I just watched Southpaw, the movie about the boxer Billy Hope, played by Jake Gyllenhal.  What is striking in the movie – beyond his extraordinary muscular boxer’s physique – is the way his technique shifts from attacking and receiving the punches, to learning how to dodge the punches.

What do you protect? Do you protect your body? Do you protect your mind? Do you protect your heart?

What does it mean to protect? 

I protect my body by eating well, sleeping, exercising regularly, dry brushing and massaging oil into my skin, going to the doctor or massage therapists etc if I’m having physical issues and getting annual check ups with my GP. I also protect my body by challenging it regularly – making myself learn and do new things, coordinate different groups of muscles and limbs: whether it’s something that constantly challenges me, like Iyengar yoga, or completely new physical activities like swing dancing, Tae Kwon Do. Now I’m re-learning zumba and have started ballet classes.

I protect my mind in a number of ways. I read novels, I read books about yoga, coaching, meditation, buddhism, business.  I take online classes, I play games with my children and challenge my mind to learn the new names and words and routines for the new physical activities I take up.  I write regularly and talk to people all the time, particularly people who have different knowledge bases to me – I am a bit like a toddler, always asking why, how, what!  My former husband used to hate this about me, but I know I like this feature of myself and don’t plan on changing!

I protect my heart by keeping it open and attempting to love everyone and everything that comes across my path.  I refuse to close down and tighten up because of the abusers, liars and cheats that have crossed my path and hurt me, as my friend Vicky recently posted on her FB page:

 “God breaks the heart again and again until it stays open,” Hazrat Inayat Khan.

You could conceive of the heart as the soul or spirit – that part of you that is eternal and unending and continues to live after your physical body expires. Until quite recently I believed that when our bodies died, so did our minds/souls/consciousness – whatever that essence was that makes me who I am. But, no longer – I believe we have an eternal mind.

I have learned to let go of people who do not bring me any joy or love – these people are often our greatest teachers, they challenge us and get us to learn how to work with behaviors or actions or words that are hurtful or unpleasant or maybe even destructive.  Sometimes I have actually been able to let go of these people because I just don’t contact them and reach out to them and attempt to maintain contact with them.

Other times it is not possible to avoid a relationship with these kinds of people. So, I protect my heart by not involving myself with their drama/anger/negativity – whatever it is about those people that push my buttons and drive me wild! How do I do that? Well… erm… it takes practice, and I don’t always succeed, but the techniques I use are simple & I have written about them repeatedly on my blog.

Meditation.  Meditation.  Meditation. Did I say that already?

When someone lied about me and spread this horrible lie to lots of people, what helped me heal the most was practicing a form of meditation where I close my eyes and picture people standing in front of me and I send them a message of loving kindness and compassion.  When I receive vile and abusive messages from people who I can’t avoid, I do it.  It is the hardest when their rejections and vile abusive behavior impacts others that I love, like my children or parents.  When I found out that I had been cheated on, I did it.  When I found out that my parents had been threatened by someone who used to have a bigger role in my life, I did it.

The way that I do it is to start with someone I love, then someone who is neutral to me, then someone who I really dislike or even for someone for whom I have strong feelings of hate. And then, often most difficult, for oneself.

Find somewhere quiet and sit down – preferably cross-legged on a cushion, or on a chair with your ankles planted below your knees & your hands on your thighs or stacked palms up, tips of the thumbs touching. Close your eyes (which I won’t normally tell you to do when meditating) and slow down your breathing, allowing your mind to gently rest on the breath.

Picture #1 (the person you love) & see them standing clearly in front of you. Then say to them, out loud:

“May you be happy

May you be healthy

May you be safe

May you be at ease.”

Let that person go. Visualize person #2: the neutral person – maybe they served you coffee this morning, or held open the door to your office. See them and then say it to them. Let them go. Visualize person #3: the person you dislike/hate. And again – wish them well.  Let them go and then picture yourself, person #4.

It gets harder and harder to do – but what it does is it teaches you and encourages you to let go of the repetitive, angry, upset, hurt feelings about this person and they way they treat you or someone else or a whole group of people badly. The way I see it, is that my mind is like Manhattan real estate – it’s really expensive and I don’t want to give up a single neuronal firing to them and thinking about them and how horrible they are! My mind is the clear blue sky – I will not be defined by the ever changing clouds of emotions that sweep across them.

Copyright Tamsin Astor, YogaBrained LLC, 2015.