Artist's Way: Criticism
Mudra: Kurma Mudra
Clarification Cards: The Curse, The Drum, The Crow, The Eagle
I find it very interesting that I'm not as intimidated or afraid of this month as I would've been at the end of 2017. Each monthly practice of 2018 has built on the last and I feel prepared and even a little excited to confront my addictions.
At the end of his viral TED talk, Johann Hari says, "The opposite of addiction is not sobriety; it's human connection." Shame and disconnection often lead to more addictive behavior. Every time I've focussed on eliminating my behaviors, I've just spiraled further into the behavior. However, when I focus on the benefits of the replacement behavior, I have a bit more success.
Hari described an experiment where rats who had a stimulating environment, friends, and mates chose water over heroin-laced water. He transferred that understanding to humans, saying that the audience could be drinking vodka and yet they're choosing to drink water. He attributed this choice to having "bonds and connections [they] want to be present for."
As I confront my addictive behaviors this month, I'll ask myself what part of this situation do I want to be present for and connected with? Yes, a part of me is wanting to escape and check out from some aspect of the experience. That's why I mindlessly sugar up, shop, marathon television reruns, and pick at my skin. I have both tendencies within me: the desire to connect and the desire to withdraw. I'm choosing to seek and strengthen connections. I'm choosing to be fully present in my rat park.
The affirmation of the Phoenix in the Bird Cards is, "I ask the overlighting consciousness of the phoenix to help me transcend the destruction of my old support structures." On my April 2nd hike in the desert I kept seeing images of the cycle of life, death, and rebirth. The dead cacti were becoming one with the soil that fed the nearby living cacti. I experienced an overwhelming feeling of connection and simultaneous non-attachment. We are all connected and eternal and yet constantly changing form. This is the energy of the Phoenix.
I asked a new deck of cards for clarification. I drew three cards: The Curse, The Drum, and The Eagle. The Curse seems to connect my disconnection with karma from past lives and/or ancestral limiting beliefs. For me, that thought releases me from judgement. I need not be perfect and beyond reproach. I am but one expression of this struggle between disconnection and connection. I need not know the whys and the specifics. I just need to do the work along my journey in this present moment. The Drum can provide the rhythmic trance to keep me present in the moment. And The Eagle invites me to become my observer self during these moments of connection and disconnection.
In this first week of April, The Spirit of Yoga issued a pose of the week challenge to practice Crow. Crow is a pose that takes equanimity of plank to the next level. How does one stay balanced when deliberately off-balance? Crow, Eagle, Phoenix... a lot of birds. A lot of opportunities to "be taught how to fly." The Crow card says it is the keeper of universal law of truth. It is about walking my talk and maintaining integrity between my word and my deed. Later this year I'll be teaching a mindfulness class. And to be in integrity with that work, I must release the last of these addictive, evasive, disconnecting behaviors. I choose to be present and connect with this existence and my fellow beings.
In connecting, there is collaboration and co-creation. In order to collaborate, I must be able to receive criticism. Receiving criticism is also a practice of non-attachment and simultaneous engagement.
The intention of the Kurma Mudra is to reduce sensory overload. Hari also discussed one of the crises of our culture - our replacement of human connection with stuff collection. When the sensory overload of our modern world overwhelms me, I create the gesture of the tortoise and breathe, resting inward, finding clarity and vitality.
I started this month realizing that it's time to face my sugar addiction. I had just polished off a big bag of M&Ms. And today, May 2nd, I ate only one of a 3 pack of a healthy chocolate macaroon that I bought two days ago. I used to have this feeling of urgency, like I had to eat treats before they went bad. I couldn't let them go to waste. This has to be the past-life or ancestral limiting belief, probably related to the Great Depression or other times of lack. I can limit my contribution to food waste by not purchasing food in great quantities. I feel like I can enjoy healthy treats now without being attached to them.
Over the course of the month, my screen time became less mindless and more intentional. There was less random sharing and more connecting with specific people.
My focus on connecting also had some unintended consequences. I was able to release some limiting beliefs around money, specifically some resentment I had around paying my student loans (ageist fine print on teacher loan forgiveness conditions). That resentment had been addictive in its own way.
Most of my yoga this month has been off the mat. I've been connecting and collaborating with friends, loved ones, and coworkers. And yet, when I needed to be in my body, my asana practice was there.
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After burning out from a long career as a middle school/high school reading/math/science teacher, I returned to school to study massage, hypnotherapy, mindfulness, aromatherapy, and yoga.