On Watching Pots…
Do things go better when you put your attention elsewhere? That’s what I learned growing up. Water boils faster when you don’t look at the pot, things are more visible in the dark if you look off to the side; if you feel upset, get busy – you’ll feel better, and so on.
But now yoga is teaching me something else.
I mean, isn’t it what kumbhaka is all about – watching your breath while it simmers? Doesn’t brahmacharya mean to put a lid on so you can watch what happens when you internalize your energy?
This all came together for me over the weekend reading Tihk Nhat Hahn’s, Anger. He says when you feel angry, sit still and absorb it. Do to anger, in other words, what kumbhaka does to breath or brahmacharya does to sexual energy. Sit on it. Watch it cook.
When I suspend breathing with full lungs in kumbhaka, I feel my internal energy wake up. It’s like the sun rising, delicious and vitalizing to absorb. Perhaps the same is true for a bramacharyi.
Anger may stir up internal energies, but they feel dangerous. For me they’re like the energy of a malevolent electromagnet. When they’re switched on, a powerful attraction slams me toward hurtful actions. Why would I want to sit still and watch that?
The mind operates in mysterious ways – at least mine does. When I simply watch the anger, it really does dissipate. It’s a wild ride, the electromagnet pulling me toward nasty behaviors. But with effort and intention that pull can be resisted. Then, growth seems to happen. Something opens up inside; my soul has been stretched.
This is a reason to welcome anger when it comes along, rather than trying to avoid or repress it. It could be an opportunity to grow. It’s a provocative thought, an interesting recipe. I’ll admit that I haven’t used it very often, but I plan to. And some day hope to master it – my soul swelling like a soufflé every time the heat’s on.
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