There are times when I get stuck in a rut and get caught in the accelerating downward spiral of negative thoughts. Often I compare myself to others, and think, “Why am I not where they are? Why am I not as good as them?” It happens quickly. I start judging the other person and myself, and try to live up to imagined standards, failing to see the time and dedication that allowed the person to improve. However, in moments of mindfulness, I can see that these thoughts are not serving me, that they truly serve no purpose, save to destroy my inner power. At times like these, I need to be inspired and reminded of the truth.
One of the ways in which I get out of negative thinking ruts is by getting out of my head and into my body, by taking a yoga class, hoop dancing to my favorite music, or engaging in a deep relaxation session. Yesterday, I took a yoga class at Yoga Tree in San Francisco. A great way to see a new city is to scope out local yoga studios. I took a vigorous all-levels vinyasa class, and it was killer. It was just what I needed. I need to be surrounded by loving, focused people who are trying their best and also pushing me to my limit. Often, in my home practice, I engage in the same postures and do not always challenge myself to my limit. This class, however, was a different story.
The teacher led us through a practice of fast-paced sun salutations, with pushups, downward dogs, and shoulder and hip-opening postures. My intention for this practice was to practice for world peace. I often hold this intention in my mind, and it helps me to remember that I do not practice only for myself, but for the light, love, and freedom of all beings. If I am devoted to my yoga practice and am as happy as I can possibly be, I can show people that it is okay and necessary to fully embrace oneself and shine. Being happy gives permission to others to be happy! Throughout the practice, I felt strong and connected to my breath more than usual. That is the key. Breathe, breathe, breathe, deeper and with more awareness than ever.
And when I was ready to collapse onto the mat, the teacher guided us into a sequence of backbends and inversions, a forearm balance directly followed by wheel pose, repeated three times. At this point in the class, I let go of my mind’s brief thought (“Take a rest”), and went right into the inversion, with the wall behind me for support. When I surrendered to the moment, I was fully present and aware of every sensation of my body. My forearms and hands pressing into the floor, being grounded, the strength of my shoulders and core keeping me stable, my legs reaching up for the sky. I could be the active participant rather than entertaining the monkey mind. I felt super proud of myself for being focused during the entire class, and especially during that particular set of dynamic postures.
During the class, as we were engaged in a forearm plank, the teacher said, “You are stronger than the mind wants you to believe.” It is during those times of struggle that we discover our true inner strength. Often, it is the mind that is a distraction, with its fearful and deluded thoughts. Wherever we learned them, it is in our power to choose new thoughts if the old no longer serve us. If you get stuck in a downward spiral of negativity, you can choose a new trajectory, to align, instead, with love. Perhaps that means doing something new, something you never thought you could do, or challenging yourself to new limits. Whatever it is, refuse to get stuck and enjoy the journey.
What are some creative ways to get out of a negative thinking rut?
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