Tag Archives: breathing

Tony Robbins Triad – Seen Through the Lens of Yoga

There are three forces in the world that determine what you feel. These forces are called the Triad. Together, these three patterns create any—and every—emotional state. ~Tony Robbins

In his presentations, Tony Robbins often refers to “the triad,” in which he describes the three ways we can create an immediate shift in the way we feel, emotionally. We already use them all the time! At any given moment, these forces are at work, either working for us or against us. The key is to use them consciously, so that they work for us.

The triad includes: Physiology, Focus and Language.

To be very clear about how these forces work; we have a choice at any moment, to feel—or not to feel—depressed, angry or sad, etc. By working with the three elements from the Triad, we can create the desired shift into joy and enthusiasm.

My point in this article is to show that although this triad, as Robbins uses it, is invaluable, it is also the basis of all forms of Yoga. In one Yoga session, no matter what type of Yoga it is, we effect a transformation of some degree, based on the fact that our moods have a physical basis. As I often say to my classes:

Our psychology follows our physiology just as our physiology follows our psychology. ~Dhanpal

Physiology—

In Robbins’ teachings, an example of changing our physiology would be the simple but profound act of changing our posture and body language. Like a circular transmission, when we lift our heart, lengthen our spine, and soften our expression, these changes send a boomerang-like message out to the world and then back again to our own psyches, communicating a message that was very different than the one we had when we were hunched up under our hoodies.

The most immediate way to alter our physiology is by controlling our breath. In Yoga, this practice is called pranayam. One simple change in our breathing pattern may be likened to a “code” that activates a cascade of internal reactions throughout the body. Each of the various ways that we work with our breath, sends a different code to the hypothalamus, which continuing our metaphor, we may think of as the “central processing system.” This in turn, activates the release of a different alchemy of hormones throughout our body, affecting our overall mood.

One breath is like water on a parched landscape — our body becomes alive with awareness. ~Dhanpal

Focus—

BUT, there’s a great magic that happens when we put our breathwork into synchrony with our focused attention.

In Robbins‘ teachings, an example of changing our focus would be to look at what we can do, rather than what we can’t do. Or, by simply changing our perception of a certain event. He gives the example of Bruce Springsteen, who, before a performance, experiences the same sensations as someone who has panic attacks, complete with sweaty palms and racing heart. Only…he doesn’t interpret these things as symptoms of panic! To him, it means…showtime! His interpretation of these symptoms is synonymous with excitement, rather than fear.

In our Yoga practice, the act of focusing is an exact science! Together, our conscious, rhythmic breath patterns, combined with a drishti, opens a gateway to a higher state of calm-alertness.

One of the most common examples of employing a drishti, or focused gaze, in Yoga, is by holding our concentration at the third eye—the spot right between the brows. In Zen meditation (which may be thought of as a form of Raj Yoga), that focus would be at the tip of the nose, or a few feet ahead, with eyes nearly closed. Additionally, visualizations may be used (more common in the Tibetan traditions), as well as sound.

Unwavering concentration enables us to experience the state of grace in the midst of activity. ~Dhanpal

Robbins reminds us how huge a small change can be. This also echoes the ancient teachings of Yoga. Consider the difference between breathing with awareness and breathing without awareness—from the outside, they appear to be the same activity, but without the quality of focus, they are very different. We could even say that one isn’t Yoga, at all.

Language

How we talk to ourselves is of utmost importance. We often talk to ourselves in self-defeating ways, saying things like, “this will never work…” or, “”this always happens to me…” or, “I’m such an idiot,” etc. As Robbins explains, these sorts of habitual declarations reflect the crippling stories we are telling ourselves inside our heads.

In Yoga, we use affirmations, such as “I am bountiful, I am blissful, I am beautiful.” But we also use Sanskrit-derived mantras, which work whether we understand them, or not. This is because they work on both a subconscious and an energetic level to create a powerful shift in our emotional state and overall mood.

