Sheep aren’t the problem

I’ve been looking back at some of the digital memories I recorded in Iceland last year. One of my favorites is our speedy boat tour of Jökulsárlón, Iceland's deepest lake, formed by the retreat of Breiðamerkurjökull glacier.

Every 10 minutes or so, during the mad dash from shore to glacial tongue, our captain idled the powerful engine long enough for brave souls to let loose of the boat's rope and take pictures of the icebergs. I still held on tight, as he told us about the time Hollywood dammed the lagoon. Without access to the ocean, it froze over, and they filmed Die Another Day's climactic car chase

At a later photo op, he recounted Réttir, the ancient, annual Icelandic tradition of rounding up the island’s free-ranging sheep. In a country with twice as many sheep as people, it takes entire villages to shepherd the flocks home. 

As I listened to his story of sorting sheep again this week, I was reminded of another sustaining practice, the importance of seeing our thoughts and not belonging to them. When the farmers find a sheep that isn’t theirs, they let it go. NBD. When we do the same with our thoughts, we block a lot of suffering and leave the door open for happiness to return. It’s possible that life, like Réttir, can become a celebration.

In a recent interview, Judith Hanson Lasater described the potential of disidentification like this:

“The problem is not the thoughts. You’re never going to really get rid of thoughts. There’s no such thing as a calm mind because the unconscious mind is generating as many as 60,000 thoughts a day. The key here to me is this ability to see the thoughts and not to believe that’s who I am.

“Thoughts about ourselves, our bodies, our yoga, our life, endless thoughts, the other person is bad, or this politician’s horrible, this one’s wonderful. It’s not about having those thoughts. That’s the human aspect of our divine-human connection.

“We are locations where the human and the divine intersect. If we deny our humanity, we can never accept our divinity. And if we don’t accept our divinity, we will harm our humanity. When we lie there on the floor, with no distraction, no cell phone, nothing, we have the opportunity. A restorative pose is the opportunity to be with the higher self, to be present with it, and to identify with that part of us which is eternal.”

Now, WOOLdn’t that be nice?