“Well, it’s been done”.
This is the feedback I received when proposing a creative yoga project. “Well, it’s been done”. It’s yoga, I think to myself. Of course it’s been done! As much as I’ve complained over the years about how the personality of the yoga teacher can obscure the yoga itself, some part of me wants to say. “Yes! But it hasn’t been done by me, and I see it differently!”. I descend a bit into depression and a sense of defeat.
I began to spin a rather unflattering story in my head about the person who gave me the feedback. You know how this happens, right? Someone doesn’t like something we have created and we go into defense. I catch myself going into defense mode. My yoga practice kicks in.
What does this story about my emotional reaction have to do with yoga? Everything. The fruit of our practices is yoking to the more luminous and exalted aspects of ourselves. We train ourselves to stay yoked and when the pressure is on we find peace. In struggle we find an ability to stay strong. Twenty-six years ago, I would have stormed out of the meeting. Maybe ten years ago, I would have peacefully left and cried my eyes out, never to have returned. Now, my yoga shows up in my life. I can sit still in a conflict, not run away, and consequently, hear what the person is saying. The capacity to do this grows with steadiness, or consistency, in practice – abhyasa. Be still in a posture over and over again, and be awake while you are there and you will develope the capacity to be still in the face of discomfort.
So, I stay present to the critique. I breathe deeply and the air me around becomes a little more spacious. In that spaciousness, the realization comes. The woman who gave me feedback is a communicator a professional communicator. She knows how to get a message across to people. I now see – Don’t change what you are doing, find another new way to communicate it. Keep the gems of what you understand and transmute the old story into a new one. My attachment to my project was blocking my ability to hear the message. It wasn’t a critique at all, it was the universe directing me to keep working for something new and better. There is always a new and better.
This is a good time to get quiet as we shelter in place. There are ideas in silence. The constructs of our minds, the grooves we think in over and over again, can be observed and transformed in silence. Detaching from the groove confers that spaciousness, and in the silence we open to what we haven’t created before. I’ve taught artists who, likely, would say they never really meditated. But in that space when they are brushing a color onto a canvas, when they are absorbed into the color, they enter another realm. I’ve been inspired by more than a few musicians and artists who traveled through my life as teachers or students. Their perspectives are always illuminating. Entering spaciousness opens us to vision.
Abhyasa, or consistency in practice, builds the spiritual muscle which allows us to stay present when we are uncomfortable. Vairagya, or detachment, develops the spaciousness which allows change to occur. If we are too attached to what we think should happen, there is no room for us to turn around.
The best way I know to develop these facets of the yoga practice is to allow for process. First, commit to practicing a certain number of times a week, and stick to it. Start out with a small amount which you can easily fulfill and then amp it up from there. Detachment can grow with consistent practice. Each day the body will feel different. Somedays you feel tired, other days lively, some days you feel heavy, other days light. Just show up and practice, however you feel. As you work your consistency, your detachment will grow, and vice versa. Consistency and Detachment nourish one another.
When the world around us is spinning out of control, if we fall into a place where we feel ourselves low, the yoga practice is a powerful means to lift ourselves up. We’ve looked to others to inspire us spiritually, and that is amazing, but the truth is, we can only stay lifted up when we take that task, that task of uplifting and decide that we will be active agents in choosing to do that in ourselves.
It’s a simple step. It doesn’t have to be complicated. Your personal practice doesn’t have to be extravagant, or the same as what happens in a public class. But if you choose to cultivate a personal practice, you’ll be glad you did. We never know when a moment is going to arise when we will benefit from an ability to stay centered and clear and open. In that moment, if we let go of our projections and our expectations, we might just see things differently. We just might see how we can take the circumstance we find ourselves in and chart a new course. Transforming the unexpected into opportunity.