Sound is vibration and is inherently healing. ~Dhanpal

By combining sound, breath and rhythm, mantra meditation channels the flow of energy through the mind-body circuit, adjusting the chemical composition of our internal states, while delivering our restless minds from distress. Our thoughts are silent sounds. And sounds are electromagnetic vibrations. The more refined our thoughts, the more elevated our vibration; the more elevated our vibration, the closer we get to the highest vibration of all–our own divine nature*

As the captain sets the canvas to the wind, thus pulling the boat out of trouble, it is through mantra that we steer ourselves out of our own stormy seas and into clear waters. ~Dhanpal

So we see that in one Yoga Kriya, posture or meditation, each facet of the triad is put to service!

*For more on the technology of mantra and chanting, see my article here.

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Choice

CHOICE chart


Commentary:

I made this chart to show the different ways of interfacing with our moment to moment decisions in life. Even the most subtle decision is vast and carries with it the potential for extensive repercussions. For example, whether we decide to breathe into a moment of frustration or channel it into verbal abuse toward a loved one makes a tremendous difference in our lives, especially, as those moments add up and habit patterns set in.

I make the assumption here, that we’re not always at our optimum. But, life is a process of evolving, if we are fully awake and have the courage to look at ourselves squarely. This means embracing our freedom to make a choice at every moment and owning those decisions. Thus, it also means accepting the consequences of those choices without making excuses for ourselves. This chart shows us that only when we can truly do that, do we evolve into the optimal version of ourselves.

The caveat against making excuses comes from Zen Master Nyogen Roshi, who reminded us very often, during Dharma talks, to (1) Not DECEIVE ourselves (2) Not make EXCUSES for ourselves, and to (3) Take RESPONSIBILITY for ourselves. In my book, I captured this teaching with the acronym, DER.

These injunctions encourage honest, conscious reflection and enable continuous growth—which is what we’re here for! To evolve in our own way and according to our own propensity, is our overarching purpose on earth.

But, sometimes we find ourselves stuck. We call it a problem when we’re unsure how to get unstuck. This chart demonstrates what Yogi Bhajan said—that there is always a pathway through every problem. Curiously, we often access this pathway by letting go. This is the feminine aspect of the dance of life.

This chart shows us that even when we feel we have not acted optimally, in a situation…say, by lashing out instead of breathing, as in the example above, we can use that moment as an opportunity for conscious reflection, rather than self-reproach. For, emotions like guilt, serve only to block our growth. But the recognition that there may be some fear, like the fear of losing control, underlying our frustration, will set us free. It disables that fear.

Very often, this moment of consciousness is enough for clearance to occur. As I’ve said in my classes: “a moment of awareness is a moment of healing.” This is the D, the E and the R, altogether! We haven’t deceived ourselves, we haven’t indulged in excuses, and we’ve taken responsibility, which in this case, entailed nothing more than ownership of our action.

The masculine aspect of doing, comes into play inevitably, as every step, however subtle, is a form of action, but through our willingness to surrender to the outcome, we manifest the feminine. Without that feminine aspect, we lock ourselves into an insecure need to control—bereft of the trust that comes from connection to what isIt’s as Lao Tzu advised: “Know the right, but keep to the left.” The left is the feminine quality of receptiveness. And in this way, we form a relationship with the way and the rhythm of the universe. The dance of life is an interplay of masculine and feminine energies.

The feminine is all about surrender, which trumps the ego’s need to control. It is a must, if we choose to grow. We must welcome what is, with a heart full of grateful acceptance, in order to go forth. We have to be good with where we are before we can get to where we want to be, since the moment we push it away with excuses, we allow the useless emotions of guilt & regret to subsume us, forming, in turn, a murky blanket of resistance to life’s lessons and the evolution of our own consciousness.

