Seriously, I Mean It: “What If?”
No, my friends, I’m not talking about magical thinking, about some fantastic enchanted fairy dust that can elevate us above our feelings, prematurely transcending the moment into some mental construct of relief or spiritual comfort. I am talking about a practice that can literally re-create our cognitive pathways. Living yoga is truly about changing the brain, changing the body, and changing our behavior. How cool is that! We are not victims of our habitual behavior, just as we are not victims of our genes. As in epigenetics, the human capacity to change the expression of our genes, because of the plasticity of the brain, we can change the brain. We can and we must continue to notice how we react to situations—not right or wrong, not good or bad. Without judgment, as we notice our patterns, we can choose to continue the old behavior or we can lean in the direction of a new response. As we do this, everything becomes possible. Nobody is going to train your brain for you but you. This work of healing is, in the bigger picture, the work of healing of our planet, which needs us now, oh, more than ever.
Settle comfortably into your seat. Feel the places where the chair touches into your body. Breathe right into those points of contact, softening into those doorways to the moment. Let your eyes be relaxed, softening your inner gaze. Notice the temperature of air on your hands, on your face. Listen to your breath inside of you, the rhythm of life flowing within you. Sit for a few moments, releasing your doing, allowing your being to gently emerge. As you begin to empty out the busyness and allow your true nature of open presence to reveal itself, consider this inquiry of possibility, repeating these phrases to yourself:
- What if I wasn’t afraid?
- What if there really isn’t anything wrong in this moment?
- What if I really do have everything I need, right here, right now?
- What if everything really will sort itself out and unfold perfectly?
Notice if one of these questions feels more alive, more charged for you. If there be one, allow yourself to sit for a few breaths, imagining, envisioning, allowing this idea, this reframe, to play itself out. Consider, either by journaling or simply imagining, these questions:
- What would today, just today, look like if I practiced this reframe?
- How might the day be different? How might I be different?
See yourself talking this practice with you through your day, allowing yourself to remember the practice of what if?, to allow the chemistry of your brain to change. Notice your behavior and ever so slightly lean in the direction of change. Take a few breathes in and out. Begin to release your inner focus; stretch yourself back into the room. And relax.
Dear friends, we can change our brains, our bodies, and our behavior. This is the blessing of living with mindful presence. Just like with the practice in Twelve Step program of “acting as if” (one that I, in early sobriety scoffed as ‘inauthentic and ridiculous’), we can form new neuropathways. Not only can we, dare I say on this cold, insomniac-filled morning, we must change. As a gift to ourselves and as a gift to each other, we must. We must practice. Not with force or effort or any sense of right or wrong; let us enter this portal of possibility out of a desire to live with more kindness toward ourselves and toward one another. This would be the time.
I am practicing this, oh my friends, so imperfectly. Imperfection is the hallowed ground of practice. Remember, permission to be human must be the earth upon which we stand. Dear readers, dear friends, let’s bless ourselves with the practice of what if. We deserve it.
And please do let me know how this practice lands for you.