A blog about yoga, life, health and healing.
6/25/2013 1 Comment
If you know me well, you know that I love scars. Especially on faces. They are so beautiful to me because they cannot be hidden. They reveal the truth.
We all have something that we would rather not reveal to the world. If it's a physical affliction, we can sometimes cover it up. Our mental and emotional afflictions however, are much harder to hide.
Buddha said, "there are three things that cannot long be hidden, the sun, the moon, and the truth."
The part of ourselves that we don't want to reveal can become our shadow. It lurks inside of us just under the surface until something forces it out of it's hiding. Usually, our shadow side is revealed through our relationships with others.
Carl Jung said that "what we dislike in others is a crack in the door of who WE are." So, what you vehemently acuse another of, is often really what you deny in yourself. We are afraid to reveal our shadow side so instead we project it onto others.
In yoga philosophy we learn to turn our attention inward and study ourselves. This practice of svadhyaya helps us to get to know ourselves deeply and start to acknowledge that what happens outside of us can act as a mirror to what is going on inside of us. When we keep our inward focus we can learn to reveal, accept, and have compassion for our shadow side. We are only human afterall and to quote Deepak Chopra, "we are all part saint and part sinner."
Once we see honestly that part of us that we deem as a "sinner" we can release it from where it is hidden so that it no longer has power over us.
When the light of truth and understanding shines through our "cracks", the perfection that is within us can be revealed.
I often hear the phrase, "this too shall pass" as a way to comfort someone who is going through a difficult time.
It reminds them that everything changes with the passage of time.
As I watched my fourth child graduate from fifth grade on Tuesday, I thought with a twinge of sadness, "this TOO shall pass".
The things that we want to pass, pass. The things that we don't necessarily want to pass, pass as well.
In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali says that it is an illusion to think that we can hold onto anything because eventually all things come to an end. When we are in this illusion, we cause ourselves to suffer. Yoga is practiced as a way to reduce our suffering and get to a place of peaceful awareness.
One of the main concepts taught in the Yoga Sutras is vairagya. It is translated as, "non attachment". According to the wisdom of yoga, it is our attachment to the ever changing nature of our family, friends, possesions, our bodies, beliefs, and ideas that bring about our suffering. When we "detach" from the things that we think we can hold onto, we will suffer less.
The word "detachment" can feel a bit cold hearted. It almost sounds like we shouldn't care about people and all of the things that we have invested so much time, effort, and love into.
A much better translation that I came across recently is to "hold lightly".
Imagine holding a small kitten. You "hold (the kitten) lightly". You are gentle in your embrace, and you use care and attention as you enjoy the soft fur and the sound of it's purring.
On the other hand, if you grip the kitten too tightly for fear of dropping it, it will surely try to get away. It may even scratch or bite you. Whether you hold the kitten lightly or hold the kitten with a very tight grip, it will still leave you at some point.
With each manner of embracing the kitten, you will be left feeling an emptiness in your hands and lap after it is gone.
If you held the kitten tightly however, your empty hands will be left bitten and scratched so your suffering will be greater.
Life is like that too. Vairagya, "holding lightly" reminds us to appreciate and be aware of those things that we hold dear to us. If we grip them too tightly in an attempt to keep them in our possesion, we may actually push them away. "Holding lightly" allows us to stay present and focus on the moments that we have together instead of focusing on the fear of what it will be like when they are gone.
Next time you feel possesive about the things that you "own", hold them lightly or maybe even set them free. With a regular yoga practice that includes vairagya, you may even become free.
I am always in awe of the wildflowers that grow along the side of the highway.
The other day I thought, "Well that's a crappy a place to be a flower." Cars whizzing by blowing exhaust on their beautiful little pedals, no one stopping to smell them or tell them how pretty they are, having to wait for rain to get a drink of water. I mean wouldn't they much prefer the backyard like my roses? They would be tended to and pruned, fed with expensive plant food, watered everyday by the automatic sprinklers, and admired by everyone who sees them.
My flowers seem to bloom for my benefit, to look pretty so that my family and friends can enjoy their beauty and aroma. In contrast, those wildflowers seemed as if they emitted this natural grace and gratitude. Those tenacious little highway flowers seemed to simply bloom for the sake of blooming. While their living conditions could be considered atrocious, they bloomed where they were planted anyway.
I wonder if those highway flowers would be upset if they saw where my backyard flowers lived. Would they think, "well this sucks", those backyard flowers have it so much better. This isn't fair!"
