As it was explained to me by my teacher, Yogarupa Rod Stryker – the first arrow is the cause of pain. Thousands of arrows are the thousands of stories/worries that spring from the one arrow which turn the pain into suffering.
Worrying is deeply exhausting. Truly. And worrying is a kind of suffering. Something happens: a mistake, a breakup, an eviction, a death, an accident, or any of the other millions of things that can go wrong on the daily. Let’s say you make a mistake and you leave the house with the oven on. You get three blocks down the road before realizing it. The doggies, or kids, or cats, or guinea pigs are in the house. You run back to turn the damn thing off.
Pain is the realization you left the oven on. Suffering- the three block walk with all of the ‘what if’ scenarios playing out in your mind; the dramatic reenactment -pointing out that the house could have burned down with the doggies, or the kids, or cats, or guinea pigs not just to your mom, but your partner and your brother; the echoes and echoes of retelling it to yourself the rest of the day and playing out all the gnarly possibilities.
This teaching has been with me all through this quarantine and pandemic. Worry has been a topic in all my conversations lately. Even with those of us who have not been affected as terribly as others by all of it. Is there something to be done about worrying?
There is. It relates to the energetic quality of letting go or release- Apana. But letting go is a frustrating concept, an annoyingly nebulous thing. What does it mean to let go? How do I let go?
In order to better understand Apana, we must look at its energetic counterpart Prana -our life force, our intake. We must examine where it is going, along with our ability or lack thereof to direct it- dharana. Because Prana will take you where you want to go and also where you don’t want to go. What I mean by that is that it is a forward moving energy, whether you acknowledge it consciously or leave it in the unconscious space. It will get us stuck in the mire just as easily as it will help us fulfill our Dharma, our life’s work. It’s all a matter of direction. If we are moving through the world unconsciously, it is easy to make the one arrow into a thousand. The more we learn about energy, however, we learn that we can refocus it and bring it to where we need it or want it- presence. So you left the oven on, realized it and turned it off. That can be it. End of story. One arrow.
The more stimulus we take in, the more Prana we exhaust because once we see something, we can’t unsee it. Which means that the only way for that thing to move through our systems is to process it. If it stays in our system unprocessed, it gets stuck in there somewhere. Think of it as gaining energetic weight. If stimulus is food, we need to digest it and secrete it. So think of all the information we are ingesting everyday, constantly, through our senses. Not just in the cities we live in, but news, television, social media, music, images, gossip, conversations…
Imagine how much more energy we would have if we took better care of what we fed our senses. It can be nourishment, after all. What we are putting in our line of vision, what we are touching, tasting, hearing. Which would in turn affect what and how we are saying things, to ourselves and others. And most importantly, it would help us wrangle and work with our worry as we’d be able to distinguish one arrow from the thousand arrows. What would life be like if we didn’t worry so much?!?!
Balance is born in and of the natural world. Where samsaras, cycles, play out with ease- unfettered. Yoga, holds this wisdom of the natural world handed down directly from nature through time and space. It is in this way also linked to all the teachings of all of the ancient cultures, which is why many mendicants and sadhus surrender their quotidian city lives for caves.
Now, I’m not saying leave everything behind and move to the woods though it may also be a good time to do so. As things shift daily through this time, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and overstimulated. If that’s the case with you, take a moment to close your eyes and sit or do something sweet that pulls you out of the fray. Go for a walk, or practice yoga nidra. Find some stillness. We are in a marathon, take a pause to go within. Whatever you are planting during this time will then have more room to blossom. Strip away the unnecessary part of the chaos so that your Prana can remain as buoyant as possible and have a clear charge- allowing you to be steady throughout the insanity.
“I love listening. It is one of the only spaces where you can be still and be moved at the same time.”
Miles Borrero is a NYC-based yoga teacher who has led sought-after retreats and trainings around the world since 2007. A tireless explorer, Miles has done a deep dive into many lineages: Bhakti, Forrest, Parayoga, Om Yoga, Iyengar, Ashtanga. Over the years, these influences have converged to create a unique hybrid style of teaching that is dynamic, creative, and soulful. The athletic physicality that first drew him to the mat has since inspired deeper inquiries in anatomy, as well as cranio-sacral therapy and osteopathy – techniques that delve into the equally magnificent subtle body. As a teacher, Miles is wonderfully skillful and intuitive. He understands technique from the depth of his own practice and is able to articulate it simply and clearly, making it readily accessible to his students. His subtle and powerful insights stay with you past the duration of his classes. And his chants will crack your heart wide open. His love of people is infectious and has translated into building a thriving community and creating inclusive spaces for all. As an anti-racist Latinx and LGBTQ+ trans activist, his hope is to leave the world a bit better than he found it. Check out Miles’ website at http://www.milesyoga.com/.