Do you have one of those mouths that just won’t quit? Does that tongue of yours keeping flapping up and down even when you can SEE the person you’re talking to has switched off and gone to a more interesting place? Have they nicknamed you Talkus Interruptus at the office because no one can get a word in edgewise?
Welcome to the fold! Come, my friend, sit down. Let’s see who can get the most words out in five minutes.
I’m patting you’re hand in empathy right now, actually. Because I know what it’s like to be stuck in that talking loop, where it seems that a young infant on red cordial has somehow gotten behind the wheel of your mouth and it’s careening out of control. It’s my modus operandi.
Could you control the talking if you tried? You might be able to – but would you implode? Because consider this – compulsive talking is less about actual TALKING than it is about ENERGY. The energy of compulsive talking is EXCITEMENT and we need to put it somewhere – if not in chattering, then perhaps in walking quickly, or brushing our teeth hurriedly, or rushing between daily tasks and activities. Excitement is a form of ANXIETY – even though we might consider it a positive form of anxiety, it has the same effects as any anxiety has on the body. It activates the sympathetic nervous system. When this happens, the body functions in ‘reactive’ mode – the body floods with adrenaline, the muscles tense up, the mind is hyper-alert, ready for take-off. Now, this is a handy mode in which to function… if you need to run away from a cave lion. But if you’re just talking to your pal over a cup of tea, you don’t need to have the adrenaline switched on. When you constantly exist in excitement, you exhaust the body. Worse, you condition the body to function in a state of excitability or ‘reactivity’ and it starts ‘unlearning’ how to exist in rest mode – which is vital to restoring and balancing all of the bodily systems (like digestion and sleep) and to creating overall health.
In yoga, this excitable energy is known as ‘rajas’. Rajasic energy comes in very handy when we need to take action and get things done in life. But when it dominates, it can lead to an incessant, compulsive kind of drive that creates tensions and imbalances in the body and mind and prevents us from accessing an experience of calmness and clarity of perception. Being caught up in rajas is like being caught in the eye of a tornado – you become ungrounded and dizzy from all the spinning around.
So how do we tame this wild rajas animal so that it becomes our beloved pet that sits when we tell it to and comes when we ask it to? How do we create a MODERATE, balanced energy that allows us to communicate and function in a state of calmness?
A good place to start is simply to WATCH. Notice the sensations occurring in your body when your mouth or actions are motoring at high speed. Is there a tight ball of tension in the tummy or the throat? Are your shoulders cranked up around your ears? Do you feel as if someone injected lemon sherbert directly into your bloodstream? Are your ears aching (oh no, hang on, that’s the ears of the person you’re talking to… ;)). Or is there some other feeling? Simply NOTICE, without judgement, without the need to change anything.
And then BREATHE. Take a slow breath through the nostrils and guide it deep into the abdomen. Then let it out – oh what the hell, let it out with a BIG SIGH. Do this a few times, or many times, until you sense the body relaxing. Repeat this process, next time you notice those feelings of excitement manifesting in the body.
Congratulations – you just activated your parasympathetic nervous system. Your body is now at rest, oxygen is flowing where it needs to, adrenaline is subsiding, your stomach can now digest that cup of tea (and your listener can digest what you are saying to them). The young infant on red cordial is sleeping peacefully and you are back in control of the wheel.
Of course, there are many more yogic practices you can employ to deepen this effect of calming the excitable energy in the body. We’ll get to those in good time. For the moment… the simple acts of WATCHING and BREATHING is enough. Now… if only I could apply my own advice…
Happy Talking. 😀
© The Yoga Experiment, 2012
The Yoga Experiment, 2012