Do you approach yoga, (or life in general), as a quest for self-improvement? Shedding, reshaping and replacing your self-proclaimed undesirable parts along the way? 2 years ago on retreat I had a huge aha moment - it was the moment when I realised that I didn't need to change. Ridiculously simple, yet deeply profound. In a brilliant flash of clarity I understood not just intellectually, but with every cell of my being that my fundamental self, my blueprint, the miracle of life that is flesh and blood ME, could not change. And along with every other creation, I was exactly as I should be. No less and no more than the trees and the stars.
Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
No doubt the universe is unfolding, as it should.
from Desiderata ~ Max Ehrmann
On this particular retreat my teacher Paul talked about yoga students being limited by approaching yoga as a process of becoming a better person. Of course our egos love this, it focuses on their favourite subject, ME. But the belief that we should constantly strive to be different keeps us in a state of agitation, rejection and conflict. The struggle is exhausting, it causes much suffering and we are kept very busy fueling the unquenchable fire of our egos. This non-stop battle keeps us deaf and blind to a deeper level of awareness and our opening consciousness.
As we understand that a like a leopard, we can't change our spots, we foster acceptance. Acceptance that extends beyond the little ME, and broadens outwards. We understand that the fire of the mind is mostly caught up in all our ego dramas and our awareness starts to observe the process with clearer sight. We notice that we are much more than the blah, blah, blah of our everyday mind. This creates space from the all consuming intensity of mind activity and the fire looses some of it's ferocious heat. And then? Something else has the opportunity to shine through the cracks, permeating the smoke screen of the little ME...
For an instant, I am absent, myself and my problems, my anxieties, my troubles;
nothing but this wonder exists – Krishnamurti
Since the mammoth aha moment I have been letting it sink in and exploring the way forward on my yoga path. The signposts that guide and light my path thus far (as I understand them) are distilled below and come from my direct experience. I hope that they may be of assistance to you!
Commit to a regular practise. It doesn't matter what you do, but that you do it regularly. The same thing over and over. The path of yoga/life is an experiential one, not an intellectual one, and the more you do it, the more it illuminates. It requires discipline and patience but the good news is these virtues develop as you do. In spite of your protesting ego!
It's a long journey. The promise and process of self-realisation is a slow process which yogis believe spans several lifetimes. You may decide why bother at all?, (and fair enough). It's a slow, and at times, confusing and frustrating journey, but our quest for a more peaceful life compels us to keep investigating. We have so much more than we need in our comfortable western lives, and yet many of us are left wanting, feeling that something is missing. And so we continue to ask the questions.
Take your time. Nothing needs to be achieved this year or next year. We want to achieve and get results quickly. Let go of the push and shove. Why rush? Take your time and it will unfold. Have faith.
It's an an organic process. On the journey our passion, patience and discipline will naturally ebb and flow. The good news is that some of it happens without effort. The process seems to have it's own momentum. In spite of ourselves we mature and let go. Less struggle, more ease. Less push, more patience. Relax and enjoy the process!
Settle in, relax & breathe. Fighting, struggling and resisting on the path is inevitable. Return to simple practices of relaxing, connecting to breath and moving your body. Notice the internal struggles. Observe them. Be curious and listen; energetically, mentally, physically. When the going gets tough, breathe! Nothing remains constant and what ever moves within you will continue to move and evolve.
Ultimately, it's not about the little you. This is terrifying. Our egos fight a fierce battle to stay top cat and keep our territory firmly guarded. But if it's not all about me, then what is it about? Yep, terrifying!
Seek guidance when needed. Our egos love to think that we know the best way forward. At times they do. Every one of us walks a different path and we all get lost at some point. When you lose your way seek help. You are not alone.
And keep coming back to acceptance, accept the ME just as she/he is. Through the process of yoga and transformation you won't be miraculously transformed into your fantasy, saintly version of self. You will still be grumpy and sad and envious and lazy and greedy and selfish and impatient and... And that's OK. It 's not the what you think or feel, but how you react and act on it. Accept and befriend your spots...
Be yourself - everyone else is taken ~ Oscar Wilde