No one wants to say it, but if we get to the heart of the matter, domestic violence and child abuse, or any violence for that matter, is not just an NFL issue, it’s a society issue and even deeper, a male anger issue. Yes, men, I’m speaking to you. It’s time to step up and face the music. It doesn’t matter where the anger is coming from in your life. If you don’t address it, it’s going to come out in other ways.
I’ve worked with a number of guys that play in the NFL. They’ve expressed to me how their yoga practice has helped them to not react at times of anger in ways that might affect their team negatively by getting into a fight with someone pushing their buttons on the field. If it does this for them in competition, might it not help them to keep from acting out off the field? Absolutely. It’s almost impossible to practice yoga and meditation for a period of time and not become a better person as a result. Yoga and meditation should absolutely be part of the NFL’s plan moving forward.
“Anger allowed to fester eventually manifests as violence.”- Deepak Chopra
I know anger better than I ever wanted to. I know rage. I know what it is to fantasize of killing someone. I am not ashamed to share this, as it was my experience that caused me to have those feelings. But I did not act on them.
Why? Yoga and meditation.
I once sat silently in a courtroom and listened to testimony that my then wife of 8 years had been shot to death by her 18 year old son just 15 days before, and how he’d lured her to his apartment and blew her head off as she sat in her car, making “sure she was dead,” he said the night he was apprehended. We had a private memorial because I was being hounded by the press, my personal tragedy becoming internet fodder for anyone caring to share their 2 cents, and I now knew what my lover and best friend of 10 years looked like laid out on a slab of metal with her eyes sewn shut and a bullet hole to her head.
That was over 5 years now, and there have been plenty of rage and anger filled moments and days, but not weeks or months. And like any human being, I still have my times. I practice and teach yoga, but I am far from enlightened. I just move through those periods rather than getting stuck in them more often than not. I just refuse to let emotions from my past infiltrate and destroy my present.
The first couple of years, I was mindful on a moment to moment basis. You wouldn’t have wanted even a glimpse of the constant nightmare inside my head. Yoga and meditation taught me that no matter how crazy it got, my thoughts were a reflection of my experience and my actions were my reality. I also found that if I was able to sit quietly with them long enough, that eventually the craziness would subside.
My body was on fire and the thoughts too scary to look at. Staring at the ceiling was easier. Through time though, I have learned to accept my reality on a day to day basis, and continue to use my practice to see me through. Flashbacks that used to hit me like a ton of bricks and affect me for days, I am now able to process in minutes or even seconds sometimes. It's work, but it saved my life and allows me to live fully now.
And my life is good.
Mindfulness and meditation help us to see the difference between our thoughts and who we are.
Many of us are haunted by our pasts. We wake up every day reliving moments of death or loss, unable to move through the pain of something that happened, which then impacts everything we do in a negative way. Learning to accept those thoughts and flashbacks as part of our experience allows us to go forward with strength and wisdom. It also gives us the opportunity to move through life’s constantly changing circumstances with a little bit of grace as well.
Some of us are walking through our lives just pissed off. Many of us could probably reel off a list of surface-level reasons without ever understanding the true nature as to why we’re so angry because we’ve buried that pain so deep to keep from ever having to look at it that the simmering anger is all that’s left, and the rage we hold from that long forgotten or suppressed experience is just waiting for the right reason to erupt.
Yoga and meditation help us to slow things down, to work things back to the source of our thoughts and our emotions, and then to bring them to the surface in a safe place where we can start to see all of the “stuff” we’re actually holding on to. It doesn’t mean that we are able to necessarily let go of everything in an instant, and more often than not, that isn’t the case. It’s a process that takes time and lots of practice. That’s why it’s called a practice. In yoga, we like to say that it’s a practice the first time you step on the mat and it’s a practice the last time you step on the mat.
The more we establish this discipline of learning how we came to be wired the way that we are, the more we can consciously move forward in our lives making more mindful, healthy decisions.
I still have my moments. Traffic gets me at times, and I’ve let a few people have a piece of my mind over these last few years, but I always come back to me. Once I get into my practice and see my thoughts for what they are and watch them float on by, I settle into that space of truth and clarity. In “The Now,” everything is fine.
We can’t control everything that happens to us, but we have to work on how we react and respond to our environment.
We can’t control everything that happens to us, but we have to work on how we react and respond to our environment. Discovering that space between thoughts allows us to process and deal with our emotions rather than taking them out on the world around us. It is this gift that allows us to function in, and adapt to an ever changing and challenging world without losing ourselves in the highs or lows. It is the key to finding happiness in our lives, whether you sack quarterbacks for a living or drive a truck.
It is also our responsibility.
Yoga has been growing in popularity among people of all interests and athletes of a diverse list of disciplines. The unique combination.