Thursday, June 19, 2014

Mental Movies

Whenever I read a book, I have to cast all of the characters as either actors or people in my life.  I need a "mental movie" going in my head along with the story or I can't delve into it as deeply as I want.  For most of my favorite books, I could tell you exactly who plays what part.  (And chances are, Matthew McConoughey will be in it)  As a movie addict from the time I was a tiny tot, the language of "mental movie" is something I can easily connect to, and now that I work with kids and with adults for whom meditation is new, it's a really effective way to start introducing visualization techniques.

As so many of us do, I tend to worry.  At the moment, there are a lot of uncertainties going on in Marc's and my life and we've been playing the waiting game a lot in the last two or so months with regard to family, finances, and our apartment.  It's been a constant battle to quell the mental movie of disaster - the worry - and just try to stay focused on the present and the fact that most of this is out of our hands.

Last night, I attended an Inversion & Arm Balances Refresher Course at my good ol' Karma Kids Yoga.  The event was for KKY Trained teachers to help us refresh us on how we can better teach these challenging poses to the kids we work with and how to work with them in our own personal practice as well.

My boss, KKY Director Shari Vilchez-Blatt, is addicted to these poses!  She is always up for a new challenge and for working on seemingly impossible and crazy physical feats, including quite a few that either blow my mind or just scare the bejesus out of me.

Handstand fever at one of our KKY Playdates (aka a "Staff meeting")
from February.  I'm third from the left, Shari's last on the right.
For me, the big challenge lay in two particular poses - tripod headstand (a pose I've struggled with and hated forever!) and jumping into crow from downward dog (which she makes look so damn easy and impossible at the same time).

After reviewing some of the elements of jumping into crow for a bit, she had us stop and just sit for a minute to ground ourselves.  She guided us through a simple but powerful and effective "mental movie" meditation.  She had us sit, breathe, and watch a movie of ourselves doing the pose.  Gliding into it as if it took no effort, as if it were as easy as walking.

And for the first two minutes of this, my mind showed a very clear mental movie of me......breaking my wrists.  Falling on my face.  Breaking my arms.  Somehow, impossibly, even breaking my neck.  I had to stifle my laughter because it was just so ridiculous and so typical of my worrywort brain.  How revealing this was that I sit with a full intention of visualizing success and I visualize immediately violent failure.  After a few minutes I was able to shift the movie, and I got pretty darn close when we went back to trying the pose, but I've been thinking about that ever since.

I worked on positive visualization later on when she was helping me into my dreaded tripod headstand and was struck by how much of my struggle in that pose is mental and a result of all the mental movies of myself breaking my neck in that pose.  Instead of defaulting to an inspirational movie, I default into a horror movie!  As yoga so often does, it gave me a massive insight into how this mirrors my "off the mat" life.

Whether you practice yoga or not, this so-simple and so-powerful tool is a must for us to practice in life.  Visualizing yourself doing a challenging yoga pose or physical feat will be incredibly helpful toward reaching it, and more than that, visualizing a positive outcome for something in your life whether it's in your control or not is so good for your brain, your stress level, your emotional well-being.

We spend so much time and energy visualizing things going wrong, consciously and unconsciously.  If we work hard at visualizing the positive outcome, we might still wind up disappointed if it doesn't work out, but at least we haven't made ourselves suffer in the interim.  I can't remember who, but someone once said that when you worry about a problem, you experience it twice - once in the worried anticipation, and once when it actually comes to pass.

There's enough in the world to worry about, but we have the power to choose a positive thought and shift our energy in the other direction.  With time, with practice, with consistency...who knows what kind of seemingly impossible feats will suddenly become possible.  I'm working on switching my mental movie from horror to inspirational, and plan to keep chasing that jump into crow.  I'll keep you posted on how it goes!

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