studios. It had been a while since I attended class just for myself and I was desperate to drop in and zone out on my mat. I sat back towards my heels — eyelids slipping closed, sitting bones rooting into the blocks beneath me, crown of the head reaching every so slight up while my shoulder blades made their slow and resistant descent down my back. I was ready. I was ready to practice and to let the practice bliss me out.
Within the first five minutes, there was a kerplunk. Then there was another shuffle shuffle in the back of the room as a latecomer entered the room. Then someone knocked their water bottle over.
I could feel the tension rising in my body as much as my shoulder started to creep back up towards my ears.
How dare these other students disturb on my time on the mat? How dare they pull me out of the precarious zen I was just starting to slip into?
As these thoughts swirled in my head and threatened to hijack my entire class, the teacher calmly made her way around the room, offering a grounding hand on the shoulder or base of the skull. And these words.
“When you hear a kerfuffle in yoga class, it’s a good opportunity to stay with your breath and watch your reaction. Because there are kerfuffles all the time in life and you can’t always be thrown off. It’s a chance to practice your reaction and bring it off the mat.”
Kerfuffle. It’s the technical term for those unexpected bumps in life.
As much as we often turn to yoga, running or working out to step away from the everyday world and to get out of our own mind, it doesn’t always happen. While we chase the perfect run or that perfect yoga practice where you’re in the flow and in the moment, 80% of the time, you don’t reach it.
And that’s OK.
Because the purpose of the practice isn’t to zone out or to be blissed out all the time. (Shocker, I know!) The practice gives us a chance to learn to notice the kerfuffles in life and how to deal with them — not necessarily to tune them out entirely.
We’ve become so good at distracting ourselves from uncomfortable moments, quiet moments and boring moments and we need to learn how to be OK with those moments without wanting to totally escape and shut off our own minds.
The decisions you make in those moments on the mat — the patterns and routine you establish for how you react and move those those moments — carry into your everyday life. That moment on the mat is an opportunity to practice your response, to practice sitting with uncomfortable feelings and to learn to be OK with moments that might be challenging or boring or whatever.
Next time you encourage a kerfuffle, whether on the mat, on the run or in life, acknowledge it. Notice your gut reaction — what emotions does it elicit? Where and on whom are you placing blame? Pause and breathe before your react. And then practice it all over again.
What knocks you over on the mat? What knocks you over off the mat?
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