It is as such that we behold the interplay of self-acceptance and self-improvement. We often defeat ourselves by trying to have the latter without the former. But, self-improvement, on its own, quickly devolves into an obsessive game of chase, creating a gap in our consciousness, between who we are and who we want to be. It leaves us un-whole. 

The Paramedic Has a Lifeline, Too

Every once in a while, a student sends me something that is not only heartwarming, but serves as a reminder of why I do what I do. Here is a story of a modern day medic and an ancient Yogic technique. I hope you are just as touched by my student’s story, as I was.

My Sadhana (Daily Practice)

As a young man living in the 21st century my brain is constantly being rushed with all sorts of stimuli. It is quite difficult going about my day with out being affected by social media, subliminal messages, and other avenues of gaining my attention. Due to all of this my mind is essentially never present or clear. I am always thinking about what to do next and move ahead. However, about two weeks into this class, I was introduced to a breathing technique that quickly brought me back into the present.

This technique is called alternate nostril breathing. The first time I tried this in Professor Quesada’s class, I did not fully feel the effects. My brain was not used to being in the present moment, so I started to feel a little restless. At first, I had no faith in this technique because I did not see results immediately. Again, my brain was used to getting things done fast and seeing results quickly. Later that day I went home and looked up the benefits of this ancient breathing technique; everything that was listed was what I needed.

I have had a problem with anxiety for many years. I can now say that alternate nostril breathing has significantly helped me with that.

alternate nostril breathing
About a month or so ago when I started alternate nostril breathing, I started doing it for 15 minutes every morning to get me ready for the day. Those first few days were pretty challenging – it was difficult to stay focused because after sitting for 5 minutes my mind started wandering. Eventually my brain was able to stay focused for longer periods of time. I eventually figured out that this technique could be used any time I feel stressed or anxious. I currently practice alternate nostril breathing multiple times throughout the day in addition to the 15 minutes I do every morning.

I work as an Emergency Medical Technician for a private ambulance company where I deal with life and death constantly. There is a very high level of stress everyday and I take on a huge responsibility while the patient is under my care. Prior to learning this breathing technique, I would get butterflies every time I was dispatched and they would last the whole ride to the scene. The lights and sirens just made me more tense and even though the adrenaline rush was too much at times, I thought I had no choice but to force my body adapt to the stress and disregard it.

However after becoming comfortable with alternate nostril breathing I now use it when responding to calls. My performance and mental clarity has drastically changed.

For example, a few weeks ago my partner and I responded to a call for a traffic collision. When we arrived on scene I found an 11 year old child in the back seat trapped, with no pulse and no respiration. The patient had suffered a traumatic full arrest and it was the first time I had ever witnessed this. The family was crying and pressuring me. I felt a little dizzy, and just extremely overwhelmed. As my partner pulled out the patient and started compressions I ran over to the ambulance to pick up the defibrillator. On the way to the ambulance I forced my brain to focus on my breath and I quickly slowed down my respiratory rate which almost instantly calmed me down. My whole sprint to and from the ambulance was maybe 30 seconds but in those few moments I was able to stay calm and regain my focus just from focusing on my breath. The patient came back after 2 rounds of CPR and 3 shocks.

In school I have also used alternate nostril breathing before exams. By using this technique prior to exams I feel a sense of calmness and a major reduction in angst. It has also taken away tension throughout my body. Overall it has been useful to me in my work, school, and personal life. It has also made me more aware of living in the present. Thank you so much Professor Quesada for teaching me this breathing practice.

Gratitude (It Goes Both Ways)

It was an ordinary Tuesday morning on campus. On the heels of an especially hot September, it was already stuffy inside the classroom. Amid the pre-class clamor, I sat, perusing the instructions for a meditation that was originally given by my teacher some 30 years ago. I thought twice about it. It seemed too detailed and too complex for a classroom setting. But I went ahead with it, anyway.

