Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Becoming the Eye in the Storm

For the first two years of my Kundalini yoga journey, I was living in the Tenderloin. The neighborhood was a fairly good reflection of the state of my mind at that time: loud, messy and occasionally obscene. I would sit down to do my home practice and fidget forEVER, trying to settle myself enough to be still and breathe. I was so busy and noisy and resistant. Sometimes I would give up, determining that I was just not in the place (literally and figuratively) to be meditative. "Too many sirens outside, too many screaming crackheads," I would reason, "Who can sit still under such conditions?"

Teaching at the Hanuman Center is fun because of its proximity to the Castro: fabulous gay men with good sound systems drive by blasting Lady Gaga when we're in class. There's also the din of the 33 rumbling past, the Tuesday noon siren, construction, the crying baby who lives above the studio...etc. Like my old TL abode, these conditions may seem unideal for yoga or meditation, but I've come to view them as wonderful training opportunities to exist calmly and vibrantly in chaotic real life. Kundalini yoga is a householders yoga: we are not ascetics living on a mountaintop, meditating all day under the bo tree. This is not a yoga of renunciation and denial. Yoga and meditation are tools to help us become and remain quiet and still- to be graceful in the most ungraceful of moments.

Overtime I've learned that it's the days when my head (and the world) is the most crazy that I need to do this work the most. If I had waited to be "ready" enough to meditate, I'd still be sitting cross legged on the floor in the Tenderloin, picking bits of lint out of the rug and not meditating. Everyone has to start somewhere- that's why it's called a "yoga practice" and not "yoga perfect." You don't have to be a super bendy, zen person to make this your practice. All that is required is your sincere, consistent effort. Sometimes you may not even like it, but keep coming back to the mat until it becomes natural and routine. My areas of resistance are the dark corners that need the most attention, over and over, until everything is brought to light.

Any kind of inner work will transform you and transformation can be unnerving. We haven't met the people we will become yet and have no idea what our lives will look like after shedding that old skin. If you're one of those people who wants to "change the world," I propose that you begin by resting inside and letting the change begin within. Like the Hindu goddess Chinnamasta, let's cut off our own heads with the blade of self-reflection and enjoy an experience of our whole selves. If you have the strength to muck through all your shit,  you will find a peace and quiet at the center of your being incomparable to anything you will experience without. Yoga and meditation helps us reach this place, this centeredness at our center, that enables us to be the calm center at the heart of any storm.

...Or so I'm told, and am beginning to experience. This is not a mastery. It is a process of humble surrender. It is a being mastered. It is becoming who we already are- a perfect pearl at the heart of our calm center.

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