To Complain Or Not To Complain, That’s The Question
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I have recently participated in a kundalini yoga teacher training in Moffat, CO led by Gurmukh Kaur Khalsa. Every day, I woke up at 4am to practice yoga, meditation, and chanting for about 8 to 10 hours a day for 23 days straight. It was a beautiful experience that I’m still dissecting and integrating.
In one of the conversations with Gurushabd, one of the teachers in the training course, he mentioned, “Do what you have to do but do not complain because complaining becomes a habit.” His words took me back to my Alexander Technique lessons and how habits dictate one’s reality. One can sit with a collapsed spine and feel comfortable because it’s habitual but it’s also possible to feel comfortable when sitting tall on the sit bones if it’s habitual.
Habits can either be constructive or non-constructive. Sitting with a collapsed spine and feeling comfortable is a non-constructive habit. Sitting on the sit bones and keeping the spine elongated is a constructive habit. How we walk, sit, eat, breathe, and even how we brush our teeth is based on habits. And these habits are built day by day, year after year, since childhood. Habits can go back to as early as life in the womb. Habits can also survive generations.
No wonder it is so difficult to change or break habits. Most habits are on auto mode and we don’t even realize we are doing them. For example, I often catch myself brushing my teeth and thinking of something else other than focusing on the activity at hand. As soon as I catch myself drifting off, I mentally pause and come back to the here and now by connecting with my body and the space around me.
What I learned is that there are several ways one can access the now. The first step is to realize that the mind and body are in different places. An example would be the mind thinking of the next vacation while the body is brushing its teeth. Once you catch your mind wondering, bring yourself back to the moment by bringing awareness back to your body.
Some of the present moment awareness practices that work well for me are a) connect to breath, b) wiggle my toes, c) mentality connect to the activity my body is performing. What’s important to remember is that in order to live with presence, mind and body work together when performing any activity.
When my husband read this blog he asked me “But Ariel, isn't it nice when the mind drifts off?” I replied, the body suffers when your mind travels far from it. And if you think of something negative, which is just a matter of time until you do, your body will tense up and you won’t even realize. If the mind and body are not actively working together in the present moment, you can end up creating unnecessary suffering.
Here is some of what happens to my body when my mind drifts off while brushing my teeth:
- I’m pressing the brush into my teeth with more force than necessary.
- I end up causing too much strain on my neck as I mindlessly lean over the sink.
- My hips hang to the right side causing a small tension in my lower back.
- My forehead and eyes become slightly tense.
- I lock my knees as I stand.
Here is some of what I do to come back to the present moment when I catch myself wondering as I brush my teeth:
- I mentally pause, take a deep breath, and sense my feet on the ground.
- I notice the ground below me and the space around me.
- My hands become softer which leads me to brushing my teeth softer.
- I bend my knees and keep my hips square, creating space to connect with my own eyes and face as I gaze through the mirror.
- Time slows down and the activity of brushing my teeth becomes pleasant, detailed, and grounded in my body and in the space around me.
Not to mention that when I mindfully brush my teeth, I do a much better job at it. My teeth feel squeaky clean, I’m inspired to floss, and radiate a beautiful smile. What I’ve noticed is there is a correlation between being in the now and doing something well.
This whole conversation is taking me back to the beginning of this blog and to the habit of complaining. If you believe that your words shape your reality, what can complaining do to create your reality?
“See if you can catch yourself complaining, in either speech or thought, about a situation you find yourself in, what other people do or say, your surroundings, your life situation, even the weather. To complain is always nonacceptance of what is. It invariably carries an unconscious negative charge. When you complain, you make yourself into a victim. When you speak out, you are in your power. So change the situation by taking action or by speaking out if necessary or possible; leave the situation or accept it. All else is madness.” Eckhart Tolle
Similarly to mindlessly brushing your teeth or sitting up with a collapsed spine, complaining also becomes a habit. In this case, I can certainly say that complaining is a non constructive habit. Just like mindlessly brushing your teeth can cause the body to deform overtime, so can complaining. Try it for yourself. Next time you catch yourself complaining, in either speech or thought, notice what happens to your body. Does your breathing become erratic? Do your shoulders raise? Does your body become rigid or collapse? The body doesn’t lie but in order to feel the small changes as thoughts and words surge, your mind has to be alert and in the present moment.
I have a friend who cut the cords of generations of complaining mothers. Her mother complains a lot, so does her grandmother and so on. Complaining is basically a family tradition. My friend understood how detrimental complaining is and decided to approach life in a different way by becoming one of the most positive people I know. In the years I’ve known her, she has barely complained about anything. She lives a good life and is overall happy. She made her family’s unconscious pattern conscious and broke the habit.
What a wonderful gift she has given to her family tree and to her own kids. F.M. Alexander, the creator of the Alexander Technique used to say, “People do not decide their futures, they decide their habits and their habits decide their futures.” Whether it is the non-constructive habit of complaining or the constructive habit of sitting tall, habits are nothing more than a compile of actions one after the other.
Catch yourself performing non-constructive habits and consciously choose a constructive one instead. Watch your destiny unfold ever more beautifully. For example, sit tall even if at first it feels uncomfortable. Let go of complaining even if it’s a family habit. Be mind, body, and soul in the present moment even when you dislike the reality you find yourself in. The only way to transcend anything is by accepting what is and being there fully. Cultivate this inner space and find a way to be grateful. Ground yourself in your body and deliberately choose constructive habits time and time again.