We were a couple minutes into it, when I passed my eye over my 80 students, from left to right, across the oddly shaped, wide room. Through the darkness, I saw only fingers pressing together at the heart center, closed eyes and heaving chests pumping air in segments.

After class that day, I saw two of my students hanging out by the field—with exaggerated puffing, one was instructing the other in the correct way to do the meditation. The next day at my home studio, a student, who is also in my college course, was practicing this meditation as I entered.

Truth be told, I was feeling a bit off my game lately. Like I didn’t have my usual spark. So, what happened two days after this meditation, was especially meaningful.

One of my students caught up to me as I was walking to my car after class. She is a young woman who as I learned, is in the middle of a painful divorce. They were high school sweethearts, she told me. The separation process has been so painful she nearly dropped my class before the semester even started because she didn’t think she would be able to handle the extra demands and pressure.

Through tears, she continued to share her story. Then she told me what had happened the day before—how the meditation had helped her pull herself out of another panic attack, just after a particularly difficult phone conversation with her ex. She said it was the first time she had felt empowered rather than crushed.

She wanted me to know that her tears were now the tears of hope and gratitude and that for the first time in months, she was able to experience the taste of renewed joy—even in the midst of crisis. She is looking upon this internal shift—this newfound sense of optimism and inner strength as a rebirth. My own heart melted when she told me she was holding in her mind the image of me giving instructions for the meditation in class, to ensure that she was doing it right.

Her intention was the most important ingredient of all, I reassured her. And that can only come from her. She had decided it was time to heal.

With a long hug we parted. The gratitude goes goes ways. Here’s why it’s so important to share these kinds of things:

1. The other person may need to hear it, as I did in this instance. Positive feedback of this sort is a source of upliftment and inspires the recipient to continue doing what they’re doing. Moreover, it lets them know they’re making a difference.

2. It enables connection and that’s what we live for.

3. We spend too much time criticizing—both ourselves and others. But as my teacher, Yogi Bhajan, has said: It takes the same energy to complain as it does to compliment. When there is a short circuit there is a complaint and when the energy is flowing there is a compliment. Thus, taking a moment to scatter flowers, rather than count the weeds, makes the world feel beautiful.

How to Turn Anger into Forgiveness (Four Tools)

Lists are cute, but…they can only take you so far. The reason is usually because they tell you the “what” at the expense of the “how,” rendering them entertaining, and perhaps inspirational, but simplistic.

For example, I saw this piece of advice, in a list, just last week:

Give up the need to always be right.

 

A good pointer, for sure. After all, the need to be right is not worth the price of your inner peace. But, alone, it’s a bit like that pair of shoes that looks really good, but won’t help you much when it rains. First, we need to understand where this need comes from. Yes, it’s the ego’s obsession. But for practical purposes, the need to be right arises, all too often, in the midst of conflict, and in the nub of an argument. And it comes with anger (the deeper problem), which is escorted by the inability, or unwillingness, to let go, which, in its turn, comes with the inability, or unwillingness, to forgive.

So, what do you do when your mind is spinning, your composure is slipping and your heart is raging? Here are four tools to use, either alone, or in any order you choose:

1. Affirmations. To diffuse anger.

And you thought a Zen person would only tell you to stop talking to yourself! It all depends on what you say. Talking to yourself can either be a help or a hindrance. We talk ourselves into things and out of things all the time and can skillfully talk ourselves out of being angry if we commit to the task. We can start by reminding ourselves that it is our choice to refuse anger and turmoil and instead choose peace and tranquility. It’s also a choice to be offended and if we’re not offended, there’s nothing left to “prove.”

Anger starts out as a feeling and can quickly turn into words, or even worse, violence. And as both the Yogis and the behavioral therapists say, you are not your feelings. Meaning, that bit of anger that starts out as a nudge can be nipped before escalating into a coercive shove.  It’s a kid, talking out of turn. “Thank you for sharing,” you might say, and move on.

