Healing From the Stress of Increasing Extremes

We are living in a world of increasing extremes. From weather to politics, the “climate” in which we live is becoming more acute. You’ve also heard that the only constant here, is change. What better way for the collective ego-mind to drive home its goal of separation and difference than increasing the intensity of constant change?

Now, there is another constant, but it’s hidden in our minds by the world we see along with our attraction to the drama it brings. Yes, you read that right. We are attracted to the drama. We’ll get to that inner constant but first we have to clearly identify the obstacles to it.

Who finds satisfaction in a drama-less movie?

Who would watch drama-less news?

“But I hate the news,” you say. “And I lament the tragedies of the world.”

There is strong resistance but for a moment, consider slowing down and honestly looking inside at the entertainment value of the things we fear and hate. We’re attracted to these things because it forms our (false) identity. Thankfully, we are not the things we identify with! A friend of ours was recently telling us how depressed his wife is because she cannot pull herself away from the news. Can you see the love-hate relationship we each have to the world around us? We’re attracted to the extremes that seem to divide us. For a theme a little more relevant to yoga, many are attracted to a yoga or fitness program that pushes the body to its proverbial edge, over and over again expecting sustainable results. It won’t work. In my lifetime, I’ve seen yoga and fitness become more and more “creatively intense.” My point?

Watch the attraction we have to the extremes. It’s exciting, but it’s not healthy.

I’ve chosen this topic because I have been working privately with a number of students that have been pushed to the edges of mental and physical health because of external stressors. The same ones that we’re all experiencing to some degree: COVID, isolation, politics, weather, news events (both near and far), living dynamics and family matters, all of which fall onto the spectrum of increasing extremes. But what we don’t realize is how enamored we become to the events and things outside of ourselves—external circumstances that pull us “out of our minds!”

Yoga Sutra 1.2 sums up the practice that restores sanity but it’s the LAST thing we’d ever think of doing. Never ever, with all the chaos in the world (and our attraction to it) would we consider looking for a peaceful constant inside our own heart and mind. In fact, for many, looking within only brings more anxiety because we have been trained to avoid looking within. It’s scary in there! In fact this is what we’re really afraid of, looking inside. It’s so much easier to fear the outer world than do the hard work of looking inside. Add a layer of denial and the barrier of fear (to the inside) is pushed even deeper. (Sigmund Freud got a bad reputation, but we have to give him credit for pioneering and paving the way to dealing with the workings of the mind.) It’s so much easier to avoid! But I’m not avoiding…look out there…those are the people avoiding! It’s their fault, not mine! The problem is not with me…the problem is out there! This is the voice of the ego. It’s the loudest and most often the first voice we hear.

So what can we do? Slow down and listen.

What is your mind telling you right now? What do you hear?

Do not listen with your ears, they only report on the external world.

What do you “hear” in your heart? Can you sit with it a moment?

Can you honestly listen…even if it’s painful? Is there judgment, anxiety, depression, fear?

Let’s be honest with ourselves. This is the drama that we have to work through. THIS is our yoga. It’s time to stop substituting outer drama as a cover to the inner drama. I know, it’s easy to point fingers and see this very thing unfolding before our eyes in others. But at some point we each realize how much power we’ve given away and we begin to gently take it back. At some point, it get’s painful enough that we decide to try something different and commit to look at our own stuff. Layers and layers of it…each one welcomed like an old but familiar friend at the door of time.

In my lifetime, I have never seen the world get better by demanding change from others. I have never seen anything get consistently better on the outside by imposing change upon it.

Have you?

But isn’t that what we keep doing … expecting peace to come from others changing or outside circumstances changing? This is a very powerful time for real change that lasts. There’s no time like the present…cliché but true.

How are we going to do it?

We’ll do it by willingly looking in the last place we’d ever think to look for change. We’ll do it gently and kindly. We’ll do it with courage because nothing takes more courage than the willingness to look inside our own hearts and minds. And when the stuff comes up, we’ll forgive it. We’ll develop a sense of compassion for ourselves which will transform into forgiveness and compassion for others. We can simultaneously practice seeing the unity, love and light in ourselves as we also begin to see it in others. Be still and be willing to be the change you want to see.  This is how we’ll heal and it’s the only way our world will heal. Join me. As my beloved friend and teacher Gene would say, “If not you, then who?” 

This, by the way is the practice of Namaste. To see the pain we share in form and do the inner work of forgiveness that takes us through the pain of separation to the love and light we share in spirit. Why? Because it works and it’s what we want above all else.

Namaste,
Jeff