The Daily Groove: Making the Mundane "Grind" Significant
Changing mind set is really freaking hard. Changing cultural mind is that much more difficult. But what if we change our phrasing of "the grind" -- something that crushes -- and started calling the mundane pattern of our lives the groove -- not only something that makes us want to dance but something that has the power to change our mind? How would this simple change in phrase create substantial transformation?
I have a difficult time with the mundane. At times, it feels like beating my head against a very hard rock. I often confront this aversion in my own practice.
I hate bills, paperwork, setting doctors appointments, accounting, and seemingly minuscule errands. I'd rather live in the land of big, life-altering ideas. :) I want to investigate theory, the body's power or deep emotional states. If I know that the mundane task will lead me to these explorations then I'm motivated. But, chores done for the sake of it, whew--it feels like a mountain I have to climb.
The menial jobs of my youth always seemed to drop my spirit down. But I thrived when working passion projects. I know many of us feel this way but some people are happy making money for work they don't care much about. Money is their passion. As a young person, money never fueled me. I always gave up jobs that paid well for projects that didn't pay at all. I still do this to an extent.
My hate for mundane work has been detrimental to my health in a few ways. I wasn't on top of my finances. I ended up paying late fees for not doing paperwork, etc. Basically -- I had little to no awareness of the structure of my life and life wasn't going to let me get away with it.
Note the language that I have used: "hard rock," "climbing a mountain," and "spirit down." All of these are grounding earth qualities. Perhaps what I am resisting is grounding.
My earth yoga practices help me confront this resistance and approach the humdrum of life. They help re-pattern my mind, transforming my innate distaste for the grind into an enjoyable and/or peaceful groove.
The Groves of our Mind
There is this beautiful word in sanskrit, perhaps one of my favorite concepts to teach in our teacher training program, SSYS:
This literally translates to a groove or imprint on the mind. You can think of it as lines drawn on a record, in the sand or on stone.
Everyday, when you wake up, your mind begins to follow this groove. It's like you have a record going over and over again. Your mind sinks into those comfy grooves you've created throughout your life (perhaps created before you were born) and you're on your way into your day, like traffic following set highways.
When we go to a yoga class one of our goals is to replace old unconscious grooves with new ones, mindfully creating a new path. How do we get there?
Let's start with the first step: AWARENESS
Let's use the metaphor of the record player. What is the record that plays most often in the past month/year/your life? Does it have a specific rhythm? Is there a message in the lyrics? What's the qualities in the instruments and lead singer's voice? When and how does that song change into one that is distressing or confronting?
So for example, if I were answering these questions my groove changes to a cacophony of quick drumming and loud screeching when I'm looking at a stack of bills, when I'm confronted by my student loans, when I have pages of "mindless" boxes to fill for my doctors appointment. (**please note that one woman's distressing music is another women's favorite song.)
Okay, by writing this out I'm starting to understand and hear more clearly this sound, this groove set by the mere presence of the mundane. I acknowledge this chitta -- the images/sounds/feelings of bills impressed on my consciousness -- is very strong.
That's all we have to do in the beginning -- acknowledge the groove playing in our heads.
Many transformational programs start here at the earth level -- you must be aware before you change.
Second Step: Repetition of New Samskara
Basically in yoga, there is a rule that negative or subconscious samskara must first be replaced with new samskara. Seems fairly simple, yes? The way to change subconscious and/or old habits is to replace them with new habits.
Of course we know that it's much harder to create new habits than to follow old ones. It takes more effort and requires more awareness. So in our yoga practice we ask students to be aware of their state of mind while creating a new habit/pattern in the mind, body, and breath.
From awareness and repetition, old samskara is replaced with new samskara, meaning it becomes the easy effortless groove. This transformation can happen...over time.
The practice of yoga will be firmly rooted when it is maintained consistently and with dedication over a long period of time. ~ Patanjali's Yoga Sutra 1.14, Translated by Alistair Shearer
Third Step: Enjoying the Groove, maybe? But always rely on the first two steps first.
Instead of a staircase, one step leading to the next, think of these steps as a dance. The first two steps are the foundational 1-2 steps on repeat, while this third step is an improvisational spin or whirl. It happens spontaneously. It comes from the roots of your first two steps.
This spontaneous bliss is the promise of Patanjali, the very first known author on yoga. This is the kind of bliss felt in the mundane, the kind that makes the grind of every day life a song to enjoy.
The Earth Element is for Transitioning Seasons and Samskara.
When we transition from one season to the next, it is a good time to come back to earth practices. And as I said earlier, my earth practices have also been key to transforming my samskara -- particularly transitioning from a record of hate to that of calm when dealing with the mundane aspects of being human in our society.
For many people an earth yoga practice is very boring. It's slow in pace, static, simple, repetitive-- we often use the phrase "mindless" repetition. The point is to make these slow, static repetitions mindful. It purposefully reflects the humdrum "mindless" work you might find in your everyday life so you can be keenly aware of the mind patterns that arise when you are struck by a paradoxical truth:
There's nothing more than this moment; and this moment is future freedom.
This is the paradox of every great spiritual path. The spiritual path asks us to be present and trust that the present moment will transform us. We are exactly where we need to be and yet we are progressing.
In fact, the mundane, the earthly body, the endless repetition are all vehicles for spiritual freedom. We have manifested into this body, this society to actualize or to liberate ourselves.
Our culture is so obsessed with goals we have confused them for the vehicle of enlightenment. It thinks progression comes from huge, life-altering moments. We long for the win, for the goal, for our lives to be altered because it is exciting, because we've been taught goals are what count the most. When we don't experience the win, life-altering changes, when we are in the grind of our lives, we become depressed, despondent, feel imprisoned, feel like failures.
What if you have succeeded just by being born, by enjoying this life, this grind, this particular groove?
Earth practice is teaching me how to trust and love the mundane. To find my groove. And enjoy it.