The Intensity of Modern Life

“For those wounded by civilization, yoga is the most healing salve.”

~Terri Guillemets

Very few of us are not wounded by civilization. It’s a wild, unpredictable world out there. The truth of this hit hard as I re-acclimated to daily life after a week teaching a yoga retreat with Fannie in Costa Rica. It wasn’t so much the cold Iowa temps that felt most jarring, but the pace of modern life that greeted us as soon as we stepped off the plane in Atlanta. The vibe of everyone waiting in customs was stress, overwhelm, irritability, and annoyance (granted…. the poor TSA employees were working without pay).

Our group, still high on the experience of the rain forest and all the yoga and meditation, joked while walking through the long lines of customs that we were continuing to breath in joy and breath out stress. We felt determined to hold onto the goodness we had tapped into for as long as possible.

And yet…how long did the high last? Maybe 24-48 hours? By the time Monday rolled around, some of the glow felt muted and I observed myself falling back into the old patterns of moving, doing, speeding, and filling up the minutes of the day. There was a push and pull energy within me, part of me wanting to hold to my Costa Rica energy (relaxed, open hearted, present, steadfast) while another part of me diving into the content and speed of my life (delayed school, arranging sitters, emails, meal planning, car repairs).

Jon Kabat-Zinn calls this modern civilization we all find ourselves in as “full catastrophe living”. He explains there is not one human on the planet who doesn’t have their own version of the full catastrophe. He identifies that in this context catastrophe does not mean disaster. Rather it is the poignant enormity of our life experience. Wow – the poignant enormity of our life.Yes, this hits home.

Stress and an unsettling world is unavoidable, Kabat-Zinn emphasizes. One cannot escape to Costa Rica indefinitely. And yet, we can rely on meditation and yoga to help us slow down enough, pause, listen to ourselves and see our stressors in a new light so we aren’t so much at their mercy. If we can change the way we see, we can change the way we respond.

Just like vacations have short half-lives, so does our practice.  We can feel amazingly vibrant and alive post-yoga, and then it fades.  This is why the commitment to practice regularly is so essential.  Even 10 minutes a day can go a long way at shifting the wounding we feel in the human experience and allow us to more fully appreciate the poignant enormity of our life – this full catastrophe.