The process of integration consists of millions of choice points where a single aspect of a life reflects our inner values or external values. In the context of yoga (yoking) philosophy and practice each single aspect reflects proportions of spiritual and material expression. Consider gold. It must be mixed with another substance in order to be substantial enough to wear as a very useful ring or necklace. Gold is just too malleable and soft to hold a shape without some other element present in the mix. My experience is that our practice of yoga is like this. Too much pure spirit leaves us ungrounded and ineffective in our lives. This is not much use for ourselves or others unless your role in life happens to be embodying that ideal for others. We need a mix and we can work consciously with our choices to create the right mix for the lives that we are creating.
I studied the energetics of food around the time I transitioned into veganism. My food teacher, a seasoned wise man who had been vegan for many years, did not think that I should be a vegan. It didn’t fit what he saw my role in life to be. I objected and went my merry way, working as a yoga teacher in a school which emphasized heavy duty spiritual practices and deep meditation. He was right, I crashed to the ground with that, unable to manage the business of being a yoga teacher, and reside in those exalted realms. My colleagues, many of them, had others to support them in the business functions, but to be honest, I knew I was a better teacher when I was grounded and present physically for the students. When I still had my corporate job and taught in the evenings, my classes were packed. Of course, I was younger and all of that, but, the grounding I had in my job helped me to relate to what every one was going through. I shared the way that yoga worked in my day to day life at work.
So, I considered what my food teacher told me, and I decided that veganism was a really really important component of my practice. I would have to change something else to create the perfect mix of spiritual and material for my life. I chose to re-enter the work force and to lighten up a little on the extreme practices that I was doing. I felt better, more awake of my life and more aligned – meaning I felt like myself again. It’s a constant juggling act integration. A little more of this, a little more of that, and developing the awareness to feel when the mix is perfect. Generally when the mix is perfect I feel functional, strong satisfied and balanced. In that place of integration there is balance strength and joy. Balance strength and joy isn’t some long off goal I’m always working towards, it’s my chosen normal. In that normal I find that I’m productive and I have the energy to be kind and generous. In balance, in alignment I find that I don’t feel that parts of myself are suppressed.
If balance strength and joy aren’t goals in some far-off future, what does setting goals have to do with anything?
Well, in a life of thousands of decisions at every moment, it’s good to know where we are going, what kind of balance or expression feels optimal to us, and then re-establish the “goals” of how to get there. I’ll write more about this, but for the time being consider this, my goal of integration is built on an understanding that with my time I am creating a mosaic. Several times a week I sit down and create visions, schedules and commitments to myself. I block out time for each of the things that are important to me. For example, for some, working in the soup kitchen is their spiritual practice, for me it is asana and music. For some, health is jogging every morning, for me it is nurturance and good food. (Some jogging doesn’t hurt!) But the point is, I work with all the components of what is important to me and make sure they are all represented in that schedule and then my goal is to actually fulfill what I have scheduled for myself and the outcome is assured. It’s very effective. It means I learn to write a little faster, keep the kitchen clean while I’m cooking, and not spend all my time chasing money but to step by step do what I can to make my time worth more, to myself and others. Then moment by moment, choosing to honor the schedule (sometimes choosing not to if, say, someone needs a hand). It means not procrastinating on what I am wanting to do!
I consciously choose the sequence of my week, and then roll it out, knowing that it may need to change. At that point I recalibrate. You may recognize this from Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, at the end of a series of steps we can see how we arrived at a given destination. We flip it around and take charge of the steps along the way so we can create consciously.
As far as asana practice goes, well, I do the same thing. I try to create a well-rounded practice and I build it over time, practicing those postures I like and those I don’t. A steady well-rounded practice, like a steady well rounded life will establish the discernment to detect when something is missing or when the balance of life needs to be adjusted.
It’s not romantic, but balance allows our energy to be available for romance, love, creativity…whatever we want. Balanced energy sustains, it doesn’t deplete.
It is my deepest wish that this information is useful to you!
Have a blessed and wondrous day.