It occurred to me once, on a day where I was really listening to myself, that I complain entirely too often. I’d tell a person how great my day was or how life was going well, then I’d almost always finish with a “but (insert whatever here) sucks.” Even with a huge smile on my face and happiness in my heart, I felt the need to verbally express the one thing that was not going as planned. This, I later realized, was probably a habit that came from being somewhat chronically anxious. Often my mind was seeking that which was not working and causing me stress, things in my life or in the world, that I could then bitch about.
Realizing about the complaining that day, I began to notice that this was not an isolated incident. I think I noticed this about three years ago, and I’ve been actively working, since then, to stop doing the complaining. The reason I’ve tried to make this switch is several fold… the first of which, and perhaps most important I think, No body gives a shit! I don’t mean that in a malicious sort of way, but I do mean that everyone has things going on. I’m the only person in the world who thinks my life is the most important of lives and mine are the most important of problems. People want you to be happy, but they don’t always want to hear about why you’re not. The second reason is that the things I was complaining about were petty, and they were negating the good things in my life.
I’m a truly blessed man. After I saw this pattern of complaining, I began to actively practice santosha (contentment), which became a lesson in Thanksgiving and gratitude. Rather than seeking and acknowledging the wrong things in my life, I’ve been attempting to more actively say thank you for the good things. Perhaps it’s a deluded “fake it till you make it” sort of, white lie, way of living life. Even if that is the case though, and all I am doing is fooling myself, I am still happier than I was before. Not complaining has been an active practice, and it has led me to understand how blessed I am because that is what I let myself talk about. When I recognize and acknowledge that which is good, goodness is celebrated and attracted.
With Thanksgiving in mind, in this week’s classes, we focused a lot upon the core and the symbolic fire in the belly. We are called to come to our practice, sometimes, from a place of tejas or agni (fire) and tapas (heat energy of change). When we fuel the symbolic fire in our belly and practice with diligence, we create an ability to change the things within ourselves we would otherwise just complain about, and we strengthen the things that are already great in our lives. The fire cleanses, changes, and purifies, but it also serves to make strong. Like a potter who places her pots into a kiln to fire them and make them like stone, so too do we yogis put ourselves through symbolic firing to make ourselves better, stronger. All that we do on the mat is practice for life. We burn away the things which no longer serve us, while making strong that which does… and all the while we learn to love ourselves, flaws and all.
Keep refining friends. Happy Thanksgiving.