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Samskaras and Challenge, meeting them like a champ!

Winners Are The Ones Who Really Listen To The Truth Of Their Hearts- Rocky Balboa

Do you ever feel challenged? Err, of course I do Sarah. Only every day, being challenged is part of life!

You’re damn right. Yoga teaches us that a life lived well is one where we rise to the challenge (cue Rocky theme tune) of behaving in a non violent, non-grasping, non-attached, non-egocentric, mindful, contented, truthful fashion. Wow, sometimes those observances seem like BIG asks. Luckily it is also yogic to observe the times when we do not act like this, forgive ourselves when we very human-ly fall off the yogic wagon, make amends where appropriate, learn a lesson and then move on.

Would you be surprised to hear the idea that we humans can unconsciously set up our lives to avoid challenge?

I had an Aha moment lately when I realised that I had slipped sleepily into a comfort zone. An idea I had regarding a new yoga event was not rolling out the way I wanted it to. The way I wanted it to go was truthfully the easy way; I had my idea for what I knew would be a very enjoyable class, I would pitch it to a studio owner and they would pay me to teach it to their members. Voila!

The details of this Aha are not super interesting but the upshot is that I would need to rent the venue and then charge people to come to the event. I’m sure you realise this is a very usual way for self employed yoga teachers to do business. But it is something I have not done for nearly a year.

Gulp. As soon as I learned that I needed to rent and charge for the event I heard my mind say a bunch of fearful chatter:

Oh well. Give that a miss. It will be hard. You might lose money. The economic climate is bad. There are so many other yoga teachers and so many other classes. You don’t have to do this, it’s not a matter of life or death.

And then the kicker:

When you did this before it did not work.

With this thought came the feeling of a heavy heart, memories of an empty yoga room and an old belief rushing in, said in a voice other than my own:

You are not good enough.

Damn. There I was thinking I was making a sensible business decision based on economics, that I would hold back until people have more cash in their pockets. Nope. Those were my reasons and justifications for not doing something that I really want to do, something that will bring enjoyment and calm to others, and a deep sense of satisfaction to me for doing my heart’s work. My decision was costing me joy. What was stopping me?

My habitual behaviour of backing off when it’s possible that I might fail because I failed before. My habit of doubting myself, not quite believing that I have what it takes because as a child I believed that everybody was better than me. Any of this sounding familiar?

These patterns that all of us have are called Samskaras and are at the root as to why many of us play out the same patterns in life, until we wake up to the pattern and choose a different way.

We all have samskaras which impact our work, samskaras about people, about relationships, about the body, samskaras about our asana practice. Not all samskaras are unhelpful, like the learned habit of knowing when to visit the bathroom or the ability to make a certain meal perfected over several attempts. It’s the sneaky samskaras which impact our quality of life that converge layer upon layer over time, hindering our progression and building up into a gunky view of ourselves and life. Yoga practice on and off the mat exists to reveal freedom from samskaras.

Which of your habits is hindering your progression, growth, freedom in life? Breathe in some self-compassion.

In Yoga, this view made up from the samskaras is called a Vasana. In this case my vasana of not good enough resurfaced to give me opportunity for a lesson.

I meditated. I watched all the old, familiar thoughts whirl over my mind. I witnessed the thoughts my ego fired off to try to fix my perceived problem. Twenty minutes later I placed my hand on my heart and felt compassion for myself as a human who gets scared sometimes. It is the subtle strands of yoga: meditation, contemplation and sense withdrawal that help us to witness our samskaras. The fear felt compelling, and I have a lot of love for the inner child Sarah who worries that something terrible will happen if she fails. The adult Sarah knew it was time to choose differently.

Since my vasana revisited me, I have taken on my nemesis in asana form- learning arm balances and inversions. That’s a whole other blog post! Yep, I am falling over, sweating, face planting, remembering how strong I am and challenging the comfort zone. Oh and I booked in the yoga event too. Yay.

Give yourself a pat on the back the next time you notice a samskara or face a challenge. Take a breath, and know you can choose a different way.

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