A Yoga teacher I know often says in class some version of, “Stay with yourself.” It never ceases to stop me in my tracks. Those tracks being all of the ways that my mind, chattering, obsessing and preoccupied as it is, has led me to be anywhere but with myself. Do you remember when they used to say “Elvis has left the building?” That’s what it feels like. Only, it’s me and not Elvis. And the building is my body.
There seems to be a real epidemic of “leaving” in the culture. So many ways and so many reasons to get out of the body and whatever our experience is. Take my college students and the way that they party. Recently, while working with the concept of mindfulness, the art and science of being present moment to moment without judgment, they began talking about how they use drugs and alcohol to knock down the stress. Jokingly I was calling it the sledgehammer approach. A way of forcefully busting through the stress by getting blackout drunk.
But because they have been practicing being mindful with their bodies, it has been opening up the possibility of managing the stress differently. Of noticing when the build up of tension is occurring, leaving them in a position to try something like the breath or time outside, as opposed to letting the stress accumulate unchecked. And for the ones practicing being more in their bodies, they’re finding that it just doesn’t feel so good anymore to pound down 14 beers when 3 would suffice.
But in order for any of us to make this level of shift with whatever our “sledgehammer of choice” is requires, first and foremost, the willingness to inhabit ourselves differently. The willingness to want something else other than annihilating ourselves with habits that harm. This requires three things. The space that you carve out to take care of yourself. A perspective on why this would be important for you. And a practice; something you do on a regular basis to get clear in your mind while offering a stress outlet for the body.
You might be wondering what is available should you practice staying with yourself. While I could list off all of the things I have experienced, along with all of the things students have said, I encourage you to give it a try for yourself. For this is truly the only way this one works. You cannot think about this one, or watch a video on it. You cannot wait until later. It begins in this moment and it is something you have to practice over and over again. Why? Because given how long many of us have been outside the building of our own bodies, leaving has become familiar and normal. Leaving is rewarded by the culture. Leaving has become more compelling than staying.