Saturday, July 17, 2010

Yada Yada Yada

I never expected to hear a mindstate described by the term "Yada-Yada-Yada", nor was I expecting the twinkly-eyed Tibetan man to define "Yada-Yada-Yada" as "Blah-Blah-Blah". Imagine my surprise when the shorthand for this particular mindstate became Yada-Yada-Yada-Blah-Blah-Blah!

Mingyur Rinpoche ( was describing the constant stream of thoughts in our mind as the Yada-Yada-Yada-Blah-Blah-Blah. Our reaction to the stream of thoughts tends to follow two paths. We either follow the directives of these thoughts (what he termed "Yes Sir"), or we fight these thoughts ("Get Out").

What are these thoughts, and how do we come to react to them by believing them ("Yes Sir") or rejecting them ("Get Out")? I recently had the chance to observe both reactions to Yada-Yada-Yada-Blah-Blah-Blah.

Yes Sir

I looked out the window at my yard this morning. Seeing the tall grass, I immediately thought of the person coming over to mow later in the week - I’ll need to pay Randy! I didn’t have the cash set aside, so I’d have to go to the cash machine. When would I do that? The day was already planned out! Tomorrow? Ugh - I didn’t want to make a special trip to Mt. Horeb. I can’t believe how much I have to do this week, and so little time!

This whole discourse started by simply looking out the window. There were people, cars, trees and the sky to look at, though I chose to see only the length of the grass. With the catalyst of the grass, my mind immediately began a stream of thoughts, one linking to the other. This stream of thoughts (the Yada-Yada-Yada-Blah-Blah-Blah) had seized me! I deferred to this stream as being something substantial and concrete, and let it change my view of the day and upcoming week. Yes, there was plenty to do this week; though there was also plenty of time to get everything accomplished, practice some yoga and get out on the bike too. Under the influence of the “Yes Sir” reaction to Yada-Yada-Yada-Blah-Blah-Blah, however, I momentarily forgot the objective reality of my week, and fell into the scarcity mindset that can stress me out.

The stream of thoughts is omnipresent for most of us, most of the time. Without realizing it, we often say “Yes Sir” to these thoughts, and they end up shaping our view of ourselves and the world around us. As Rinpoche and other great meditation teachers remind us, this stream of thoughts does not have to constitute our reality. We can learn to train our mind to recognize the Yada-Yada-Yada-Blah-Blah-Blah as being changeable and fleeting, rather than concrete and real. It’s our choice; and meditation helps train our mind to recognize our participation in making our own view of the world.

Get Out

If you’re anything like me, random songs often pop into your mind. A few days ago I found an old Yello song in my mind; and even worse, the soundtrack was stuck on repeat. Being a long-term meditator, I immediately recognized this as an option - I didn’t have to fall prey to these silly thoughts, as I was the master of my mind. Or so I thought. The more I tried to shove the song (a form of Yada-Yada-Yada-Blah-Blah-Blah) out of my mind with a "Get Out" response, the fiercer it came bouncing back. Do you remember the old toy, Weebles? Weebles were known far and wide for wobbling without falling down. Like an uber-Weeble, the Yada-Yada-Yada-Blah-Blah-Blah kept coming back into my mind, despite all my efforts to shove it aside. As I struggled to concentrate on answering e-mail, my mind battled the soundtrack of Yello. Undeterred, the tune just kept popping back up into my mind like a crazed Weeble. My work efficiency and happiness had been thwarted by my “Get Out” reaction to the Yada-Yada-Yada-Blah-Blah-Blah.

Rinpoche taught us that saying “Get Out” or “Yes Sir” to the Yada-Yada-Yada-Blah-Blah-Blah generally fuels the fire, which doesn’t tend to make us happier and more capable people. By the practice of meditation, on the other hand, we learn another way to interact with our thoughts - a way toward a more expansive and joyful life. While this may sound like snake oil, it’s really a profound path - to be aware of the Yada-Yada-Yada-Blah-Blah-Blah without reacting with the “Get Out” or “Yes Sir”.

Yada-Yada-Yada-Blah-Blah-Blah is generally catalyzed by a sensation: a sound, sight, smell, taste or feeling. These sensations are by themselves harmless - they aren’t even the Yada-Yada-Yada-Blah-Blah-Blah; rather the Yada-Yada-Yada-Blah-Blah-Blah is the overlay atop the sensation. What if we developed a relationship with our senses - perhaps a friendship?

