Let that shit go
My Lady and I spent the past weekend in Northern Minnesota. We were at a yoga retreat organized by our local studio. The location was beautiful. Nestled on the shore of Lower Whitefish Lake, replete with sandy beaches, beautiful sunsets and sumptuous accommodations. Never having attended a yoga retreat before, we felt a little lost at first, with no previous experience of the laid back, relaxed manner in which the weekend played out.
We spent about eight hours in classes and workshops over the weekend, learning far more than I had expected or hoped for. My personal yoga practice improved greatly from the teaching about hip and spine alignment. Understanding how much our own bone structure and posture is impacting our alignment of head, shoulders, hips, knees and ankles. Plus, as a bonus, I now understand a little more about weight distribution in my feet that is helping my balance transitions. It was wonderful to have such a diverse set of teachers and classes, each with their own special way of teaching, and their own uniquely focused message.
My interest was piqued about Iyengar yoga which seems to focus on a set sequence of precisely aligned postures using many props (blocks, straps, blankets). Two of the yoga instructors appeared to be deeply versed in this type of yoga and it certainly helped my progress along my journey to receive their instruction. Yoga is a deeply personal meditative practice for me. It is totally absorbing and has proven to be by far the best medicine that I have come across to re-frame my mind and reset it when it descends to the darkest depths. To spend eight hours on my mat (and the sandy beach) was a self-indulgent luxurious experience.
My daily meditation practice is at a point where I use repetition of phrases (mantras) or breath counting to maintain focus. This weekend’s mantra became “let that shit go”, inspired by a lady yogi’s tee shirt. Those words were surprisingly effective at both calming the mind and then moving on.
Letting that shit go is not about ignoring the thoughts or forgiving or forgetting. It is about acknowledging the presence of the thought, and allowing yourself to continue despite the thought whilst talking to yourself kindly. It is the essence of Self-Compassion. I have a lot of focus at the moment on Self Compassion, I suck at it. Two Self Compassion practices have been introduced to be through my guided meditation practice and through reading the work of Kristin Neff, one of the recognized world leading researchers in the field.
The first practice is “Noting”, this involves recognizing that you are having a negative thought or feeling, giving yourself space, and then classifying the response as either a thought or a feeling. The space and knowledge that this process gives me allows me (when I manage to do it) the opportunity to reframe my response to the thought or feeling.
The second practice is Renunciation. The process is like the Noting practice. You start by identifying that you are having a negative thought. Rather that allowing it to swirl or spiral downwards, you instead you acknowledge the thought, take responsibility for the act that precipitated the thought, and commit to yourself not to repeat it but instead to learn from it. There are great similarities between this practice and certain Buddhist practices. In Buddhism, the Pali word for “renunciation” is nekkhamma, which can be interpreted as “giving up the world and leading a holy life” or “freedom from lust, craving and desires.”.
These are very nascent practices for me. I have been successful a few times, but missed the opportunity to interrupt many thoughts. In those cases, I focus instead on “Let that shit go” and meditate my way up to a better place.
If you too suffer from spiraling negative thoughts, you may want to try, like me, to interrupt their cycle simply by Noting, and then moving on to renounce them. It feels good when it is successful.
Be kind to yourself, treat yourself as well as you treat others. Maybe then we can eventually come to love ourselves? I am a work in progress.