Yoga classes end in savasana, or corpse pose, which is just lying on your back, completely still.
Some say it’s the most difficult pose, precisely because you’re not supposed to move at all. It’s all about the gap between what you did during the session and what you do afterward, a moment of reflection and appreciation. After you put your body into all these difficult positions, you’re able to find those five minutes of comfort in corpse pose.
Once again, the lesson applies: The past leads to your reaction and your ability to embrace the present. And what we do in the present has the power to change the future. During corpse pose, I started to notice this sense of euphoria. Over time, I wouldn’t even know where I was, that I was lying down, that class was over. I was so out of it that people would have to come and nudge me, thinking I was asleep. "Out of it" is actually inaccurate—I was the opposite, so completely in tune with my body and myself that everything else washed away.
My mind was settled and I didn’t want to leave that space: I didn’t know when or where I would find it again. I didn’t realize that what I was doing was called meditation. I began to study meditation and learned how to practice it. The purpose of meditation is not to have no thoughts—which is impossible—but to limit your thoughts. The goal is to go beyond your conscious mind, to find a place of enlightenment, to control the thoughts instead of having them control you. What we think becomes our reality; therefore, what we do begins with who we perceive ourselves to be.
The goal is to free our minds from the control over our thoughts that we’re conditioned to having. Scientists have proven that meditation affects the neurons and connections in your brain, and anyone who regularly practices it can attest that the effects are not just psychological. I learned more about the breath, how it’s connected to everything, understanding that it is our life force. As long as we have breath we have life, and as long as we have life, we have possibility. When you can connect your breath to your movements, you’re connecting your actions to your life. You’re connecting yourself to yourself.
My work, my issues, my healing—it all came back to control, but I had to relearn what that word meant. You can’t predict the future, but you can manipulate what it looks like by how you behave in the present moment. My tomorrow is based on the action of today; my today is based on my actions of yesterday. Meditation taught me not to focus on the future, which is where I believe anxiety resides.
Anxiety rests in the future, depression rests in the past, and possibility rests in the present. If you learn how to capitalize on and find comfort in even uncomfortable situations, you can maximize the present moment. That’s why it’s called groundbreaking—you’re breaking through solid assumptions. What you assumed was reality. The things that you once thought were the foundation of you and your world aren’t even there. That was all in your mind.
Excerpted from Strong in the Broken Places: A Memoir of Addiction and Redemption Through Wellness by Quentin Vennie, with permission from Rodale Books. Copyright © 2017.
For more on Quentin, find out what changes he made to his diet to heal his anxiety.