But, what about those television shows that tell us to punch things and get it all out? Anger is not something that needs to be nurtured or “practiced.” Which is why, “venting” doesn’t work. Venting is destructive, rather than constructive. Anger is a habit, like everything else. By venting, you are nurturing the combustible mixture of blame and resentment, clinging to the short-lived illusion of relief due only to the effect of exhaustion.

So, how do we talk to ourselves effectively? A positive affirmation is a bit like a mantra, which, when used properly, results in healing and restoration of the mood and emotions. By repeating a mantra, you are enabling your mind to focus on what you want it to focus on, rather than on the continued negative self-talk that only spins the anger. An affirmation can create a powerful shift in your attitude, resulting in peace of mind. An example would be something simple, such as, “I Am Love,” or, “I Am Forgiveness,” or, “I Am Light.” Notice these are all grounded in presence, as opposed to the past or the future realms, which keep us grounded, in turn.

2. Perspectives. To diffuse anger and enable forgiveness.

The need to be right is a poorly covered power struggle, with you vying to maintain control. The palpable tension it creates is driven on by your belief that there is a price the offender must pay, for their wrongful words or actions.

Remember back, for a moment, to a time when you acted rudely to someone you loved, when you unintentionally hurt someone either because you were distracted by your own troubles or because you let your emotions take you for a ride. Sometimes we don’t even know why we do certain things. We can hardly understand, let alone control, our own moods and behaviors—how much more difficult to fathom someone else’s? It’s seldom even about us, at all. Remembering our own slips and blunders brings us quickly into a state of equanimity and calm compassion. It lets us remember that we too, have been there, done that.

3. Visualizations. To Forgive and let go. 

This is a powerful Buddhist meditation I learned many years ago from one of my teachers. It is both startling and highly effective—if done with concentration. Here is the shortened version:

Imagine the dead body of the person who angered you. Visualize their body as distant, pale and lifeless. See, in your mind’s eye, the lifeless body beginning to rot. Imagine worms crawling in and out of the eye sockets and the mouth, and all of the crevices, eating away at the putrefying flesh. Finally, see nothing left, at all, but a strewn pile of dried-up bones. 

This ancient meditation will remind you of the fleeting nature of existence. It will remind you of how silly it is to get hung up on what usually turns out to be nothing at all. It will remind you, most powerfully, of the precious, short time we have to spend with our loved ones and to cherish that time, rather than waste it on nonsense.

5. Breathe.  To diffuse anger and quickly switch gears.
Truth: Most people breathe unconsciously. Which means, too shallow and too fast. We don’t fill up our lungs, which means, we’re not getting enough oxygen and we’re not expelling carbon dioxide. Aside from the health problems that would likely be ameliorated through deep breathing, what it means for our purposes here, is that we’re irritable. The Yogis have long known that shallow breathing is associated with anger and ill temper. And to make things worse, stress uses up even more oxygen. To turn things around, take three big, long breaths—but really do it! With one hand on your belly to act as a guide, bring that breath down toward your belly, expanding your diaphragm until you look like you’re pregnant! This activates the parasympathetic nervous system and effectively kick-starts the relaxation response, immediately bringing you into a different state of mind.

“The art of deep breathing is also the art of real living.” ~Yogi Bhajan

Close Your Books! Teaching Meditation in a Community College Classroom

I’m thrilled to be a part of elephant journal!

Following is an excerpt from my article, Close Your Books and Forget the Thinking: Teaching Meditation in a Community College Lecture Hall:

In the East, knowledge is all tangled up with the religious and so it is that the western categories of philosophy and religion don’t quite fit. Knowledge comes via direct experience, rather than cogent arguments. Truth is found in the stillness of the quiet mind, rather than on the pages of competing theories and the very pursuit is to drop the pursuit. We rediscover, rather, what we already know, uncover what was already there—what Zen calls your original face, what Hinduism calls your true self. But we have to get real still, so that we can see without looking and hear without listening.