Moving Meditation

Rinpoche teaches meditation practices that come from a Tibetan Buddhist lineage, and as a long-term meditator, I appreciate his simple and direct approach. At the same time, I am very interested in yogasana, and continue to study how the seventh limb of yoga (meditation) relates to the third limb of yoga (asana, or postures).

How do we practice “Get Out” or “Yes Sir” when we practice the yoga postures? Among the many possibilities within the physical practice, fatigue can be a great teacher. It’s virtually inevitable we’ll experience fatigue in some pose, at some time. The fatigue can serve as a bodily form of Yada-Yada-Yada-Blah-Blah-Blah. Do we react to fatigue with the “Get Out”, or the “Yes Sir”?

Perhaps you’ve been in a yoga class and an enthusiastic teacher is pushing you well beyond your perceived limits. As your legs tremble in Virabhadasana II, the mind is often doing cartwheels - I’m so tired! What if I fall down? Is anybody else this tired? Does the trembling mean there’s something wrong? This stream of thoughts is an example of the Yada-Yada-Yada-Blah-Blah-Blah, in that one thought careens into the next thought, which generates another thought, which leads to another idea...

We often recognize this thinking as counter productive in our yoga practice, and therefore we try to stuff those thoughts away. Think about your breathing. Bend that knee. Deeper! We have many strategies to push the thoughts aside (Get Out), and quite often we get through the task at hand, and move on to the next. Too often, however, the “Get Out” reaction to fatigue comes back to bite us via injuries. Sensation is the voice of the body, and saying “Get Out” to the body’s voice thwarts the two-way conversation that is the essence of a mind/body activity.

If we don’t react with “Get Out”, we often say “Yes Sir”. In a movement practice, the “Yes Sir” has us believing the Yada-Yada-Yada-Blah-Blah-Blah. When we believe the I’m so tired, what if I fall down, is anybody else this tired?, does the trembling mean there’s something wrong?, we’re likely to come out of the pose before we’ve had the chance to see what’s beyond our perceived boundaries. When we always operate within the comfortable confines of what’s familiar, we’re assured to become stiffer in both body and mind. Sensation was the starting point of the Yada-Yada-Yada-Blah-Blah-Blah - in the yoga pose, can you stay present with the sensation?

With the body, ignoring the stream of thoughts has drawbacks, while believing the Yada-Yada-Yada-Blah-Blah-Blah has its own perils, too. If we’re damned if we do, and damned if we don’t, what’s a yogi(ni) to do?

When we’re in Virabhadasana II, there are a flood of sensations. The thigh muscles have a story to tell, as do the hips and the arms. Can we be present with those sensations, even though the mind wants to take any one of those sensations and go running with it (my thigh is so tired, I wonder if my knee’s properly aligned, I had knee pain years ago, I hear knee replacement surgery is very painful, I’d better come out of this pose, no - I’d best hold this pose and strengthen my knee, is that my car out there? did I park my car legally? parking tickets suck...)? That stream of thought is business-as-usual for the Yada-Yada-Yada-Blah-Blah-Blah. Without saying either “Yes Sir” or “Get Out”, can we simply perceive the sensation? There are so many sensations in each moment, and we don’t need to remain rigidly a-fixed to one or two. We can allow the mind to have a longer leash and observe how when we notice a smell, we may feel the thighs, and a moment later feel our yoga-shorts bunching up. It’s all just sensation; and without overlaying anything atop those sensations, they’re perfectly harmless. With that elevated level of awareness, the poses will confer greater benefit in both body and mind!




JSH said...

What a great article Scott. I feel like I live in a constant state of Yada Yada Yada! And particularly in class, my mind wanders. Just letting it freely flow has been the best thing for me.

CC said...

I also saw Rinpoche, in St. Paul, and he was so funny in his lecture. The "Yes Sirs" and "Get Outs" were great. I lived in New York for a long time and New Yorkers will say "Get Out" in response to an incredulous statement. So every time I say "Get Out" to some Yada Yada Yada I will think of Rinpoche AND New Yorkers! Thanks for a great article.

Neeru said...

Yada, Yada Yada these word are having special meaning in yoga the main secret is hidden in these word during pronounce...fantastic meaning and information

harry said...

Hi, thanks for this information because this is very useful and helpful for me Retreat Yoga

Cortland said...

Great blog, Scott. What a delight to see Rinpoche's face when i opened the page!

Bezielen said...

I like this title.. This is mentioned something about yoga.. Its really innovative thinking.. Thanks for sharing this..

krishna said...

This is something new & nice to read...
Thanks for sharing

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