I knew I had a problem last week when I “should-ed” myself at least a dozen times.
Shoulda, woulda, coulda…We carry enough on our backs to be adding unnecessary self criticisms and complaints about what we “should” be doing differently. This is a short piece on how we can let go of the constant self judgments and transform them into positive growth. 🙂
I know I’m not the only one that struggles with this. Sometimes, when I am not performing at my optimal level, I get caught up in negative thought cycles which although seem harmless, are detrimental to my own well being as well as those around me.
Especially as yogis/yoginis we “should” know better. AH! Damn. I “should-ed” again…
As yoga practitioners and teachers, we might be a little more sensitive to the thoughts that role around in our heads…or the actions that accompany them. They are no different then anyone else’s (crazy thoughts and actions). However we may just more aware of them when they are “bad” things because we, while on a spiritual path to Samadhi, “should” know better… Oops! Again.
I “should” not think this.
I “should” not drink that.
I “should” not go there.
I “should” not eat those.
I “should” not buy them.
Positive sunshine rays “should” shoot out of my eyeballs.
Blah, blah, blah…
Time to get over it people because no one likes someone who “shoulds” all over themselves.
Fellow yogis, we are human and life happens to us, within us, around us, just like every body else.
Also our emotions and feelings will constantly change depending on a number of variables. Hormones, diet, exercise… It’s not always going to be pretty!
As teachers we may find this difficult as others are looking up to us as “spiritual gurus” (I suppress a chuckle here). It is the highest form of a compliment and yet… we may all too often berate ourselves when we feel we “should” behave, act, perform, or feel a certain way just because we are under a lens.
I will never forget one of my first real life yoga teachers. I totally looked up to her in my early twenties and could not believe how “cool” she was. Peaceful, beautiful, and so centered! I unknowingly put her on a pedestal. One day I got news of a total scandal she had been involved in. It was awful and I was shocked. How could she have? I then felt incredible sympathy for her and saw for the first time that she was human. Guess what, we all are. And we all grow the same way… through learning from our mistakes and thus discovering what doesn’t suit us.
When yogis make a consistent effort (practice abhyasa) in working with the yamas and the niyamas… the path will naturally get narrower and we will naturally and easily be guided to where we are supposed to be in our practice.
When we think something, drink something, go somewhere, eat something, or buy something that feels wrong to us… we need to recognize it, make a mental note that “hey, this isn’t working” and decide what actions can be taken to change. ACTION. Not simply a statement of “should”. A serious look needs to be taken at how the behavior, thought, or action is affecting us and then what actions can be taken to change it. There is always something that can be done. We can commit to putting the energy into the action and then, we move on. Let go. Letting go is practicing vairagya, which is the complimenting principal to abhyasa/consistent practice.
Instead of “should-ing” ourselves we can practice gentle smriti. According to the sutras:
Smriti is cultivating a constant mindfulness of treading the path, and of remembering the steps along the way. This memory is not a negative mental obsession, but rather, a gentle, though persistent awareness of the goal of life, of faith in your journey, and of your decision to commit your energy to the process.
When we falter while trying to break old habits that no longer suit us, and it’s likely we will, we just keep trying. Consistent practice guarantees results! “Should-ing” all over the place is messy and it accomplishes nothing.