I have a confession to make. This is very hard to admit, especially since I make my way through the world as a yoga therapist, healthy-for-life coach, spiritual director, wife and mother.
The difficult admission is this:
Sometimes I am floundering and afraid. Actually, not just sometimes. Often.
During those frequent times, I’ve noticed what happens.
I’m in crisis. Anxiety fills my awareness – the tight muscles, restricted breath. As to what to do next, a million tasks and projects come to mind. Sometimes I just rush to do something productive, anything, to keep myself from spiralling into a funk of inadequacy and overwhelm. When I am able to be with the terrible sensations, my very capable mind frequently spins stories in which I am the central character: mistreated or overlooked, subject of hard-luck situations and terrible disasters, feeling like all is hopeless. Or I am the best supporting actress in a tragedy – struggling valiantly but vainly to allay the inevitable calamity that is oh-so-obvious.
When I am able to drop into my yogini frame of mind, though, I see clearly the human condition for what it is. The fear and confusion drop away. I am able to make conscious decisions that come from a very deep place with seemingly limitless vision.
It’s not that the situation has changed in anyway. All that has changed is my way of being.
The various yoga practices help be to get to my “yogini frame of mind.” Yogic lifestyle elements of proper diet and activity and daily self-care counteract the tendency I have toward blaming myself for not living properly and provide me with good physical health to meet daily challenges. Practicing poses and hand gestures helps me to fall into my body, breathe on purpose, get some oxygen and space in the tissues. Breath work and chant aid in meeting my mood and energy level and then balancing them. Meditation and prayer shine lights on how I dig my own ruts of discouragement with clinging to faulty beliefs (see Richard Miller’s Five Pointer Sisters / mistaken beliefs: http://www.sytar.org/sytar2014/Handouts/TS08_Intro%20iRest%20Wkbk%20SYTAR%20Sat.pdf, accessed 2014/10/06), reminding me that I am not only redeemable but infinitely valuable just as I am, and quieten my mind enough so that spontaneous wisdom often arrives on my doorstep. And imagery and intention help me to move forward as I acting on my new-found understanding.
Practice makes perfect, though. When I don’t practice my yoga, I am not so readily able to access the tools. So how do I continue to practice yoga, in spite of what seem like insurmountable barriers sometimes?
I like what Buddhist nun, Pema Chodron, has to say about dealing with difficulty. One analogy she learned from her teacher, Chogyam Trungpa Rimpoche:
Well, it’s like being in the ocean when the waves are really rough and high. They knock you over and you find yourself on the floor of the ocean with your face in the sand. The sand is getting in your nose and your mouth and your eyes and the waves are holding you down. But then the wave recedes and you stand back up and you walk until the next waves comes in and knocks you down and the same thing keeps happening. And each time you just stand back up and after awhile it seems to you that the waves are getting smaller and smaller. (http://chronicleproject.com/stories_28.html, accessed 2014/10/06)
And blogger, Leo Babauta, says
I realize that I’m far from perfect, and that the guilty secrets I hide inside myself are no different than anyone else’s. You guys are just like me, in the inside, and while we all share the commonality of failing to live up to our better nature, we also share the bond of being able to start again.
So start again.
(http://zenhabits.net/failproof/, accessed 2014/10/06)
This profound teaching from Eckhart Tolle also sustains me: “Accept whatever arises in this moment as if you had chosen it, and your whole life will be miraculously transformed.”(www.bodhitree.com/lectures/eckhart_tolle_consciousness_meditation.html, accessed 2014/10/06)
Viktor Frankl, concentration-camp survivor and author of Man’s Search for Meaning, made the best of atrocious circumstances. He remembers, ” . . . I sensed my spirit piercing through the enveloping gloom. I felt it transcend that hopeless, meaningless world, and from somewhere I heard a victorious ‘Yes’ in answer to my question of the existence of an ultimate purpose.”
And frankly, I think the paramount example of how this works is Jesus Christ’s entire life; it is a testament of how to carry on despite great odds, and multiple conflicting demands so that one’s life fulfills the greatest purpose.
So how will you practice your yoga today?