Yoga Lessons from Downton Abbey

Spoiler Alert: If you’re a Downton Abbey fan and haven’t seen the last episode of the third season, read at your own risk.

My partner, Michele and I are avid Downton Abbey fans. Though I was hesitant at first, the acting, writing, costumes et cetera won me over. It’s a classy production.

Last night we watched the final episode of season three and I was appalled and angered by what I considered to be the untimely, gratuitous death of Mathew Crawley. Just as the family was on the mend after Sybil’s death in childbirth, and as they celebrated the arrival of Mathew and Mary’s baby boy, Mathew’s sudden death in a car crash on one of the happiest days of his life just felt so wrong. My reaction was swift and bitter; I was through with a series that would so cavalierly kill off one of its finest characters. Admittedly, I realize that this is perhaps a juvenile, even childish response. After all, it’s just a TV drama. But I felt so manipulated; and that’s the point.

Life’s vagaries, whether they thrill, soothe or disgust us stand as reminders of impermanence. Outwardly, change is the only constant, and it’s not always pleasant.

Our emotional state is too often like an unconscious knee jerk elicited by the sharp strike of life’s random mallet. Suddenly we can be caught, whirling in an emotional spin cycle that plops us flat on our faces dizzy from some surprising twist of fate. At other times slow, relentless pressure can exhaust us until we’re seemingly out of options.

This is all part of being human; and one of the great accomplishments of any human being is learning to deal with change without being manipulated into losing our balance and composure.

But how do we do that? How do we gain the resilience of mind to calmly withstand and flourish through life’s unceasing changes?

Like anything else, it’s a practice born of awareness. First, we must recognize the possibility of such strength. Most of us have either known people with such qualities or at least have read or heard of them. Their stories all have something in common. They were beset by myriad challenges and learned to train their minds to react in prescribed ways. It doesn’t mean they didn’t experience sorrow, pain or suffering. It does mean that they were conscious of what the yoga sutras call the modifications of the mind, or the careening, unorganized quality of the mind that leaves us without bearings in troubled times. With that awareness they resorted to meditation to build a neuro-chemically resilient brain that is able to digest and process difficulty. They learned, as we can learn, to transcend or rise above difficulty. Through the process of cultivating our minds in meditation, we change the way we perceive our experiences until we become victorious over our challenges. We intentionally and literally rewire our brains through meditation to produce a transcendent way of being.

This is emotional technology or emotional intelligence if you will. This is the next step in our evolution as Homo sapiens. Though we possess technological genius, we are a juvenile species who remain ethically and morally stunted. The under developed potential of our minds fails us when we run up against the essential questions of good, evil, justice and equality.

In the next post of Comfortable Engagement Yoga: The particulars of rewiring the brain.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s