“To be addicted is bad. It gives you a kind of dependency. And all addictions are bad…To me transcendence comes out of your experience. You see the futility of something and the addiction drops.”
Most of us are addicted to something.
Emotional states, work, pleasure, pain, drugs, caffeine, nicotine, Facebook, food, gambling, lying, obsessing, stealing, shopping…even yoga can become an unhealthy addiction.
I am addicted to worrying.
If there is not something imminent to worry about, I create a daunting chimera. Breaking this cycle has been an arduous challenge—my worries create self-doubt, which snowball into a cocktail of confusion, anxiety, fear and unhappiness—the most frustrating part is that I know my worries are enervating and undermine my endeavors.
Aggressively battling an addiction can be like cutting the head off of a hydra. The result? Several ferocious heads swiftly grow back in its place.
By definition, addiction is “the state of being enslaved to a habit or practice or to something that is psychologically or physically habit-forming, as narcotics, to such an extent that its cessation causes severe trauma.”
Studying yoga in Mysore, India, has highlighted my addiction to comfort and the worry that ensues when I experience discomfort.
I need a Western toilet, supplied with ample toilet paper and anti-bacterial soap. I need a pillow that properly supports my neck if I am ever to fall asleep. I need specific types of food at specific times if I want to practice without a belly ache. I need to adhere to my arbitrarily prescribed schedule of productivity if I am to have any peace of mind.
My mind is filled with predetermined “if…then” scenarios.
Slowly and somewhat begrudgingly, I am accepting that my needs are actually wants and many times, first-world desires or luxuries; worry exacerbates the discomfort.
India has cajoled me into experiencing the wisdom captured by the Rolling Stones: “you can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, well you might find, you get what you need.”
I let go a tiny bit more each day; these mini-releases provide me with physical space, as my muscles release their death grip on my joints and mental space, as I have more freedom to engage my mind in interesting thoughts. (My mom compares the mind to a pizza pie, which can only be divided into so many slices, just like the mind can only be occupied with a certain number of thoughts.)
In addition to a deep-dive study of Ashtanga yoga, I came to India to face my worries—intensive behavior therapy served straight up.
For a person like myself, who is obsessed with cleanliness, order and (admittedly, a false) sense of control over life’s variables, India is a raw and palpable shock to the system.
The first two weeks, I found myself clenching my jaw as I navigated the lane-less, polluted roads of downtown Mysore, trying not to touch any part of the auto-rickshaw in which I was encased. Repulsed by people spitting and urinating in the streets, I was terrified that a communicable disease awaited me at every corner.
Trying to gain a sense of control in India is like tussling with a tsunami; inevitably, you’ll get knocked on your ass.
Surrendering to this whirlwind of experiences has been intense, but well worth the emotional strife, as I notice tiny changes and shifts in my thinking and a strengthening of my character.
But for every step forward, I often take two (and sometimes three) steps backward; I am starting to be okay with that, because I feel seeds of personal growth taking root. The best I can do is take up the gauntlet of maintaining equilibrium and fortitude, as I surrender to life’s obstacle course.
Nicole Newman is an Ashtanga practitioner and enthusiast. She studies with her favorite teacher and mentor, Eddie Stern at the Sri Ganesha Temple. Nicole is a conservatory-trained flutist, who developed scoliosis after practicing several hours a day over many years, without any instruction in mind-body-instrument awareness. Through yoga, Nicole was able to realign her spine and strengthen the muscles supporting her back. She now moves without pain or discomfort. Nicole dedicated herself to sharing the transformative science and art of yoga by founding Yoga for the Arts. Nicole’s mission is to help artists live happier, healthier, more artistically productive lives.
Editor: Bryonie Wise
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