As happens to me regularly, today I had an opportunity to learn something from an experience. Some of you may have seen the “beautiful morning” post from yesterday, and the follow-up Gratitude post. So I get up this morning after a good night’s sleep, do my morning practice, and get on with my day. I’m driving the short distance over to the farm, and all of a sudden, I’m the old Jeff, pissed off at the world, cussing and fussing at everybody and everything. And even now, I have NO idea where that came from. Nobody cut me off in traffic, the truck’s running fine, I haven’t realized I screwed up something. There was no reason for me to be angry.
Now it “just so happens” that I am studying some of Judith Hansen Lasater’s work as part of my practice. Just that morning, in a YouTube video, she’d said that we are constantly manipulating our central nervous system. We do it with coffee, weed, chocolate, you name it. However, we don’t see it that way. We just want to wake up, chill out, or feel happy. We do it unconsciously. Yoga practice is also a manipulation of the nervous system*, but many yogis, me included until recently, don’t know it. The question is, are we doing the manipulation consciously or unconsciously?
As I was sitting in traffic with this unexpected bout of anger, I remembered what I heard just a short while ago. So I did a conscious manipulation of my nervous system. I used a Pranayama practice called “two-to-one” breathing. In this practice, your exhales are twice as long as your inhales. This engages the parasympathetic nervous system, the “rest & digest” part of our nervous system. I use this in my Yoga Asana classes to get us out of the stressed mindset that all the sound and fury of modern life puts us in. It works very well in class, and it worked amazingly well this morning. The anger left as quickly as it came.
What’s the lesson? That we have more control over our moods than we think we do. We have a choice to stay in a bad mood or to choose a better frame of mind. The technique that helps with that choice is very simple and already a part of our Life.
Take a deep breath in, then exhale. Breathe deeply and evenly for a few breaths. Then inhale, counting to three, exhaling on a 6 count. Pay attention to each breath. Do this for 6 breaths. Feeling better? Good! Breathe normally for a few breaths, paying attention to how you feel. If you need to do another round of 6 breaths two-to-one, do it. I’ve used this for other types of stress, and even when I had a hard time falling asleep. It’s worked for me every time, as long as I stayed with it and focused on the breath.
Paying attention, recalling the teachings, making conscious choices from those teachings, Creates knowledge from experience. Now I can apply that knowledge to other experiences, generating more knowledge. It’s specific knowledge from a particular experience that I AM GRATEFUL for today!!!
Peace, Grace, & Love,
*It’s also much more than that, but that’s another post. – Jeffby