What is it to have self-mastery? I find myself asking this question often. It is a theme in many aspects of my life. Ultimately, self-responsibility and having mastery over our own actions, thoughts, and words may change and transform our lives and ourselves for the better. In my case, it’s what I do not do that aids in this process. In the yoga of self-mastery, I restrict my negative actions or discard what is not useful. It is a paring down and a resculpting. I eliminate what is unnecessary to reveal the truth in a purer way.
Work With Your Emotions
When thoughts arise that take me down a road of negativity, my emotions can become stirred and my physical body settles into a reactive state. With mastery over the mind, I reign myself in, and in my self-containment, the light within is freed and becomes revealed. Since I am a highly emotional woman, who is very sensitive and who gets pretty uncomfortable feeling human, this is a real challenge for me. When I am ignited, the concept of being still, observing, and not-doing seems completely counterintuitive.
My lineage has passed down this sensitivity—and a temper—from my grandfather to my father, and from my father to me. After many years of trial and error, my findings led me to this revelation: I must take responsibility for holding this genetic anger. This anger that may rise from shame and sensitivity can feel unbearable. I want to toss it like a hot potato so that I do not have to feel this burning inside of me. I want to pass it along to the next person to deal with. But, perhaps this anger is a gift for me. An emotional weight that makes me internally stronger just by settling in to my seat.
Yoga: The All-Natural Remedy
My greatest teacher has been yoga and intense physical activity. Making intensity and difficulty tangible through challenging exercise is just about the best metaphor for me. I commit myself wholeheartedly to the task at hand, as I set out toward my goal. Whatever arises during my 90-minute practice will bring forth my resistance, my desire to quit, my self-critical nature, as well as my ability to move through and persevere. I will not know tenacity and the power of endurance unless I stay the course, regardless of my inner demons and sloppy habits.
When in a challenging posture, I try to stay blank. I notice my gaze. It is still. If I begin to waver in my mind, my physical body will follow. I do not give in. If I wobble, I bring more dynamic energy into the pose. I become more involved, and begin to breathe more deeply. I set my mind to the task, and focus on the present. I find that the more I involve myself in the moment, the stronger I start to feel.
Off the Mat, Into the World
So how might this apply to my life? When I see myself sitting on the sidelines, either by staying in my comfort zone (saying no to social engagements due to insecurity or laziness, or hiding behind knowing it all), I know that it’s time to become more involved. Am I being asked to show up? Might I participate more fully in this moment? Can I be present and show up anyway, even if I feel shaky? Can I risk not knowing, and face the vulnerability with stillness? Am I able to put myself in an uncomfortable situation and allow myself the process of strengthening the psychic and emotional tendons and ligaments, be a little shaky and engage with more energy? Perhaps it’s just for 90 minutes a day that I can do more breathing and more self-observation of my thoughts. Yet, at the same time do less. Can I be more, and do less?
This has been the process of my yoga. Be the yoga. Not do the yoga.
Self-mastery is a process of becoming.
This article originally appeared on The Daily Love. Reprinted with permission of Mandy Ingber.