Hi and Happy Monday,
It’s the 3rd week of Pranayama and I’m excited to share a story I’ve heard many many times from different teachers about Prana. There are many versions of this story, translated from the Upanishads. The Upanishads are part of the Vedas, which are ancient Sanskrit texts that hold the main philosophical ideas of Hinduism.
The story goes that the five main senses of our nature – the mind, the breath (prana), our speech, hearing, and sight – were arguing on which was the most important. To resolve this argument, they decided that each would leave the body, in turn, to see who was missed the most. First, speech left, the body was fine even though it was mute. Then the eyes left, yet the body thrived even though it was blind. Then the ears left, but the body proceeded to flourish being deaf. Finally, the mind left, and still, the body lived on, although now unconscious. However, the moment prana started to leave, the body began to die. The other senses were losing their life-force quickly and they all rushed to prana, admitted its power and begged it to stay.
Prana, our life-force, the life-force found in all living things, is where our energy comes from to give all the other senses. We cannot function without it and therefore our attention lies in the focus of our prana and trying to guide it with our breath.
There is a saying, “where your attention goes, prana flows” – so where and what are you paying attention to? Is it your pain in your shoulder? Is it your annoying mother-in-law? Is it the job that you want and you can’t get? This is much more than positive thinking, this is about paying attention. Most of the time we don’t even know how magnificent we are. We have no idea how strong, resilient, capable, and knowing we are. There is so much doubt, fueled by fear, and if we pay too much attention to it, it creates a cage, and shackles, and maybe a hood over our head. It may sound like I’m exaggerating, but I’d like you to think about the last time you were hesitant to do something new and talked yourself out of it. Or the last time you suggested doing something only because you knew it couldn’t happen. I’ve done that – many times.
Why pranayama? Why breath? How does this connect? Well, the breath brings us back. Not just one breath, sometimes it’s lots of slow breaths in a row, focusing all the attention there and we realize what really is.
Each night at dinner with the kids we practice "Rose and Thorn". There are variations of this exercise with the bud of the rose too, but we practice it this way and it works for our family. During dinner, we go around and list our thorns, bad parts of the day, one at a time, and then roses, great parts of the day, one at a time. We've created rules where we don't have to get into our thorns if we don't want to and we can't say the rose was the entire day - there needs to be specifics. Here is our greatest takeaway, at the end of the day when thinking of our thorns, we get to look back with a different lens, and re-asses what really was a thorn - most nights, we don't have any. Our attention always ends with our roses and it's wonderful when there is overlap, like Wednesday's because we are all happy that we get to see each other again. And even though this happens every Wednesday, it's always listed as a rose from every one of us. Where our attention goes, prana flows. We are happy, loved, safe and social.
How do you bring it back to your breath? How do you practice becoming aware and paying attention?