|Quillebeuf, at the Mouth of Seine by William Turner|
We've been here for about two years now, and I've enjoyed creating a life in Minneapolis far more than I expected. The satisfaction I feel has many sources, but one of the most enduring was a decision to focus on the positive and avoid complaints. It's that old saying- water the flowers, not the weeds.
I first learned to direct my thinking in Bikram class, where Mark, my teacher, urged me to smile when I felt discomfort or frustration. He suggested breathing deeply and avoiding making grunting or groaning noises, which send the message from your mind to your body that you can't handle what you are experiencing. "Your mind gives up WAY before your body does," he said. I was amazed that I could stop grunting easily and that smiling really did make the postures more bearable- even fun. I became curious about other ways to create endurance and resilience in my mind and body.
Laughter Yoga embodies much of the same philosophy, but without the physical demands. Instead, you just need to a willingness to fake it, whether you feel like laughing or not. Mary, my teacher, says the idea is to practice making laughter your first response to frustration and discomfort to see how that shifts things.
When we moved back to Minnesota from Hawaii, I made a conscious choice to avoid complaining about the weather. Since griping about the weather is Minnesota's official state sport, it isn't always easy. But for me, complaining is not as innocuous as it might appear. It actually puts my brain in a groove where I'm actually seeking out other things to be grumpy about. And believe me, there is never a shortage of things to be grumpy about.
The weather is one area where I most definitely have no control at all. So I chose not to complain about it, doing my best to accept whatever comes and be prepared for it. I have begun to extend this no complaining philosophy to other, far more important, things in my life too. I'm prone to ruminating on people and situations in my life, forming judgments about their choices and how they affect me and expressing mystification at their motivations.
I'm making an effort to change the stories I tell myself about other people, and especially what I saw out loud about others. It's way harder than not complaining about the weather, because it feels far more personal. But in the relationships where I have been able to change my story about what is going on, I've seen huge shifts. A relationship that felt tense and uncomfortable has become relaxed and friendly in the course of a year. I suspect the major change was my effort to suspend judgement and be kind in my thoughts and words. If only I could do that in every relationship!
Yesterday, a storm rolled across the sky. I could have felt discouraged at a rainy day in our precariously short summer, but instead I was transfixed by the sky. It was a breathtaking study of light and shadow, roiling blue black clouds mixing with brilliant sunlight and shimmering white wisps of fog. William Turner would have had a field day painting the scene. What beauty.