I recently did a workshop (at the Trichotillomania Learning Center national conference) on the deeper lessons of yoga for skin pickers and hair pullers. In this article I’m going to focus on what I believe is the single most important one.
First, a little background. What most of us think of as yoga is a small subset of what yoga actually is. Yoga is sometimes even called the “science of life” because it can be a complete instruction on how to live a quality life.
There are four separate paths of yoga: karma yoga, bhakti yoga, raja yoga and jnana yoga. They all lead to the same destination, which is the practical realization that we are not separate beings dealing with the difficulties of a body and a mind, despite the illusion that it seems like we are. At the end of each path is transcendence of our limited body-mind consciousness and an emerged awareness of the unlimited consciousness and connectedness of the entire universe. Whoa. To simplify, you can think of it as attaining a state of complete peace, love and happiness. And isn’t that what we are all looking for?
So that is the ultimate destination. The yoga asanas, or postures, what most people think of as yoga, make up only the third step of the eight steps on the raja yoga path, in which the body and especially the mind are stilled and focused in order to be transcended in deep meditation. Leading to… peace, love and happiness.
In my opinion, although there are lessons from all the paths of yoga, the most important lesson for skin pickers comes from the path of karma yoga. Karma means action, and karma yoga means we act without attachment to the results of our actions. When we do that, we are free. (And experience peace, love and happiness. ;-)
When we pick, we are typically very attached to the results of the picking, in a negative way. It upsets us greatly. When we can learn to be less concerned, less upset about the damage we do to our skin, that’s when we will be free and have more power to do the positive actions that, over time, will get us to stop picking. How do we get less upset? One way is we focus on something else. That could be the actions we do to decrease our picking, or it could be something else entirely. Another definition of karma yoga is selfless service, and serving others who need us (again, ideally without attachment to the results of our actions) is a great way to get out of our own misery, forget about our own troubles and put them in perspective.
When we try to stop picking, we are still usually focused on how our skin looks: are the scars still there, are the scars fading, etc.? This focus on the results of our actions, rather than on the actions themselves, is a yogic “no-no”. And although it is understandable to be caught up in how our skin looks, this type of narrow focus is a major part of the problem, rather than the way out.
You only have the right to focus on the actions you do, not on their consequences. The lesson is to let go of the continual focus on how your skin looks, whether you pick or not. You can have a goal in mind, to stop picking, and then break that down into action steps, but then you need to focus on the actions, rather than the results. It’s okay to measure our progress via a log, for example, but not to be overly attached to whether the log shows it was a good day or a bad day. We do the work, including learning from our setbacks, and the work is what’s important.
Like they say: it’s the journey, not the destination. The destination must be in mind so we can map out how to get there, but the important thing is to take step after step, and not let thoughts of discouragement about where you appear to be in the journey get to you. Do your best and release the rest.
Love and support,
p.p.s. Have you downloaded my free “Freedom Kit”? It comes with a written and audio report, “Why you pick your skin and how to finally stop,” a video on “how to stop skin picking urges in two minutes flat,” and my “Live Free” newsletter in your inbox each month. Learn more here.