Don’t Be Such a Thermostat

For the last few weeks, I’ve been thinking a lot about the weather.  It has been very inconsistent as spring makes its attempt to atone for the long, hard winter we had this year.  We’ve had some sunny 70-degree days, a frost warning, and a bunch of chilly rain.  It’s a topic of conversation everywhere I go.  “How about this weather?”

Last week, I drove to the yoga studio in a torrential downpour.  As people ran in from the wind and rain to greet me, I heard things like  “What a gloomy day!” “It’s so lousy out there!” “I almost didn’t come because of this weather”.

If I let the endless barrage of negativity affect me, it might’ve brought me down.   So I just smiled and said things like “At least it’s not snowing!”   Or “But it’s sunny in my heart!”  Even though I felt like saying “Duuude.  Don’t be such a bummer! It’s only a little rain.”

So I decided to talk about it before class that day.   Why is it that we let the weather affect us so much?  Why do we let it determine whether we think the day is lovely or lousy?  The weather is external, but we let it get inside of us, on top of us.  We even say we are under the weather.  But we’re not, we’re above it.   The weather may change, but our outlook can remain bright, if we let it.

It’s the same with the people and events around us; they can be just like the weather.  We say things like, “That makes my blood boil”, or “I lost my cool”.  Why do we let people and events change the way we see things, and affect the way we feel?

When we’re on the yoga mat, we do our best to block out all external influences, to be in the moment, and not let anything else in.   And then we hope to do this when we step off of our mats; remain constant, content, and unaffected by external things.

This contentment and constancy seems to be an ongoing theme for me lately, and I’m always looking for different ways to say it, to get my point across.     And then Monday, someone said it much more eloquently than I have been.

I had the amazing opportunity to teach and practice yoga with Corey Booker, the Mayor of Newark.   He came into the classroom full of 7th graders when we were in the middle of flowing with our breath, and he joined us in our circle.   After a while, we stopped flowing and he began to talk about yoga and breathing, and stress management.  Then he took a few questions.

One student asked him if he ever had to go places, do things, or deal with people that he didn’t want to deal with.  And he answered with a story.

When he was a boy and he was faced with a challenge, his father told him that he could be a thermometer or a thermostat.  A thermometer responds to the weather all around it.  When the temperatures go up, it rises. When the temperatures go down, it falls.  But a thermostat controls the temperatures around it.   And so, he said, he decided to be a thermostat.  He tries his best not to let the events and people around him change his “temperature”.  He tries to be that person who is always constant, and in control of his reactions to things, even when he has to deal with difficult situations.

I think perhaps this is the analogy I had been looking for.  Why should you care about the weather? You are not a thermometer.

In all things, be a thermostat.

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