Walking across the tidal flats toward our home in Alaska presents challenges. I must maintain my balance over rock as I wade through the current of a creek which looks more like a river, swollen at 30 feet wide, a foot deep and rising. Climbing the cliff up to the woods above our house, I notice how my heart pounds and quads burn. I catch a thought straight from my childhood when I was not so keen about physical activity, “Ugh, this is tough!” Fortunately years of training as a psychotherapist and a student of yoga kick in: “Your mind has turned this into something negative, breathe!” I continue the ascent and gently tell myself, “Inhale deeply.” Breathing into my lungs, belly, across ribs and filling my back I feel calmer. At the top of the cliff I stop to watch an eagle catch a lift on the wind and glide toward the glacier. What happened here?
Using the tools of mentalizing – “thinking about thinking”, observing and analyzing the ways in which our mind responds to experience – we are free to alter reactions. Understanding that my thought turned negative I was able to call upon the positive, my yoga practice. Bringing forth prana soothed and energized me. In the endless hours of the Northern summer light there are many opportunities to use what I learn on my mat. Balance, breath, forward bends, side twists and more, accompany me on journeys paddling among sea mammals, hauling firewood, mountain climbing and gardening. Mat over mind is a useful mantra.