“I would love to live Like a river flows, Carried by the surprise Of its own unfolding.”~John O’Donohue
The truth is that I have as little control over the unfolding of my life as the river does over its flow. The difference between the river and I, though, is that I continually resist that truth.
I try to make life adhere to my plans, resist following the natural terrain I encounter, and fight against obstacles instead of flowing around them.
I long to be more like the river with its willingness to move along the path where it finds itself, flowing around obstacles without resistance in its march back to the sea, shaping the land with its ever-rushing flow without anger or fighting.
Oh for the grace to similarly surrender to life as I find it instead of fighting what is!
“Meditation practice isn’t about trying to throw ourselves away and become something better. It’s about befriending who we are already. The ground of practice is you or me or whoever we are right now, just as we are.” ~Pema Chodron
Although Pema is talking about Buddhist meditation in the quote above, I believe the same attitude applies to our practice of yoga. Whether we are practicing meditation, yoga postures, breathing exercises, or simply being present in the moment in whatever activity we undertake, it’s always about befriending the person we already are. It’s about accepting who we are in this moment just as we are in this moment.
So many of the self-improvement activities that I have tried through the years were attempts in one way or another to throw away some part of myself in order to become someone better. It’s never worked for me.
That’s where yoga has been so successful. Because it’s not about fighting myself or changing myself but only about meeting myself where I am with openness and curiosity, I am able to approach myself gently without defensiveness or resistance. In so doing, I find that through simple, curious observation of myself as I am in this moment, it opens me to shift into becoming more the person I am meant to be.
These shifts are often subtle, but over time they have created more positive change than anything else I’ve ever tried. It is this part of yoga that caused me to fall in love with it, and it is what draws me back to the mat time and time again to deepen that friendship with myself.
“You cannot do yoga. Yoga is your natural state. What you can do are yoga exercises, which may reveal to you where you are resisting your natural state.” ~Sharon Gannon
We often speak of “doing yoga” when we speak of doing the physical postures (asana) and breathing exercises (pranayama). Indeed, for many of us, these yoga exercises are where we start with yoga. However, we quickly find that yoga is much greater than the postures. Even without further study of the philosophy or precepts of yoga, it becomes apparent as we do the exercises that they are having much deeper effects on us than simple physical conditioning.
I like this reference to yoga as our natural state because I think much of what yoga attempts to do is to reverse much of the conditioning we have absorbed from our surrounding culture so that we can better become the authentic people that we were created to be. The physical postures and the breathing exercises do have great physical effects that can also lead to improved psychological and emotional health in and of themselves.
However, they also bring us back in touch with ourselves in such a way to allow us to access our deeper witness consciousness that enables us to observe ourselves and our thoughts in ways that do show us the places where we resist being our authentic selves. We see our fears, our wounds, our places of resistance, our unhealthy patterns (samskara).
Having seen these things, we can now have the choice to change them in ways that return us closer to the natural state of the person we are meant to be.