Friday, July 3, 2009

Yoga and Buddha

funny yoga clip art

A few weeks ago, I started doing yoga again.  It was something I used to enjoy tremendously, but for a reason I can't recall, I stopped practicing it regularly.  I began again out of necessity (my back had been really sore and tight), but I continued because of how well it worked for me.  I'm not just talking about how much it's helped my back either; I'm also referring to the very positive, very obvious effect it has had on my psyche.  It never ceases to amaze me how a few controlled and concentrated breaths coupled with specific stretches can have such a completely profound impact on my mental state of mind.  The longer I do it, the more I love it!  It's not largely time consuming and it's certainly not inordinately difficult (at least not at the level I am), but still, it is so effective!  Sometimes I marvel at the simplicity.

One day a short time later, while reading a yoga book to learn new exercises, I came across a small chapter on Buddhism.  It was fascinating!  Buddhism teaches what they call "The Four Noble Truths" and they are:

  1. First Noble Truth: Suffering is an inescapable part of life, and we all suffer fear and pain to some extent.
  2. Second Noble Truth: Suffering is caused by desire and expectation.  For every desire that is satisfied, a new one rises to replace it.
  3. Third Noble Truth: By detaching ourselves from desires, we learn to live in the moment and appreciate the gifts of the present.  The past is gone; the future is yet to be lived.  True happiness is in enjoying the here and now.
  4. Fourth Noble Truth: Following the Eightfold Path leads to the end of suffering.  This is the guidebook for moral living that leads to wisdom.**

The Second Noble Truth is the one that has had the most profound impact on my life.  At the time that I read it I thought it was very interesting, but later that day I began to realize just how true it was and how far reaching this principle applied to life.

Garret and I went to see Transformers 2--great movie by the way.  The movie had just begun, and I dropped some popcorn on my lap.  The last time this happened I walked out of the protective darkness of theater and into the brutal light of the lobby to discover little grease stains all over my jeans.  Wanting to keep this from happening again, I began an intense search of the offending kernels which had now worked their way between my bottom and the seat.  All the while trying to keep the popcorn I still held in one hand from falling and making the situation worse.  So there I am shifting my weight from one leg to the other, trying not to disrupt everyone else's movie viewing experience, still looking for the wayward pieces and attempting to watch the movie at the same time.  The longer I was unsuccessful, the more frustrated I got, and then it hit me:  My desire to keep my clothes stain free was causing me pain and suffering.  It was the Second Noble Truth unfolding right there before me at the 1:40 showing of Transformers 2 in the Mililani Cineplex!  I decided to accept whatever fate my clothes had in store and pay attention to the movie, and an instant feeling of peace washed over me.


Since then, I have seen the Second Noble Truth in countless areas and ways in my life.  When they were out of my favorite cereal at the commissary; when I got stuck behind the slowest known driver in the universe; when the Wal-Mart cashier was unbelievably rude to me; when I missed a stitch in the blanket I was crocheting and had to undo several rows to correct it; in all of these circumstances once I recognized it was my desire, want, or expectation that was causing me pain, I simply accepted the circumstance or person as it was and my pain was no more. 

It seems so simple, and yet, just like yoga, it is so effective.  It has  been such a liberating experience and has brought me more peaceful moments during situations that might have otherwise been very stressful.  The next time you're really frustrated with something give it a try and let me know how it works for you.  After all you have nothing to lose and so much to gain.

**From "Yoga Chick - A Hip Guide to Everything Om"

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