Ever had one of those moments where you hear a common phrase but for whatever reason you just hear it differently? Like you’re hearing it for the first time, or can see it more clearly? This happened to me recently in a café when I heard someone say “it really caught me off guard.” I found myself chewing on each word, along with my (mmm…) zucchini bread.
When you envision someone who’s been “caught off guard” what do you see? I think of a sort of surprised, floundering, deer-in-the-headlights look, and then imagine that person scrambling to get back “on guard.” Or, I imagine someone being struck on the side of the head by some flying object, and toppling right over to the ground. Note that this gentleman didn’t say “I was surprised,” or “it’s not what I expected.” The difference to me is that in statements like these, we describe our internal response to something (“I felt x”) without implying that perhaps we should’ve been doing something to avoid what happened.
Of course the idea is not to pick apart our language ad infinitum, or place too much weight on every word we say. No fun. But our words hold a potent power, and play a huge role in creating the lenses through which we see the world. Our words help to build our entire inner landscape. And it seems a tragic notion that we might be better prepared for life if we are “on guard.” How fatiguing! My muscles ache a little just thinking about “on guard”… How rigid. No room for movement. Stuck. How afraid. This is essentially the energy that makes up Anxiety Disorders. And how inauthentic we must be when we are armoured, hiding our juicy, vulnerable, giving selves…
Off guard, everyone. You’ll be able to handle what comes, especially if you soften around it. Yoga teaches us to do what we can to prepare and to be strong (tapas: work, effort, heat), and then to let go of resistance and flow like water (ishvara pranidana: surrender). Just some food for thought for our verbal selves!