Buddhism Says These 5 Things are What Holds Us Back.

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Buddhism Says These 5 Things are What Holds Us Back.

life

 

By Dana Gornall

Every day she takes a morning bath she wets her hair
Wraps a towel around her as she’s heading for the bedroom chair
It’s just another day
Slipping into stockings, stepping into shoes
Dipping in the pocket of her raincoat
It’s just another day
At the office where the papers grow she takes a break
Drinks another coffee and she finds it hard to stay awake
It’s just another day

Do do do do do do, it’s just another day
Do do do do do do, it’s just another day

So sad, so sad
Sometimes she feels so sad
Alone in her apartment she’d dwell
Till the man of her dreams come to break the spell
Ah, stay, don’t stand her up
And he comes and he stays but he leaves the next day
So sad
Sometimes she feels so sad

As she posts another letter to the sound of five
People gather ’round her and she finds it hard to stay alive
It’s just another day

Do do do do do do, it’s just another day
Do do do do do do, it’s just another day

Another Day ~ Paul McCartney

My eyes are still closed, my feet are wrapped inside the bottom edges of my comforter, I can feel the weight of my dog at the end of the bed and my phone is playing The Dog Days are Over—the song I wake up to every morning.

I have grown to not like that song since it has been waking me up every morning for the past few years, but it also signals my brain that it’s time to get up and be productive. I have kids that need to be woken for school, a dog that wants out and then work to be driven to, so I need to move. I really don’t want to move. I don’t want to feel the cold wooden floor on my feet, I don’t want to stand at the door calling after the dog who will most likely stand out and sniff the grass and ignore me when I call him in. I don’t want to try to wake my kids up and hurry them along because they seem to resent me always in one way or another (as teenagers often do).

I just want to stay in this warm and comfortable bed.

We often find ourselves doing this don’t we? At least I know I do. I don’t want to do the things that are not fun or necessary. I want the benefits of responsibility—smart, productive kids, more money from working, a better toned body and mind from going to yoga and eating healthier, a cleaner house and laundry that is actually folded and put in the drawers, but I drag my feet at times when it comes to putting in the work to get all that.

If you have followed Buddhism or studied yoga beyond showing up to class with a mat and water bottle, you may have run across something called The Five Hindrances. In yoga, Patanjali calls them Distractions—or Chitta Viksepa. These are concepts or habits that preclude us from a well-rounded practice and well, a more full life too. Patanjali breaks them down even further into several concepts, but when you compare them, the idea behind it seems to flow from the same vein.

Sensory Desire: seeking happiness through sensation such as touch, taste, sight, sound etc. Patanjali refers to this as Avirati. This seems to be at the base of every single bad habit out there, does it not? This is what keeps me shoveling potato chips in my mouth even after the voice in my head is telling me it’s probably not a good idea. This is what has me buying another yoga tank top with that cool looking elephant design and that shiny OM necklace, even though I still need to pay the gas bill. I could go on, but we all have our vices, and you know yours, I’m sure. The issue with this is glaring. We get caught up in that thing that we think will make us happy—even for a few moments, but you know deep down in your heart that it’s only temporary. Why is this something to be aware of?

It goes further than eating too many chips and spending money we don’t have. Have you ever gotten your heart broken because you were attached to someone or maybe even attached to the mere thought of someone? Have you ever felt if you just got that better job, that cooler car or nailed that backbend, that then you would feel more fulfilled? Right. Even as I type this, I know that’s ridiculous, and yet I fall in the same grass-is-always-greener-over-there trap.

Ill-will: thoughts of wanting to reject, feelings of hostility, resentment, hatred and bitterness. Patanjali has a similar distraction which is Pramada, or self-importance. This is like opening up a huge can of worms. I believe we have all been there—whether it was gossiping about a friend or acquaintance, complaining about an ex, feeling anger and holding contempt for a jerk of a boss or even just cussing out that person who cut you off in traffic on your morning commute, we have felt hostility at some point. We have felt better than someone else. We have felt we were in the right and how dare anyone challenge that?

It’s so easy to let this spiral out of control and snowball into a deep, bitter hole that leaves you angry at the mere thought of that person or situation. The irony is that most often while we are fuming and fantasizing about karma and revenge, most likely the target of our fuming has no idea they have pissed us off. I’ve seen it quoted often that the Buddha said holding onto anger is like holding a hot coal and both people get burned. I’m not sure if this is an accurate quote, but the spirit of it is true. What’s the point of staying angry because someone did you wrong (or at least you perceived it that way)? Nothing.

Sloth-torpor: heaviness of body and dullness of mind which drag one down into disabling inertia and thick depression. Patanjali refers to this as Styana and Alasya, meaning lack of mental discipline and laziness. Oh, how I identify with this. I don’t want to wash the dishes. I don’t want to mow the lawn. I don’t want to give the dog a bath. Ugh, I’m too tired to meditate. Oh God, I hate Downward Facing-Dog; my calves are too tight. Blah, why do I always have to be the one to cook dinner? I can be the epitome of mental sloth, just ask anyone who I text frequently (because blah, I don’t like talking on the phone).

