Forgiving Mind

WITH YOU, I BREATHE: A forty day yoga column

#23: Forgiving Mind

I’m asking friends to be my guinea pig yoga students. One friend told me she went to a yoga class, she could not sit still. The teacher asked students to look inward and breathe and say, Om and she sat on her mat and looked around the room and started thinking. She didn’t go back to yoga. She says she has ADD. She just can’t do it. But she agreed to be my yoga student. She said, You just have to patient with me.

In yoga therapy, which is kind of like a combination of yoga and physical therapy, instructors will talk about forgiving limbs. Instructors cultivate a sense of forgiveness for the limbs which maybe be frail or hurt or weak. I’m interested in how yoga helps with ADD, depression, anxiety, PTSD. I want to cultivate, in myself and my students, a sense of patience and forgiveness. I want to talk about forgiving mind.

I’m designing class for my friend who has ADD and started doing some research, expecting it to be easy to find exactly what poses and breathing techniques help adults with ADD. All I found was broad statements that yoga helps with ADD. Which makes sense. Yoga is about focusing the mind.

But what if, as a beginner, you are starting with a mind that hasn’t concentrated in a very long time. A mind that is in the habit of jumping from one thing to the next?

I’m pretty distracted. I tend to have trouble focusing. I lose things, I bump into things, I forget where I put my keys and parked my car. Some mornings I wake up and can’t find my glasses or wallet and realized I have bruises all over my legs.  And I was sober the night before, I slept alone, the marks are not an indication of naughty sex. Just a sign I’m unfocused most of the time.

Right now, I have four tabs open in my web browser, one for twitter, facebook, gmail, my blog, and an article about ADD from my research. Sometimes, I’ll be in the middle of a sentence and then pause and admit, Oh. I forgot what I was saying.

For a while, I meditated in a buddhist monastery and at a Buddhist meditation center, and I sat on the black cushion, surrounded by nuns and monks, teachers and students. Those were the most painful moments of my life.  I’m exaggerating but probably only slightly. I kept going back because I knew there were benefits and I did feel better once it was over. I mean, maybe I felt better because those thirty minutes were my version of hell. I sat down, did my best to concentrate on the air touching my nostrils as I breathed, got distracted by my thoughts, wanted to move except the teachers encouraged us not to move, not even to shift our body slightly. The teachers wanted us to sit with the discomfort, to get in touch that life includes suffering and pain.

It was really a painful process and I stopped going back.  I kept going back to yoga because the practice is a meditative process that involves movement and sound. The movement and the sound, the mantras and chants, allow my mind to focus on not just on the breath, but the poses, and the sound. In allowing my active mind to grasp onto these things, the process is much more pleasant.

It’s more pleasant but not easy. Some days, I realize that I am not going to be concentrate on my breath, on the movement, on the sound. At some point, I realize it’s just not going to happen. Instead of resistance, instead of trying to be different that am–And what do I want to be? A perfect yogi? One who is focused 100 percent of the time? That’s kind of unrealistic, right? — I do my best to accept my distracted, unfocused self. Forgive this mind.

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