Since I have started the Yoga Experiment, one of the things I have been most conscious of is my mood, and especially how it effects my body. If I come to class in a bad mood, my muscles are much, much less pliable than if I come to class and I'm already happy. It was hard for me to believe this when I first started realizing what was happening, that what I was thinking as I was doing yoga was making as much as an inch of stretch difference, but trust me when I tell you this, it's for reals.
And I was just witnessing this on the gross, muscular level. What happens to our bodies when we are constantly manufacturing all of those stress and negativity hormones, over days, weeks, years? (The answer? A whole host of stress-related diseases: depression, eating disorders, heart attacks, ulcers, and cancer, just to name a few.)
It can be difficult living in your own head. Thoughts race 1000 miles a minute, critical judgements about yourself and others swirl together with schemes on how you can fulfill all of your worldly desires. Add in a dose of constant existential angst, and you have what the Buddhists call the "monkey mind." Things just happen. We have bad days, But we're not held hostage to our emotions. Sometimes we like to wallow, and we forget that we can actually do something to change our sorry situation. Things like aromatherapy, taking baths, going for walks, and retail therapy help to make us feel better, but they don't compare with just simply practicing gratitude and thinking good thoughts.
Rob Brezsny is my new guru. His book, Pronoia is the Antidote for Paranoia, or How the Whole World is Conspiring to Shower You With Blessings, has been extremely influential to me and the way I think about the world in the last few months. His basic thesis is this:
Thousands of things go right for you every day, beginning the moment you wake up. Through some magic you don't fully understand, you're still breathing and your heart is beating, even though you've been unconscious for many hours. The air is a mix of gases that's just right for your body's needs, as it was before you fell asleep.
You can see! Light of many colors floods into your eyes, registered by nerves that took God or evolution or some process millions of years to perfect. The interesting gift of these vivid hues comes to you courtesy of an unimaginably immense globe of fire, the sun, which continually detonates nuclear reactions in order to convert its body into light and heat and energy for your personal use.
Did you know that the sun is located at the precise distance from you to be of perfect service? If it were any closer, you'd fry, and if it were any further away, you'd freeze. Here's another one of the sun's benedictions: It appears to rise over the eastern horizon right on schedule every day, as it has since long before you were born....
Let's say it's 9:30 a.m. You've been awake for two hours, and a hundred things have already gone right for you. If three of those hundred things had not gone right-your toaster was broken, the hot water wasn't hot enough, there was a stain on the pants you wanted to wear-you might feel that today the universe is against you, that your luck is bad, that nothing's going right. And yet the fact is that the vast majority of everything is working with breathtaking efficiency and consistency. You would clearly be deluded to imagine that life is primarily an ordeal.
(Read the essay in its entirety here)
Part memoir, part self-help workbook (play-book?), and part good-news trivia tome, Brezsny tackles such issues as perfectionism, why there is evil and suffering in the world (and the best way for us to deal with it), making up your own spirituality and/or religion, sexuality, imagination, and our own delicious insignificance in the grand scheme of things. Using the same signature flowing poetry-prose style as in his "Free-Will Astrology," which is syndicated in newspapers nationwide, Brezsny gently implores us to read books, do good, and above all, love, love, love, through our actions words and thoughts; because that is the one and only way to make a lasting difference in our own world, and also the world around us.