yoga chitta vritti nirodha
I.K. Taimni translates this as:
Yoga is the silencing of the modifications of the mind
Healing Begins in the Mind – Erin Byron
Healing may not be so much about getting better, as about letting go of everything that isn’t you – all of the expectations, all of the beliefs – and becoming who you are.
– Rachel Naomi Remen
“Healing begins in the Mind” was a phrase repeated several times by one of my teachers, Erin Byron in a recent weekend yoga therapy teacher training workshop. I have heard variations of this phrase taken from the Yoga Sutras over the past 6 years in various teacher training programs. This time it struck a deep awareness about myself.
Like many people, I have a very chatty mind. Over the years it has benefited me and hindered me in different life experiences. When it benefits me, I seem unstoppable. When it hinders me, I either ignore it or argue with it to ensure it doesn’t interfere with my outward objectives or desires. Until my early 50s, I was pretty successful at managing my Mind this way. What I didn’t chose to recognize is there was a lot more to me than my Mind.
I idolized my Mind. It made me good at what I did for a living. It made me witty and fun to be around (or so people told me). My Mind was a rush of adrenaline that made me push through any inconveniences in life or other parts of my Self. Truth be told, my relationship with my Mind was unbalanced in the attention I gave it.
I had early inklings of this overemphasis in my 30s. In a routine physical required by my employer, I learned I had high blood pressure. My Mind joked that I was far too young to heed this. Besides, it looked like I was in a good place in my job. I couldn’t be weak or it would hinder my success. For the next two decades, this kind of “push through it” self-talk went on whenever any physical or emotional issue threatened to interfere with affairs of the Mind. After all – What did all these outside Medical people know? What was with their cautious concern about my diet and stress levels? I loved my job and it sometimes took me to places where fresh green vegetables were not even on the menu. These people don’t understand what its like to live in the “real” world!
As I hit my 50s and world events made me realize the world I loved to travel through was not as safe as it once was, I could no longer listen to the “push through it all” ramblings of my Mind. I shamefully realized the intensity of my Mind’s ability to negate what was happening outside of its interests on 9/11. My primary customer was in New York City. We were in the middle of a product launch and trying to solve a potential technical issue when I learned about the first plane hitting the World Trade Center. While I watched in horror as events unfolded, I heard company visitors wondering how they were going to get back to Europe or the West Coast. My Mind immediately reminded me that we had a critical meeting in another city that we had to fly to in two days time. I spoke to one of my key employees about alternative ways we could get to this meeting other than by plane. He looked at me and simply stated, “Denyse, I’m not traveling anywhere now. I can’t put my family through any worry until we know what is happening.” His words stopped me in my tracks – my Mind heard him. I mindfully paused with everyone else to grieve what had happened that day.
That September day had an impact on future life decisions. Over time, my Mind just redirected its focus and continued to push through distractions. I ended up moving to new job in another city. During my first visit to a new doctor, I learned something my Mind could not ignore. I was diagnosed with Type II Diabetes. My Mind willfully protested, “It’s only a mild diagnosis. All this strict diet advice is for people who have it worse than you.” As my doctor handed me a series of prescriptions that I would likely be on for the rest of my life, I knew I needed to temper my Mind’s rantings and focus on my physical and overall wellbeing. I returned to a practice that had helped to balance me in my teens and 20s – Hatha Yoga. Yoga helped to “still” my mind so that my body and emotions could be heard. When I went on my first Yoga retreat, I was amazed how much my daily blood glucose readings had improved. It wasn’t just yoga that helped me. It was medical professionals, nutritionists and diabetic educators who helped me to pay attention to what went in my mouth and my Mind. Yoga helped me to remember that I needed to nourish my body, not just feed it.
Am I the poster child for nutritious eating? Not by a long shot. When my Mind tells me that extra large serving of dessert is ok to eat, I have plenty of people that try to gently remind me to control my portions. My Mind really doesn’t like this outside help and usually only rants to me about it. In a recent discussion with my Mom who lovingly expressed concern about my deviations from healthy choices, I heard myself say – “Mom, what I’ve learned over the past decade is that Diabetes is my gift. I have never been able to live in a balanced way and now I have to. Every day my blood glucose reading tells me how well I’m doing. Some days are better than others, but I have learned to listen to that daily feedback. As I result I tend be better balanced than I was.” Mom thanked me for my explanation. What she didn’t know is that I was just as surprised as she was with my statement. “Wow!” I thought, “I guess my Mind stilled for a moment to get that message.” A few weeks later, I heard Erin say, “Healing begins in the Mind.” And so, my journey continues!
If you are on a journey with pre-diabetes or Type II diabetes, I’m starting a series of Yoga classes this month to share some of the yoga practices that have helped me over the past decade. The classes will be offered at East Meets West Yoga studio in Vienna, VA. If you are interested in this, please contact me to learn more.