Monday, August 1, 2011

Sometimes you just have to do the work.

Hey America! Fast food, quick fix nation! There's this project management principle that advises that you can have two of the following three things: cheap, fast and good. If it's good and fast, it's not going to be cheap. If it's cheap and fast, it's not going to be good. And, finally, if it's good and cheap, it's not going to be fast. Some things take time and patience. Holistic, non-pharm methods of healing are some of those things.

Take yoga, for example. Yoga is not always easy. Sometimes it's downright hard and certainly not as effortless as popping a pill, and yet it does work. A study released last year found that a 10 week yoga program effectively eased PTSD symptoms in veterans. This study and studies like it are finding that yoga and meditation actually changes the brain, and as a result, how we think, feel and function. There are many things that change our brains and alter our experience of life, but yoga is unique in that it can be done (in certain forms...) anytime, anywhere, with little to no equipment. I start most of my yoga classes with a couple minutes of One Minute Breath because it's a great, easy breath technique that can be practiced on the bus or in the office, anytime one needs to calm the mind and bring it under your control. The best part? It's totally free! You don't need ass-sculpting stretchy pants or fancy mats. You just need to breathe consciously.

Even breathing, our most natural automatic function, can be a tremendous task. When it comes to focusing on the breath and staying in the body, we have to combat a very busy, chattering mind that would pull our attention in 11 directions at once. Where we can swallow a pill with no thought, reigning in the mind takes discipline and, I'm finding, the even-more-difficult-to-achieve humble surrender. In our surrender, we give up trying to control the outcomes of our efforts, and the behaviors and feelings of others, and patiently, compassionately keep bringing our focus back to the inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale. We give up trying to master others and take on the important job of mastering ourselves.

This is not always fun. Sometimes it feels like work. Sometimes resting inside and plumbing the depths of our consciousness unearths some seriously scary stuff. I took my first Anusara yoga class last week and it opened parts of me, literally and figuratively, that had never seen the light of day, bringing me face to face with some very old, deeply rooted fear. I'm still reeling a little. Yikes. Wouldn't it be easier to just take some kind of anti-anxiety drug and call it a day? There is certainly a time and place for medication. There is also a time and place in which to snuggle up with your discomfort and actually work through some shit. You can mask symptoms with meds but it's not going to take care of whatever it is that's really bothering you.

There are no simple answers to complex questions. It cannot be good, fast AND cheap. Some kind of practice that works to keep you in your body will help you, but it will not be like taking a pill. It will require commitment of time and effort. Your time and effort. You can seek support as you walk your path, but you have to walk it. There is immense empowerment on offer to those willing to take responsibility for their own experience. Again, if meds are appropriate then they should be utilized, but let's not let that be the end of inquiry. My favorite method of internal inquiry has become yoga. Whatever your method, let's confront and embrace every part of ourselves. It may not be easy, but the results are long lasting and carry no crazy side effects. In my experience, it's completely worth the time and effort.

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