Lessons from the yoga mat: Stop dwelling in duality and develop focus

A few days ago as I was checking my Facebook feed, I came across a video interview of BKS Iyengar, in which he talks about how yoga helped him deal with “duality”. The thought struck me. It reminded me of my own tryst to get to my mat every day.

Even though I enjoy my practice, it is not easy to get to the mat. It is not easy to change the habit. Every morning I find myself explaining to my body the benefits of yoga so that I can get to my mat. There are days, I have to literally drag my body on to the mat. At times, I have to tell myself that if I get my practice done, I will have better focus at work. Some days, I am not successful at all and tend to give in to my body.

Although it takes a while, once my body wakes up and starts experiencing the benefits of being on the mat, it thanks my mind. Yet, the debate goes on every morning. This simple exercise of getting to my mat, teaches me a simple lesson that once we stop dwelling on duality and bring our minds to a clear focus, we can enjoy and accomplish many things.

“Duality in our mind” is the root cause of procrastination and unhappiness. Sometimes, we may finish a task but we don’t enjoy it. While we continue to do the work physically, our mind tends to wander elsewhere. This is where yoga helps, when I am on my mat, doing asanas or meditation I learn to focus on my thoughts and body movements. Those brief moments in which my mind becomes focused on the present moment, I experience an inner joy. In those moments, I am just flowing with my true nature.

This is how yoga and meditation change your life. While the physical benefits are tangible and can be easily assessed, it is the mental benefits that bring about change in the long run.

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Minimalism is not giving up, but adding value

Often minimalism is confused with not consuming at all. People think minimalism means living a boring life without enjoyment. It’s viewed as an antithesis of what a consumerist society stands for, that is giving up materialistic pleasures and pursuits. While that may be true for some minimalists, it is not necessarily true for all.

Minimalism to me means giving up possessions that don’t add any value to our lives. Filling our lives and places with mindless consumption attests to a particular habit of acquiring things because we can. It also reflects an emptiness within when we are no longer clear about what we really want to do with our lives so we focus on acquisition of stuff because that is easy. This habit feeds a particular pattern of making money, acquiring stuff and then looking for a place or an occasion to show off our new stuff. Over time, this becomes our life mission.

Minimalism then is a way to become aware of this mindless materialistic pursuit so that we can restructure our life and priorities. If through this process we realize that all we want to do is acquire stuff so be it, but often we discover that there are certain needs and goals in life that are being unmet because of mindless consumption. Clearing out stuff allows us to pause and reflect on what our true desires and callings are. And once we have arrived at a balance between our inner and outer selves, we can reset the button to live a meaningful and mindful life. Except that it is easier said than done.

It is not easy to be a minimalist, to give up your possessions and most importantly, not to acquire new ones to fill the space that has emptied out. Like any new habit that takes time to form, minimalism too takes a while getting used to. It can be a difficult process but it is worth it.

At least that’s what I am discovering. Having too many options in my closet meant it took me an awful lot of time to get ready and I would inevitably end up late everywhere. Second, it meant that I was wearing the same stuff most of the times, as I would get too overwhelmed when going through my closet and often won’t remember the rarely used stuff. It was too much of a load on my memory. Now with fewer options, I find it easier to dress up and am able to actually dress up.

I would love to know, what are your apprehensions about minimalism or struggles with minimalism?