Yogas citta vrtti nirodhah
The restraint of the modifications of the mind-stuff is Yoga
One day as I lifted my son into his car seat and began to adjust the straps I realised he was looking at me, listening to me…
“Mummy. Why are you talking quietly to yourself?”
Like many people, my mind has forgotten how to switch off from the constant internal chatter. I was embarrassed to be caught out by my three year old. I laughed and explained that I was talking to myself. A more honest response would have been to admit that I was not there in that moment. I was in my own head, fully immersed in my own citta (mind stuff). My head has become so full of it that these mutterings are now leaking out of my mouth. These thoughts are clearly seen on my face, in my posture. They make me restless, exhausted… I am in pain.
In my mind I am constantly planning, thinking back and silently narrating what I am doing, what I was doing and what I would like to be doing. I have always done this for as long as I can remember, silently (or not so silently) told my stories.
I have not slept much this past week. I have just spent the last five days on my own, attending a medical conference in Dallas, Texas. Despite the daily asana practice, meditation and early nights (don’t panic, I have not cracked it, this is not my normal routine) sleep has eluded me. Lying alone in the dark of my hotel room, just me and my broken-record-player mind, stuck gouging deep groove into my discs. I am in pain and it has been hard to settle, hard to focus, to find the quiet.
When you talk to yourself, as I clearly do, you repeat back the same questions and the same rhetoric over and over again. Grinding those grooves deeper and deeper, making escape feel almost impossible.
This can get messy, self forgets to turn off, to shut up. When you are speaking to me, I have to open my eyes wide and focused, following the words as they come out, as you tell me your story. I have to do this otherwise my mind strays into a different narrative. The language that you use or references that you make can send my mind spiralling off into something else, somewhere else. Before I know it, I have missed something, something important, something about you – because I was too much about me, too much in my head. I am not here now. This infuriates my closest friends and family. I often interrupt them with my chatter, immediately apologising - but it is too late.
Right now, I am at Heathrow airport, waiting for a flight to Zurich. It is lunchtime here in London but my body clock is on Dallas time, making it far too early to be drinking this glass of wine but today, it is my birthday.
This is not what I intended to write about it just came out. As I sit here and watch the flight screen flash up a 45-minute delay. Two-minutes to scroll through the day’s updates, like this, love that and then there is the stuff we just ignore or forget, like the chat in your head. You cancel that friends request seconds after putting it out there, what if they don’t want to connect, what if they misinterpret your intensions. What if you are rejected?
Social media news feeds keep all who care to know, updated on the when’s and where’s of dozens of people at a time. Is this who I am? Defined by the things I have done, the things that I am doing and by the day of the year. Is this who we all are? Pictures and status updates, tweets and heavily filtered instagram snaps. Surely, it is not what we are doing but how we are feeling in those moments that make them interesting. This deeper personal information we do not divulge. I do not tell you my reasons for being on that rooftop with my yoga mat at 5am. That I have been crying, that I feel desperately alone.
It is easier to stay stuck, held in these familiar grooves, these patterns. The mind does not care that you have become familiar with things that no longer serve you that you must let go of.
So let us switch off - silence the chatter, listen deeply. It’s hard, behind the chat there is pain. It is going to hurt but in the silence is relief. Feeling and accepting the hard will allow us access to the softness. Only when we are ready will the soul open up and answer our questions.
Patience Patience all is coming…