My Damn Fluctuating Brain
Last week I was in Miami practicing with Sharath Jois. Although daily practice was only 90 minutes, that week completely wore me out. Being away from my family and practicing alongside so many world renowned yogis caused my nervous system to move into high gear. My stomach was in rough shape. I slept little due to a noisy air conditioner, very loud neighbors, and my alarm clock set for early morning. On our last night in Miami, Lisa and I went out to dinner to celebrate her birthday. I’m pretty sure the two of us looked like beer drinking sleeping zombies while eating sushi. Exhaustion had set in; I was kicked.
When I arrived home, I had one day off before picking up our new puppy girl Veda and getting back to my regular teaching schedule. Already completely worn out, we quickly moved into “new puppy parent” mode… Constant supervision of our newest family member and her big brother, countless trips outdoors to pee, and never sleeping more than an hour or two at a time. My fatigue snowballed. I became overly emotional and grouchy.
The experiences I’ve had these past few weeks have been draining both physically and mentally, as well as positive and rewarding. Nothing bad has happened. Practicing with Sharath was difficult but extraordinary, and bringing home Veda has been one of the best decisions we've ever made; she is such a joy. Yet my usual happy demeanor has been diminished. Why am I not feeling my best? Why have I become an emotional basket case? Where is this grouchiness coming from? What the heck is up with me?
Yogash chitta vritti nirodhah. Translated this means “Yoga is the removal of the fluctuations of the mind.” It is the second yoga sutra out of 196, and well, I’m kinda stuck here at the moment. What’s up with me? My damn brain, that’s what! It’s true, my trip to Miami wasn’t exactly a vacation. Practicing with Sharath in such a capacity was really difficult. Yes, I am absolutely exhausted due to lack of sleep. My body is worn down. My mind is fatigued and not working as well as I want it to. My emotions are on the fritz… And I can’t stop focussing on these things!
My brain is fluctuating incessantly… “I wish my vacation had been more of a vacation.” “My neck is now really bothering me after so many led classes.” “Oh my gosh, Veda has to pee again?” “If only I could get a few extra hours of sleep, I’d feel so much better.” All of this incessant thinking causes me to feel moody, blue, and unable to focus on the positive.
So, here’s the question: What is truth? Are my grouchy feelings the truth? Is my exhaustion the truth? Or is it true that because I am unable to calm the fluctuations of my mind, I am suffering? If I were able to quiet my brain, be fully present with everything that I am feeling without judgement or expectation, would I feel better? If I could learn to accept that my vacation wasn’t the best, that my neck hurts, that Veda needs to pee every five minutes, and that I am really freakin’ tired, would this bring peace?
Well… I don’t really know. That’s exactly why I get my ass on the yoga mat every day, to try and figure it out. I’ll get on the mat tomorrow, and the next day, and the day after that. My grouchy feelings will eventually subside. My exhaustion will go away. Will it be because I’ve finally calmed the fluctuations of my brain? Maybe. Or maybe not. It's possible that I really just need some sleep! I have a feeling that I won't have it completely figured out for another lifetime or two... And that's ok.