Breathe in the face of anxiety

Last week, a group of Tibetan monks were creating a mandala in a Tibetan store down the street from where I work.  I was at part of the opening ceremony and then dropped in the next day to see the progress that had been made on it. Just a little background, I love this store anyway.  Like entering another world, it has a wonderful environment and is full of good energy.  When I get frustrated at work, it’s a good place to play some singing bowls and get away from homeless addicts for a few minutes. I love it there. And last week, it got even better.

During the opening ceremony, the monks were chanting and, while I’d heard Tibetan chanting before, this was the most beautiful I’ve heard.  I think the difference was that I was present for it, and the sound waves in the room were bouncing off everyone.  It was amazing to hear the tonal harmony and dissonance and how methodical each part was.  Afterward the chanting, four of the monks got to work on the mandala.  A lot of it was pre-drawn on a mat in front of them, and they all for leaned over it, their heads converging in the center, pointing at different spots and speaking in Hindi, I imagine. (They were from a south Indian monastery, so it could have been a regional dialect.) There was some disagreement and compromise, I believe, but eventually they decided where to draw other ovals and lines.

The next day, when I went back to see the progress that had been made on it, I again felt the general peace I feel in the store, then amplified by the work of the monks.  In particular, I was steadied by a sound I’d heard the day before, the distinctive sound of the metal tubes rubbing against each other, which they each used to “paint” with sand.

As they were scattering the sand – drawing the picture – I found I was feeling anxious, though I couldn’t quite pinpoint why.  It was like I wanted it to be done already, to happen faster than it was happening.  I’ve noticed that kind of feeling in my yoga practice as well. For example, times when I’m in a pose that sucks or I’m afraid I can’t get enough oxygen breathing through my nose. Every time, I found that when I breathed in the face of my anxiety, it passed.  I became aware of how much in my daily life is frenetic and… shallow, for lack of a better word.  There is not really time for things to be deep.

This was a valuable insight for me, because now I can look for ways to change it.


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