Inside Yoga 219 (11/12/2017)
This famous slogan, “Keep calm and carry on” helped the population of Britain keep going during the Second World War, and it continues to be used as a reminder or a sales gimmick, and it also has relevance when it comes to yoga practice.
One of the key points about practice is how we respond to either the physical challenges of practice or the challenges our distracted, and often busy, mind.
For example, if we are trying our best to focus and concentrate on our breathing, during a yoga asana or during seated meditation, we will notice (at times frequent) distractions which mean our breathing is not as steady as it could be. What happens next is the important part: the appropriate response is a calm acknowledgement of our distracted state, and then a calm deep breath and then a return to practice.
It does not help our practice if we give ourselves a hard time for being distracted or not doing the practice as well as we could. Those thoughts are a distraction. We do not want to add to our distraction by launching into self-criticism. We can however calmly acknowledge that we were distracted, and decide to try harder, and return to the practice. This doesn’t take long, but acting with equanimity is the key.
We can be kind with ourselves, remain calm and refocus: by simply being aware of what has happened and moving on without letting the heart, the mind, the breathing being unduly affected by a mere wobble in practice (or life).
The Buddha taught a practice called Appropriate Response, whereby we develop the ability to have a split second of self-awareness, a buffer between realising something and reacting, in order to stop a reactive state of mind suddenly leaping to attack of ourselves or others. We train ourselves through meditation to have this ability to take on board what has happened, in this case, a distracted state of mind, but this can be applied to everyday situations, and then to respond appropriately.
Hence the saying: keep calm and carry on.
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