My favorite yoga classes, including the classes I teach, focus on a primary teaching of yoga that supports and ultimately upholds yoga’s vibrant and joyful spirit while making apparent the humility and at times gut-wrenching work it takes to crack into the inner bliss all yogi’s -and all people- are ultimately seeking in this life time. But the real practice of yoga, particularly yoga in life- in action, is not always that sublime.
I’ll just say it. I loathe some yoga classes. I think many of us “yogis: feel that way, right? I used to say out loud and to myself “there is something to learn from every class, every approach, every teacher” and I do believe that, but I don’t always enjoy the half-hearted delivery. As my years of practice continue with time and I realize I have practiced yoga and sitting in stillness for 15 years, almost half my life, and I STILL struggle everyday and I am still fucked up in certain ways, and I’m still not certain what I’m supposed to “get” out of yoga, or “teach” to other’s. But I have come to this conclusion: I don’t know… But after all this time, I have an idea. For me… to strip yoga down to its fundamental teachings and figure out how they make sense to us in the real world, as it is today, is really what’s its about. If you can tell me more than that, please chime in now.
As consciousness expands and simultaneously becomes more acute through practice of mindful movement or still meditation we look directly and clearly into our own temple: the physical body that nestles the heart, mind and spirit, where each play and become restless and at times torturous. When we stay with the practice we have no choice but to lift the vale of illusion (maya) and stare intently into the dark corners of the mind. And that can be terrifying. That precious vale of maya lets us hold on to the illusion we are safe in our world, it prevents us from seeing truth that at first can be- no, WILL be- shocking and possibly even shattering. When we lift maya, we feel the void and cracks in the heart and spirit and it hurts like hell, there is no protective layer between what is real and *desired reality*. For me it conjures up a feeling of what I imagine it is like to work in a sweatshop with sleepless nights and not enough compensation to survive, it can feel like a slow death. There is no illusion “this is good”. This image is a far cry from the pleasurable exploration of the opulent temples of South India, Bagan or the Mormonism that we may romanticize “the journey” to be as we begin on the “yogic path”, or any spiritual path. When the practice gets real we see our temple for what is; dim and dull, standing on raw earth with unsophisticated architecture. Tirelessly we work to find even the smallest glimpse of divinity, even the tiniest light in the heart and soul. Not before shedding blood, sweat and tears, heartbreaks and broken beliefs we have built out entire reality upon do we finally look for the real miracle.
What if the most important finding in yoga IS seeing and accepting the ugly and rejected parts of the mind? To accept them without feeling “less than” and to know the *truth* we are working with on the intellectual plain? To *feel* with absolute completeness; the pain, the terror, the love the heartbreak, the disappointment of learning reality is not what we once thought it was? To accept “the void” inside and then ask ourselves “why do we fill that void with pain”? Why does empty = pain? WHY does empty = pain? Emptiness can hold anything, why do we believe emptiness is pain?
Maybe to be whole is not to be beautiful and look graceful in postures and sit in lotus meditation for 30 minutes a day. Maybe it is not about being “ok with everything” and feel compelled to clean out all thoughts and emotions that aren’t pleasing. Perhaps it is to see the darkness inside and know that because of that darkness we can see and tend to turn towards the light of awareness, divinity and generosity. Maybe to understand that WE CHOOSE TO FILL OUR VOIDS with pain is to know we can choose to allow the voids to *simply be*, nothing needed to fill empty space. Or perhaps we can change our relationship to the “voids” in heart and spirit and fill them with faith, love and acceptance of the divine. We can give ourselves permission to fill the voids with joy, contentment and a gentle curiosity that invites life to dance and play with in us, rather than fear of what life may become. Can we accept the mind is multi-dimensional and at times it conjures up unsavory images, terrible thoughts and fantasies of reality. After all, life it is what we allow it to be from moment to moment and *maybe if* we can just give ourselves permission to be what we are as human beings, then we will understand we are truly whole. So maybe yoga is not to purify everything or be “cool” with everything. Maybe its to understand we are human and we are working with that condition… and that is enough.