Tranquility As An Intention
It’s pretty easy for most of us to cultivate tranquility in a tranquil setting, much more difficult when things get chaotic. For one thing, perceived or real threats from our environment cue off anxiety. When this anxiety reaches a certain physiological threshold, called the fight or flight response, the state is incompatible with calm and ease. For another thing our mirror cells, the neurons thought to be associated with empathy, make us take on the strong emotional states of others without really being aware of what is happening. In other words, when those around us get riled up we get riled up too.
In this sense the mark of people who have worked to cultivate and live tranquility is that they don’t get pulled into the chaotic emotional states of others but instead pull these others into their own tranquil emotional states. Thich Nhat Hanh comes to mind as a prime example.
If you want to make tranquility your default setting you’ve got to be intentional about it and you need to get practice in situations where things are chaotic. Setting tranquility as an intention at the start of a yoga class seems to us to be an ideal strategy because it’s a safe space but you’re also ratcheting up the intensity to the point where maintaining the feeling of calm and ease throughout the sequence is a real challenge. The key is to remember to come back to your intention many times over the course of class, specifically when your thoughts and emotions are starting to run wild due to the physical exertion.
When we observe people who seem imperturbable in the face of stressors that would make us lose our cool we might admire them but we shouldn’t make the mistake of thinking their state of being is natural and effortless. Cultivating tranquility is a practice, it’s an intentional way of life. Yoga offers an ideal opportunity to make tranquility a part of your life by setting it as an intention on a regular basis.