Friday, November 5, 2010

Breathing through Resistance

After all the blogging about the Mindful Lawyer conference, and then a full week of work, it is time to turn back to the blog and back to the series on koshas.  We started with an overview of the koshas and a look at how BKS Iyengar started his practice in his physical body, and then we moved onto the breath body. I am going to stay here for today because the breath can continue to teach us, and I heard a great quote at the conference that is ultimately relevant to the breath and its connection to the rest of our being.

 At the conference, one of the presenters presented on the connection of mindfulness and psychology. She said that one of her teachers likens suffering to a mathematical equation. Suffering = pain * resistance. Thus, if your pain is 10 units, and you resist it by 10 units, your suffering is 100 units. So, what happens when your pain is 10 units and you do not resist it? A common answer is 10 (especially at the conference), but that is because we did not all pay attention in basic arithmetic; the actual answer is 0. Any number multiplied by 0 is 0. Thus, when we are fully able to stop resisting, our suffering (not our pain) is reduced to nothing.

Yeah, right! That sounds lovely in theory, but how do we get there? Pain hurts, whether it is physical, emotional, spiritual, or some other form. So, how do we let go of our resistance to that pain in order to feel less, and ultimately no, suffering? We breathe!

I was a walking, alright limping, example of this phenomenon over the weekend and as I write this post. On Friday at the conference, I was a little less than mindful, and while carrying a large box down the stairs, I stumbled and sprained my ankle. The presentation about resistance and suffering was Saturday morning, and to be fair, I was in pain, not a lot, but it hurt to walk. Of course, during the presentation, and throughout the weekend, my focus was on my ankle. Each time it stung, I breathed. Did all the pain go away? No, of course not. But a lot of it did, and I noticed that as I got upset about it, the pain got worse. When I laughed about it, breathed through it, and tried not to resist it, the pain decreased.

So, how does this affect us as lawyers and people in this stressed-out world? We always have our breath. We always get to choose how whether we react or respond to events in our lives. In law, as in life, sometimes situations do not go our way. Sometimes, we even take it personally, especially in our life. The breath reminds us that we need not resist those moments.

Pain, in all its forms, is a reminder that something is out of balance. The pain itself is not bad, just a reminder.  Emotionally, pain reminds us that we care, and we truly are all connected to one another. Physically, pain reminds us to slow down.  What we do with that pain is our choice. The yogis have told us that when each of our koshas is in balance, we are in balance. Thus, the breath helps bring us back to that balance in each of our other koshas. It reminds us that nothing is permanent, even pain. So, taking the energy out of the pain by not resisting it is like taking the oxygen away from the fire. Without the fuel, it eventually burns out on its own. The breath helps us let that happen quicker, safer, and with control. From there, we can move forward and come back to a place of balance, in our lives as well as our koshas.


© 2010 Rebecca Stahl, all rights reserved.

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