One of the great gifts of this life is that we can all learn to skillfully respond to life’s challenges and build personal capital. i.e. build confidence through inner strength. This is great because I think it is safe to say that no one of us actively seeks to experience shame, guilt, and remorse. It is not part of our nature to seek suffering, though it is part of our nature to relive our suffering over and over through the obsessiveness of our minds. Suffering is in fact a quality of the mind, the quality of attachment. When we attach ourselves to an idea of how things should be or how things were, then we do not permit ourselves to experience things as they are, in peace, spaciousness, and a willingness for the potential of things to get better.
No matter who we are, what our backgrounds or trajectories, life will challenge us, life will bring us to our knees. Not all challenges are devastating, but life in its essence tests our concepts of comfort and ease. Sometimes it’s just a simple conversation with a loved one or a co-worker that sends us reeling into a flurry of inner turmoil and anguish, other times it’s something greater like the loss of a job or home. No matter what the trial is, the opportunity to meet it with composure and equanimity is also there.
What does that mean exactly? Well rather than flying off the handle because your mom pushed that same button for the nine-thousandth time, you can calmly respond with a request to not go down that road again. Or rather than respond to the trigger, guide the conversation into neutral territory, into gratitude, into love. Rather than going into a tailspin of depression or substance abuse at the loss of a job or after an intense personal attack by some mindless person, drink a cup of chamomile tea, take a hot bath, take a walk, take a deep breath. Gather yourself and be mindfully and courageously in the company of the discomfort, rather than taken out by it.
So few of us actually have skills to use in the face of life’s challenges, rather we have coping mechanisms. And our coping mechanisms are often synonymous or entangled with behaviors that are less than those we would feel proud of sharing with the world. I know that one of my coping mechanisms is to be mean to others when I feel vulnerable. I regret this behavior after I have expressed it. I feel guilty for hurting someone else because I felt vulnerable. I feel ashamed when I behave this way and I know I could have behaved better. I have learned that in order to not have to visit ourselves in the waiting room of shame, guilt, and regret, we can cultivate skills to respond to life’s challenges that enable composure, equanimity, restraint, mindfulness, patience, and calm.
When we know and accept that life will challenge us and press up against the rough and sometimes sharp edges of experience then we can more actively step into our bigger selves, to see our potential to react, and rather than react, respond. Respond with composure, self restraint, calm and equanimity. To live fully in the company of grace.
Our time on the mat is valuable because it translates. Asana practice pushes us up against the boundaries of our comfort zones and into the rougher sharp edges of where we are not comfortable. Through mindfulness of breath and our thoughts we can learn to be in the company of the discomfort in a state of composure and equanimity. This translates off of our mats and into our lives, so that when life pushes us into the uncomfortable experiences of our everyday we can restrain from behaviors that leave a residue of inner turmoil and exercise skillful responses. Knowing that you are the only person in your life who can make it more comfortable gives you the power to do so. This is the great gain of confidence ind inner strength that comes with building this kind of personal capital.