I explained all of this. Then, I dimmed the lights.

“With your attention only on your breath, jot down, in your project books, each thought you become aware of. But don’t write me a composition! And, as strange as it sounds, don’t try to write stuff—because that means you’re following your thoughts. Just scratch out any key word and come back.”

I tiptoed around and stole glances over their shoulders. Some had no more than five words, even though five minutes had passed, even though we’ve got thousands of thoughts streaming by in the blink of an eye.

I interrupted the silence with two hits of my handheld meditation bell.

“Anybody care to share?” I asked. “Was there some thought you kept coming back to?”

“Yeah, that I can’t wait to eat, after class!” one said.

“Me too–I couldn’t get lunch out of my head,” a girl in the back added.

“Sounds like what we used to call ‘sick dreams’, as kids,” I laughed.

“So, we’ve got burritos on the brain. What kind of thought is that?” I asked.

“A future thought,” offered one quick student in the front.

“Exactly!” I said.

“So, here’s part two of our experiment: Next to each word, write a ‘P’ next to the past thoughts and an ‘F,’ next to the future ones.”

Read the whole article here!

10 Reasons to Chant

In yogic parlance sound is related to the dimension of space. So when we use sound in specific ways, we positively affect our internal space, our most subtle element. We trigger transformation from within.

I am particularly happy with my latest blog-post for Spirit Voyage, on sound and mantra in yogic meditation–not only because mantra meditation is such a beloved part of my own practice, but because, well, simply put, I worked hard on putting together intricate material in a readable format. The reward is that it has already reached over 350 shares! Here is an excerpt:

#1

The Benefit:

Reduces Anxiety and Depression

The Technology:

By combining sound, breath and rhythm, mantra meditation channels the flow of energy through the mind-body circuit, adjusting the chemical composition of our internal states and regulating brain-hemisphere imbalances, contributing to a natural abatement of fear and despair–emotions that underlie both of these common afflictions. By balancing the nervous system, chanting regulates the chronic stress and tension that is the norm for many people in today’s hyper-stimulated lifestyle. And by balancing the endocrine system, chanting normalizes hormone production, which balances our moods and overall sense of well-being.

#2

The Benefit:

Releases Neuroses

The Technology:

Chanting delivers us from the excessive preoccupation with our bodies and with material concerns. It delivers us from fear of old age and death. We begin to identify with the timelessness of the soul and consequently begin to shed neurotic habits that no longer serve and that no longer seem relevant. By returning us to what is essential, it clears away subconscious habit patterns. Embraced by the steady rhythm and by the vibration that connects us all, our thoughts combine wholly with the sound current. As the captain sets the canvas to the wind, thus pulling the boat out of trouble, it is through mantra that we steer ourselves out of our own stormy seas and into clear waters.

#3

The Benefit:

It is Soothing

The Technology:

The power of mantra is betrayed in the roots of the sanskrit word, man, meaning mind, and, tra, meaning deliverance, or, projection. Thus, chanting the sacred sound of the mantra delivers us from our sense dependency, from our unrelenting habit of looking toward the senses for gratification; pleasures that are and that will always be, fleeting and limited–how much can you eat? Or drink? Or buy? Sense gratification never really gratifies. We are always left either unfulfilled and guilty–wishing we had never started, or else, wanting more and lamenting the loss.

Chanting is a pleasure that transcends the senses, it takes us beyond the bounds of time and space (which is why we don’t have to understand the mantra). Thus it soothes in a most profound way. It soothes on a cellular level. It merges our finite identity with the infinite, and so dissolves us. It relieves us from the sights and sounds and stimulation of the material world and delivers us into a spiritual space, where the sound is God. The material needs are reduced to nothing but mind chatter, and like smoke pumped into the sky, will be scattered into the expanse. Through the sweetness of devotional surrender, mantra turns the negative into positive. I once heard it said: “as music has charms to soothe a savage beast, so the spiritual sound of mantra soothes the restless mind.”

