Is yoga your refuge?

Do you recognize this? A busy day at the office and anything this one colleague says irritates you, he always comes up with the same old arguments. Or a day in which you rush from one appointment to the other and even on a quieter moment you really need to check your email. Or moments when you are very busy trying to control what your superior thinks of you, for instance you cc her in an email that makes you look good. Or you do not cc her because you do not want to brag.

Recently I listened to a beautiful teaching of psychologist and buddhist teacher Tara Brach, in which she talks about a buddhist practice called the Three Refuges. I will not try to go into all of it, but I really like some of the things she said. In my own words, when we take refuge in something it means we are trying to make it our home, a place to feel at peace, at ease or be happy. It is not so much a physical space, more a state of being. Tara Brach talks about false and true refuges.

False refuge 
Hiding in a false refuge might make you feel better for a short time, but it will not last. It is a well-intentioned way in which we try to be at peace, but only offers temporarily relief. The mental strategies I mentioned in the introduction of this blog can be false refuges: irritation, keeping yourself busy, rushing, trying to control how others think of you, making up stories about what people feel, do or think, or playing games like “If only…..”. Also addictions are considered refuges. I realize that I did -and regularly still do- take refuge in mental strategies at work. Unfortunately, they never make me feel better in the end. Listening to Tara it became clear to me that the workplace is a quit challenging environment to practice true refuge.

True refuge on the yoga mat?
True refuge is that which allows us to feel at home inside ourselves, be at peace and experience true happiness. Through her teaching I realized that over the years my yoga mat has become a place to practice true refuge. More specific the type of refuge Tara Brach calls dharma. Yoga teaches me to pay attention to what is here right now, to come in what Tara calls ‘the actuality of this moment in my body’. While doing the poses, I learn to sense into all my physical experiences, my thoughts, emotions. I do not always like them, yoga can be uncomfortable and frustrating, but I learn to be at ease, feel at home inside myself with all that is happening. I learn to ‘take refuge in dharma’.

This experience I take with me, also when I go to a conference,  when I preside a complex meeting or when I meet a new client. And although I still loose it quit often, I more easily reconnect to the true refuge inside of me and feel peace in whatever happens. What about you? Is yoga also your place to practice true refuge? How does it help you to deal with discomfort and challenges in your professional life?

Looking forward to hear from you,

PS This blog was inspired by a conversation I had with my dear friend, artist and mindfulness coach Jacquelijne Constant and the teachings of Tara Brach, also referred to in an article of Huffington Post.

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