Guest post graciously contributed by Caroline Schmidt.
I recently stayed with some friends who have a 3-year old daughter Nina. For my last night with them we all went out to a restaurant for dinner. Nina had spent the day with her dad at an indoor inflatable kiddie park. This was a wonderland for a 3-year old full of huge inflatable slides, bouncy jumping houses and pits with pools of foam balls to dive into and play. Needless to say by dinner time she was worn out and to keep herself interactive she restlessly walked around the table requesting escorts to the bathroom, not to use it, but mostly just to keep moving and exploring. Finally her parents had enough and they said to her, “Nina, are you making good choices? Do you want me tell Mrs. So-and-So you are not making good choices?” In response Nina pleaded, “No, no! I am making good choices! Don’t tell Mrs. So-and-So I’m making not making good choices!” I thought this was so cute! To see this little person pleading, bargaining over the merit of her choices. Her mother told me this is the language they use with the children at the pre-school.
Are you making good choices with your eyes?
Are you making good choices with your ears?
Are you making good choices with your words?
Are you making good choices with your actions?
Like Nina, we often find ourselves worn out and exhausted by our work, family and social responsibilities. – This, all before we even weigh in on our extracurricular “fun-time” activities. – Rather than slowing down or stopping to rest we push though our exhaustion, we continue in motion seeking stimulation of all kinds to keep ourselves engaged in the exterior world. Like Nina, we have a fear that we will miss out on something if we give into stillness.
The senses: Pratima Raichur writes,” We ‘digest’ the world through the senses in much the same way that we digest food- the force of agni transforms all the energy and intelligence that is outside us- taste, smell, sound, color, form, texture- into energy and intelligence that gives us- thoughts, emotions, nutrients, cells, tissues. In that way, all sensory experiences creates balance or imbalance in the bodymind.” –Absolute Beauty, p. 164-165
Why we can’t slow down and the virtue of boredom: Sakyong Mipham explains about the 4 types of boredom.
1. Boredom as an undercurrent of anxiety. We are not comfortable with ourselves. With no external amusement our pattern of habituated rapid sensorial stimulation is up.
2. Boredom rooted in fear. We are afraid of being left alone with ourselves because we are unable to relax our mind. We feel awkward and uncomfortable. The fear of not being able to imagine the mind at peace.
3. Cool boredom. A seasoned quality of boredom, it is no longer needy, it is spacious, comfortable and soothing.
4. Being fully bored. We see the tricks we play on ourselves with thoughts, emotions and concepts. It all becomes boredom we are no longer hooked into our need for constant entertainment. We can relax.
– Sakyong Mipham p.76, Turning the Mind Into an Ally
Pratyahara and Healing. The art of making good choices.
“To understand the truth of reality, we have to have a mind that is not completely overwhelmed by prefabricated patterns and has roused the motivation to be truly compassionate in its quest.”
-Sakyong Mipham p.189, Turning the Mind Into an Ally
Learning to control or close off the senses and their sensory input through mindful awareness practices helps us to get comfortable with our inner reality. This inward moving energy helps us to perceive where we are at in our mindspace, hearts and physical bodies. When our prana (intelligence) is being constantly sucked out through the windows of the senses we have little energy left to manifest and develop insight and understanding, the seeds of natural wisdom. However, when we make good choices by restricting the amount and minding the quality of sensorial stimulation we conserve our energy for the internal development of own health and healing. “Ayurveda states that all imbalance- all disease and disorder- is noting but the loss of this natural wisdom, which is part and parcel of consciousness.” Pratima Raichur p. 27, Absolute Beauty
Ask yourself the questions:
Is Awareness outside of me?
Does my connection to my heart live in the external world?
Are wisdom, insight and inspiration separate from me?
Pratyahara can be practiced in many ways. A few suggestions for this season in the Vatic wonderland:
Take up a chanting practice.
Choose a sound meditation.
Practice an internalizing pranayama like brahmari or Ujjai breathing
Practice your asana in silence
Do more restorative yoga/ practices
Bundle up for a quiet walk in nature
Bhakti yoga- connect, study and worship the Divine
Settle in with your solitude