Hello readers! If you’re just jumping in, I’m taking a course this fall on mindfulness at The Marsh in Minnetonka, MN, and I’m dedicating my yoga blog to document and share my experience through the middle of November.
I had to miss the majority of class 5, due to a work obligation that was unavoidable. But since my last post, I’ve had class 6, and also the day-long (or 7-hour long) silent retreat. It’s been interesting to see how I’m finally settling into this class and what its lessons hold for me: first I was excited about the knowledge and tactics that I would be able to pass on to my clients and students. Then I started to get impatient. For me, the very methodical practices and tactics were tedious, and I just wanted to get back to my silent meditation, my self-led yoga practice. But in week 6’s class, I had a very interesting experience as the volunteer for a group exercise around reactions to anger. And during the silent retreat I finally saw how much I’d been missing before… and had the TIME to put it into practice.
Reactions: When something happens in our lives – in our relationships, jobs, etc. and that something is unexpected, we tend to have a reactionary response. It’s at least partly due to a primal part of the brain, our Insula, where our visceral subjective emotion is processed.
During this session we did a simple exercise derived from Japanese Aikido (“The way of unifying life energy,”) to help reflect on four common reactions to the emotion of anger. I was asked to come at my instructor as if I was really angry at her. This was a particularly interesting challenge for me because I’m an actress, you would think this should be no problem for me. Except that I tend to struggle with anger. I don’t get angry very often, I tend to get very shaken up by anger when it is directed at me… in short, it was an uncomfortable challenge for me to try and be angry at my lovely, gentle instructor, and to admit that I should be better at putting my insecurities aside in light of an exercise in acting. But aside from my personal processing around this, the exercise was meant to point out four common reactions to anger:
Fall down and cry.
Become confused / freeze up / not do anything
Fight back and also get angry
Listen, and let the aggressor know that you are listening
Its a simplified explanation of MOST people’s common reactions to anger – and a helpful tool in assessing what are your normal reactions around anger. Once we understand that most of us fall in one of the first three categories (and – let’s give ourselves a break -because of primal instincts), it helps to step back from feeling like we’re being blamed for our reactions, and helps to put us – along with everyone else – on a spectrum. And to understand the power of attempting to integrate more of the 4th reaction (the Aikido-inspired reaction) into our lives.
In terms of yoga, I tie it back to this idea: work with your body, instead of against it. Sometimes we don’t even know when we’re fighting something, because we don’t see it as a choice – its just the way things are, its just what happens.
But once you can observe what your reaction is, you can then start to see how much you are fighting to get what you want… (hint, hint Calley, enjoy the time of the silent retreat to let this info settle into your physicality!) instead of using the best resources in front you – where your body has strength, or flexibility, or where you CAN feel your breath move freely… it is a subtle but powerful shift in behavior, which not only
brings us to flexibility and strength quicker than if we were to fight or manipulate the process –
but it is also a much MUCH more enjoyable W A Y to get there.