In the Yoga Sutras by Patanjali, one of the niyamas or personal practices we learn is called santosha. Santosha means contentment. Being content with who we are and what we have in the moment can be a challenge if we are constantly looking into the backyard of another. The Eight limbed path of yoga gives us the tools to to turn our attention inward to find contentment in our own backyard. According to the Yoga Sutras, when we find santosha, "unexcelled happiness pervades our being" regardless of the circumstances of our lives. Patanjali tells us that deep inside each of us is an inner awareness that is peaceful, happy and content. The practices offered by the wisdom of yoga can help us to remember this Divine truth.
Being content with what we have and who we are doesn't mean we are complacent. Instead as we move in the direction that we would like to grow, we appreciate and have gratitude for each step along the way.
We can learn from those wildflowers blooming on the side of the highway and know that when we are feeling "stuck" by the circumstances of our lives, we should focus our attention on our own backyard and bloom where we're planted.
Last week, while attending my regular Wednesday morning yoga class, I noticed that over the past few months my effort in asana practice was becoming a bit lackluster.
I stopped jumping back in chutarunga, used my knees in yoga push ups, and opted out of some of the challenging inversions and arm balances. I realized that all of the things that I had been so excited to learn when I was a beginner to class had started to lose their appeal.
When I observed my behavior I thought, "What's this about?" I wasn't injured or tired and I was quite capable of doing all of the challenging poses, I just didn't feel like it lately.
I remembered back to my first few Wednesday morning yoga classes. I was so excited to be learning new and challenging poses, being pushed to my edge, and listening to in depth discussions on the Yoga Sutras. With great enthusiasm, I went to class three times a week, practiced poses at home, and read everything that I could find about yoga philosophy. I was in a honeymoon phase with my asana practice!
Now, years later, the realization hit me that I was in a different phase of my practice. Although I still love yoga and my teacher's gifted style of teaching, I am no longer on my yoga honeymoon. I am in a phase that requires some effort and work to sustain my passion and ability to continue to learn and grow.
When we are new to something, we often have a natural enthusiasm for it. Our "beginner's mind" is open, curious, accepting, and present to all of the new information coming in. Then as we gain more experience and knowledge, we tend to lose that excitement and our passion fades. We may even think we know all there is to know. This can happen in our marriages, in our jobs, or in any area of our lives.
In yoga philosophy, one of the Niyamas (great vows) that Patanjali recommends we commit to is tapas. Tapas is a burning enthusiasm or passion for our practice. He tells us that enthusiasm isn't necessarily something that just happens, but something that we cultivate. Looking outward for inspiration can work temporarily, but ultimately our enthusiasm must come from within.
Armed with this knowledge allowed me to make a conscious effort last week to regain my enthusiasm for my yoga practice. I committed to jumping back in chutarunga, pushing myself to my edge, and doing all of the inversions offered by my teacher as if they were new to me again. I opened my mind and before I knew it, I felt my old passion and enthusiasm come flooding back.
Zen Master and author, Shunryu Suzuki said, "In a beginner's mind there are many possibilities, in an expert's there are few."
Choosing to look at our lives with the mind of a beginner can bring creativity, optimism, enthusiasm and endless possibilities into everything that we do.
All Abhyasa Ahimsa Aparigraha Asmita-Ego Attachment Baron Baptiste Beginner's Mind Bramacharya Carl Jung Clear Seeing Colorless Comfortable Discomfort Creating Spaciousness In Mind And Body Cultivate The Opposite Deepak Chopra Dharma Empty Your Cup Enthusiasm Equanimity Family Fight Or Flight Great Vows Inner-awareness Inner Critic John Kabbatzinnb2faff332d Listening Mirrors To Ourselves Monkey Hunting Non Stealing Patanjali Pause Pillar Pleasure And Pain Posseses Us Practice Pratipaksa Bhavana Pratyahara Present Moment Present Moment Awareness Respond Instead Of React Samadhi Samskara Santosha Satya Sauca Sensual Pleasures Shadow Side Spirituality Steadiness And Ease Sthira And Sukha Strength Sustained Attention Svadhyaya There You Are Thich Nat Hahn This Too Shall Pass True Self Uncertainty Universal Truth What We Possess Wherever You Go Wisdom Yoga Philosophy Yoga Sutra 1. 14 Yoga Sutra 1.33 Yoga Sutra 2.33 Yoga Sutra 2 37cfe9965fa2 Yoga Sutra 2. 46 Yoga Sutras