I was asked to present a theme on how to deal with toxic people including any tips or reminders I could offer when peace is most needed. By the time you finish reading this, your yoga toolbox will be filled with what it needs to stay calm and non-reactive.
First of all, we have all heard the response to a relationship ending (maybe not personally but you have heard it!), "It's not you, it's me"? We say that to alleviate feelings of guilt or blame the other person may have. Toxic people do not mind leaving you with these feelings so it is extremely important to remember that, when dealing with toxic people, it is them, not you! I don't think most toxic people know that they fall in this category and, almost for that very reason, you cannot take their toxic behavior personally.
"There is a huge amount of freedom that comes to you when you take nothing personally."— Don Miguel Ruiz
This leads me to a sanskrit word found in the Yoga Sutras, aparigraha. It means non-hoarding. To not have greed. It is based in the faith that everything we need will come to us if we let go of the attachment to worrying about having what we need.
“By the observance of aparigraha, the yogi makes his life as simple as possible and trains his mind not to feel the loss or the lack of anything. Then everything he really needs will come to him by itself at the proper time.” –B.K.S. Iyengar
When we think of non-hoarding or, its opposite, greed, our minds typically jump to things. But this concept is as much about your thoughts and habits as it is objects. If toxic Person A crosses my path, depletes me of my energy and leaves me feeling mad and upset, I am the one responsible for what I do next. If I rehash this in my head all day, I maintain my anger as well as the pit in my stomach. I am literally hoarding my feelings by hanging on to them. Person A doesn't even know I am upset! Person A has long since moved on to spreading toxicity to other people. You are the one who needs to let go of Person A and work on aparigraha, non-attachment. If I stand still and listen to Person A's tirade and then carry it with me all day, I am suffering and creating an unhealthy imbalance in my own energy. If I stand there and listen to Person A's tirade as though I have a shield up around me and I watch every word bounce off as I move away, I am unattached and therefore, in a sense, emotion-less or free from emotion.
Our breath is a perfect example of aparigraha. We don't purposely breathe harder or quicker because we are afraid there won't be enough air for our next breath. We have faith that the air will be there at the end of our exhale...and it is.
Forbes.com, in an article about successful people dealing with toxic people, gives this great example: "...if the complainer were smoking, would you sit there all afternoon inhaling the second-hand smoke? You’d distance yourself, and you should do the same with complainers. A great way to set limits is to ask complainers how they intend to fix the problem. They will either quiet down or redirect the conversation in a productive direction."
How many times have you voiced you don't have time to meditate or work out...why do we allow our time to be used up by complainers and energy vampires? Think about it! We don't want to be "rude". So somehow that makes it okay to allow ourselves to suffer? That doesn't make sense.
I liked this from the Forbes article: "Toxic people drive you crazy because their behavior is so irrational... Which begs the question, why do you allow yourself to respond to them emotionally and get sucked into the mix? ...Distance yourself from them emotionally and approach your interactions like they’re a science project." I don't remember ever being emotionally attached to the outcome of a science project and that is a perfect tool in staying drama free.
Link to article: http://www.forbes.com/sites/travisbradberry/2014/10/21/how-successful-people-handle-toxic-people/
Your yoga toolbox now contains the following tools:
· Awareness/staying present
· Breath- deppen breath and/or count the breath in your head
· Aparigraha- letting go of toxic people and the emotions they create inside
· Boundaries/Putting up Energy Shields
· Affirmations: "I choose to be around pleasant people today."
· Intentions: "I intend to have a calm peaceful day."
· Gratitude: "Thank you for letting me have a fabulous peaceful day." (Say this at the start of your day)
· Mantra: Soham/hamsa: Inhale "so", exhale "ham". It is the sound of the breath and it means I am that.
· Cord cutting- we did this in class. Email me for more information if you would like to.
The Next Buddha
“It is possible
that the next Buddha
will not take the form
of an individual.
The next Buddha
may take the form
of a community…
A community practicing
A community practicing
This may be
the most important thing
we can do for
the survival of the earth.”
~Thich Nhat Hahn
When we rescued a greyhound, we became part of a community of greyhound admirers. We joined 4 Greyhound Rescue's facebook family where we get to see all the great pictures rescuers post of their greyhounds. There are communities for other breeds, as well, like Collies, Labs, and Pitbulls, and there are communities that form for all sorts of interests...cycling, running, energy healing...whatever your interest, you can find a community of people that support and share your passion.
Anne Adams writes, "There is an endless net of threads throughout the universe... At every crossing of the threads there is an individual. And every individual is a crystal bead. And every crystal bead reflects Not only the light from every other crystal in the net, But also every other reflection, Throughout the entire universe."
We know yoga has a lot to do with community as the word itself means unity. Yoga unites our breath with our spirit and our mind and yoga, in itself, is a community we can turn to for shared inspiration. When the storms went through IL last week and Fairdale was hit by a tornado, I became aware of another level of community. It turns out that, in Fairdale, lives a woman named Emily. She happened to own three greyhounds, amongst other pets, and two were missing after the tornado hit and leveled her house. When a greyhound goes missing, people from the greyhound community immediately go into action. Unfortunately, the two dogs didn't make it. But a tighter community had begun to form and someone created a FB auction to help Emily and her family. People have posted so many creative and amazing things: homemade scones, dog coats, jewelry, clothes, artistic services...
Emily has written some amazing and tear raising updates about her situation. With respect to her and her privacy, I have am only quoting a couple of her comments as they are insightful lessons for us all. So, if I may quote from Emily's FB page, she wrote something I found very interesting: "At the time, I had no magnitude of what had hit us, or of the overwhelming generosity of the human spirit that was to come. Volunteers have arrived in waves, donations, hugs, kind thoughts. We've literally been bombarded with help - and there's just no way to prepare yourself for that."
She didn't say there is no way to prepare yourself for loss or for an immense storm; she said there is no way to prepare yourself for the huge community of love and support. People can and do step up with overwhelming goodness. People genuinely are givers. As this relates to your yoga practice, make an effort on your yoga mat to make sure you are providing yourself with overwhelming goodness. When the ego takes over, it is much like the tornado; it tries to sweep away your strength and positive outlook, but it cannot unless you allow it.
"The impersonal hand of government can never replace the helping hand of a neighbor." ~Hubert H. Humphrey
From Emily's most recent post, she writes:
"7 days. It's been 7 days. In the past 7 days, We've lost our house, two of our dogs, two guinea pigs, one cat, and nearly almost everything we own. In the past 7 days, I've come to realize that these *things* we have mean absolutely nothing. It's just a house. It's just a couch. It's just a book."
The sanskrit word aparigraha means non-hoarding/non-attachment. It is the principle she speaks of. When we are attached to things and they are taken, we suffer. When we are not attached and they are taken, we may be temporarily sad but we do not suffer. And there is a difference.
Things are just things. In yoga, I urge you not to become attached to poses and how you think they should look to get them "just right"; in life I urge you not to become attached to things.