I have a neighbor who is super-picky about his lawn. I see him out there every day pulling weeds, cutting his grass in perfectly straight lines, sweeping his driveway from any and all debris. I make fun of him from time to time, but yet secretly I am envious. I wish I had the right OCD genes to be perfectly organized. Mental and physical discipline is not just about getting sculpted biceps, but it keeps us from letting our minds run amok, and that keeps us from all kinds of nasty things such as anxiety, depression and rage. As Martha Stewart would say, it’s a good thing. Now, there is a woman with OCD….

Restlessness-worry: the inability to calm the mind. Patanjali calls this both Alabdha Bhumikatva and Anavasthitattva—failure to attain continuity of thought and instability in holding on to concentration which has been attained after long practice. This is what keeps us from meditating or attempting to meditate. This is what many times lies at the heart of anxiety. This is what leads us to overcompensating or worrying about things we can’t control.

I can’t meditate. Between not having enough time or energy, I can’t fit it in. This is what I say constantly and it’s true, to some extent. But the fact is that I sit and my mind pulls me into so many other places of all the things I should be doing or would rather be doing (read: sleep, eat, play on Facebook, get ready for work, whatever), that I tend to throw this practice in the bottom drawer. The irony is that the practice of mediation is what we need to remedy the runaway mind. Picking and choosing what we want to do is so much easier than what we need to do, isn’t it? It’s easier to practice the poses we are good at rather than the ones we struggle in.

I can get caught up in my restless mind, or I can choose to focus. I can allow my thoughts to pull my emotions this way or that, or I can ask myself if what I am thinking is true?

Doubt: lack of conviction or trust. Patanjali calls this Samsaya, doubt or indecision. I saw this meme once that showed a squirrel darting across a road and it said: Me trying to make a decision. Doubt haunts us at so many dark corners. Should I have quit that job? Should I have been a little stronger and stood up for myself? Should I have been quiet and not mouthed off? Should I have stayed home instead of went out? Should I have eaten that half-gallon of ice-cream?

The problem with the angel and the devil on our shoulders is that we let ourselves get caught up in the back and forth. Go or stay? Do or do not?

I remember sitting on a couch in a therapist’s office lamenting about everything I felt had gone wrong in my life. She looked me squarely in the eye and asked me why I didn’t do what I needed to do to change things. I explained my train of thought—if I made this decision then xyz would happen and if I made that choice then something else, and which way would be best. She then told me I get stuck overthinking and that this was one of my primary issues I needed to address.

Well, duh. I’m an over thinker. Who isn’t? But the fact was, she was right. When we let ourselves get drawn into the endless cycle of thinking and doubt, we delay moving forward. Rather than make a decision we are uncomfortable with and having to deal with the things we don’t want to deal with, we sit in the in-between. It was then that my therapist smiled and said: I know you like sitting on the fence, but after awhile, sitting on the fence too long can get kind of painful. At some point, you need to jump off. Bam, that hit me like a ton of bricks.

Shutting off Florence & The Machine’s music, I roll to my side and place my feet on the floor. My dog stirs, wags his tail and and opens his mouth in a typical Golden Retriever grin and I get up and knock on my teenager’s doors telling them to get up. It’s just another day. Time to make the coffee and do all the things I need to do—the mundane and the extraordinary, the practical and impractical. It’s a brand new set of hours placed in front of me.

I push aside my doubts, my worry and restless thoughts, my sloth, my resentments and my desire to crawl back under my warm comforter and greet the cool sunrise.

And so I begin a practice, again. It’s just another day.

 

Photo: (The Berry)

Editor: Ty H Phillips

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Dana Gornall on EmailDana Gornall on FacebookDana Gornall on GoogleDana Gornall on InstagramDana Gornall on LinkedinDana Gornall on PinterestDana Gornall on Twitter
Co-founder at The Tattooed Buddha
Dana Gornall is the co-founder of The Tattooed Buddha and mom of three crazy kids and a dog. She has been writing stories since she could put words into sentences, and is completely in love with language of all kinds. The need to connect with people on a deeper level has always been something she strives for and finds fulfilling. Whether it be through massage, writing, interpreting or just chatting with a good friend, she finds bits of enlightenment in those connections. If not working or writing, you can find her standing outside in the dark night gazing up at the millions of stars or dancing in the kitchen with her children. Check out her writing here on The Tattooed Buddha and her column:The Yoga Slut. You can also see her writing on Elephant Journal, Be You Media and Rebelle Society. You can connect with her on Twitter and Facebook.
By | 2016-10-14T07:48:21+00:00 April 17th, 2016|blog, Buddhism, Featured, The Yoga Slut|0 Comments

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