Hop on over to Spirit Voyage to continue!

Is Sparring the Same as Fighting?


We were talking about breathing again, in class. And again, we started by taking a deep breath together. But this time, I told them to rest a hand on their bellies and  see if they could direct the breath to that magical region called the “tan-tien,” by the Kung-Fu masters, the “hara,” by the Zen masters, and the “solar plexus” by the yogis. We are increasing the oxygen delivery to the brain, and thereby balancing our nervous systems, as well as our state of mind.

One student shared his experience with Judo and the instructions given by his teacher to breathe from the belly in order to combat nerves and conserve strength.

If the martial artist reflects steadiness and calmness, why do they fight? Isn’t that violent? another student asked.

Excellent question.

The point of sparring isn’t to fight, as you might suspect, I said. It is to train.

It is in the face of challenge that you put your tools to use. In the martial arts, you don’t confront, you don’t go against, you don’t use brute force. You learn that you don’t have to reside in a constant state of opposition to what lies within nor to what lies without–impatience, anger, discomfort, provocation from others. You learn that you have power over the impulse to react to all of it.

Thus, there, on the training mat, the martial artist learns patience. He learns to become intimate with his calm center, the source of his power, balance and composure. The source of his stillness–the stillness that gives way to heightened perception and intuition.

The Dojo is the training ground for what would be better thought of as a game of skill, like chess, or a dance, rather than as a fight. The student of any martial art is taught to always avoid confrontation. The point is about personal development, rather than public display.

On this point, here is an anecdote written, in 1979, by Joe Hyams, who took direct study with Bruce Lee:

Some time later I watched a “crossing of hands,” or match, between two martial arts masters. I had gone expecting to see a magnificent display of flashing acrobats and whirling limbs. Instead I saw two men in fighting stance study each other warily for several minutes. Unlike boxing, there were no feints, no tentative jabs. For the most part, the masters were still as statues. Suddenly, one of them burst into movement so quickly that I was unable to grasp what had happened, although I did see his opponent hurtle backward. The match was over and the two masters bowed to each other.

Equally poignant was the comment Hyams’ teacher made afterward:

Now you have seen the power of controlled patience on the mat. The same thing applies to problems in life.

And I would also point out the power of humility, as displayed so elegantly through the tradition of the bow. If only that were a value held dear in life today.

What’s So Great About Now?

We are two weeks into the spring semester, and I have a brand new group of students, 105 of them, to be exact. I told them this class wasn’t going to be like their other classes, before inviting them to inwardly survey their posture.

After the inevitable adjustments and repositioning, we took a deep breath and together we sighed away our collective morning hassles. The traffic, the parking, the rush, and any trace of resistance that may have surfaced along the way. After talking about the shift that naturally follows that first round of conscious breathing, some students offered to share their experiences. One said that it brought him into a heightened state of awareness.

Exactly! Because the mind follows the breath.

Another student asked, without one ounce of sarcasm, what is so great about being here, now, when most everything sucks. A wonderful question.

I’m not sure why, but I thought of Christopher Reeve. I asked my students why it was that some people, who have problems much bigger than our own, are able to live in peace. In Reeve’s case, the tragedy he endured trumps the minor inconveniences most of us face on a daily basis, the trivialities that send us into fits of rage. Yet, he lived the rest of his life working on behalf of others with spinal cord injuries. Although he faced his shortened life as a quadriplegic, he lived it with a renewed spirit of gratitude and purpose.

Why is it that the rest of us are so easily upset and indignant over the most minor inconveniences? I pressed.

Some people see things differently, one insightful student offered.

Exactly!

Because everything is perception. And so, despite our universal hardships, some will suffer more than others, not because of the actual events, but because of our interpretations of these events.

It’s what the yogis and the mystics and all sages and masters have been saying for ages–look around and see into your own mind.