Breathing Room


I’ve been thinking a lot about relationships. Friends, family, strangers - we have a relationship with many people in our everyday lives and not always are those relationships ones that serve us well. Sometimes, social and family obligations put us in the path of those who cause frustration, irritation, and leave us feeling drained. Instead of allowing our “day to be ruined” or being “in a bad mood”, there are ways we can work through these feelings inside us and not allow others to affect our peace of mind.

In the Yoga Sutras, a lot is said about our lens, and about cleaning our lens so that we can see the world for what it is and not what we perceive it to be. A lot of times, when we react negatively to someone or something, that feeling stems from our mis-perception of the other person or object. For example, I have a really good friend, whom I think of as quirky and fun and whom I generally admire for her free-spiritedness. But the other day I found myself getting really annoyed by everything she said. She did not change - she was being her normal quirky self. But why was I reacting so differently to her? It had more to do how I was feeling within myself. I was generally in an irritable mood, which affected my lens and ability to perceive correctly, and my perception of the same good friend was marred by that blurry lens.

If misperception can happen with the people we care for and who care for us, are we also mis-perceiving people whom we don’t know? When someone hurts our feelings and we react with pain, anger, irritation or what have you, we can allow that to be the set patterned reaction towards anything that person says or does. Our perception of that person is being filtered through previous pain, and we continue to suffer while we are in their presence. For example, somebody backs out of a parking spot without looking and crashes into your car. This results in an argument with an unapologetic driver and you walk away from the situation feeling scared and angry. Now every time you drive past a car that is backing out of a parking spot, you feel anxious that you might get hit again by another insensitive driver. This misperception comes from the emotional residue that was left behind from the accident. You know that you’re not going to get hit over and over again, but the fear can encourage our misperception of similar situations and can leave us in an agitated mental and emotional state.

So how do we come out of this unbalanced state?

Meditation. Meditation, when practiced correctly and under guidance, has the ability to heal emotional hurts. A daily practice in mindfulness - observing our reactions, and identifying our misperceptions is the first step. Then the practice of sitting down to meditate, and connecting to an object that embodies the opposite qualities of our unbalanced state can help to rewire our brains to more positive patterns of thinking, perceiving, and behaving. It also gives us room to step away from our negative emotional residues, analyse the root cause of pain, and create new emotional patterns and perceptions for the same object or person that previously caused us suffering.

If you’re feeling anxious about driving through a busy parking lot, it might help to meditate on a grounding object like a tree. The tree has the ability to help us feel rooted, it can bring our minds down from the air of anxiety, and can even embody a larger than life spirit. These qualities can help us find stability in our perceptions, and can allow us to react in a way that may be more beneficial to our peace of mind. When you find yourself reacting with fear or anger while driving, call to mind a tree with thick, deep roots. Take a few breaths as you connect to the tree and slowly feel a sense of grounding down through your feet. You can also chant “It’s going to be okay”, over and over, until you connect with the perception that it really IS going to be okay.

When we practice mindfulness in our daily activities, we develop a knowing that we’re not always going to experience the worst possible outcome. Once we begin to correctly perceive the smaller things, we can begin to correctly perceive the more important things in life. When our perceptions are clearer, we are able to experience the many benefits of a Yoga and Meditation practice. By taking care of our minds and bodies through these practices, we are able to find an inner guidance to living a more peaceful and satisfying life.