Friday, March 23, 2012

That Which Becomes Undeniable

Every few months I used to get an absolutely undeniable craving for a donut. I called it my "quarterly donut" and would always allow myself this indulgence, taking the following months to forget how awful my body always felt afterwards. As my yoga practice picked up, I began to change in ways obvious and subtle. Yoga does indeed work, that much is clear, but I still don't grasp exactly how. Somehow a flow of asanas translates into shifts in the internal environment that are separate and yet intimately linked to what happens to the physical body.

The first big change centered around food. Aside from a feeble attempt at a kitcheree cleanse one fall, I've never kept a special diet. I always allow myself to eat whatever I want, which used to entail a huge volume of empty calories. I stopped eating meat years before meaningfully engaging with my yoga practice, but would still crave it from time to time. As I linked breath to movement on the mat, I didn't consciously change my diet, but my body began to demand different things. In my mind, meat has become a non-food item, the very idea of it disgusting and absurd. Cravings for junk food have transformed into cravings for beets and lentils and greens.

Which is not to say that I don't eat junk food still. I had dinner at the most fantastic mac'n'cheese restaurant the other night and I will likely go back before long. I'm still borderline obsessed with ice cream. This is just not the way I eat every day now, like when I was a 19-year-old new vegetarian who ate nothing but mac'n'cheese and ice cream for lack of cooking prowess and body awareness. These days sometimes I wake up thinking about salad. Seriously. I make a mean salad.

The cravings that interest me most are not those for food but for engagement in unhealthy situations. While I have learned to identify my donut craving for what it is (usually low blood sugar), I am still having trouble viewing the emotional choices I make with such clarity. I will want to do something with such conviction and certainty that I'm able to talk myself into it, despite all the indications that it's not in my best interests. These are the donuts of my mind; the things that cause me discomfort later but which I do anyway strictly for the fleeting satisfaction they bring. In these moments my mind becomes like a screaming child and I respond as the permissive parent, giving them whatever they want just to get them to be quiet. Who's in charge here, anyway?

As Osho would remind us, it's these habitual responses to the stimuli of life that keep us "stuck in old blueprints that (we) would have already outgrown if (we) hadn't been so busy clinging to what (we) have already been through." Yoga has woken me up to these blueprints, making me acutely, sometimes painfully aware of how uncomfortable and ill-fitting they are for the person I hope to express in the world. I've been given the gift of a clear vision of my true nature, which makes it impossible to live in a way that contradicts that. Okay, it's not impossible, but with this understanding of what I'm capable and deserving of, I know that I'm bullshitting myself. In eating all these damn donuts I'm settling for that which is so much less substantial and real and nourishing than what I need to be happy. And happiness is extremely interesting to me.

Do whatever you want but don't expect anything new to happen if you're working with old blueprints. Perhaps misery or rage or hurt is so familiar it's comforting and it seems impossible to divorce yourself from it. Maybe you're not even aware how unhappy you are- I wasn't. Yoga brought me into a conscious experience of my body and my life, which meant facing truths that became undeniable. You can try to refold the map, but it will never be the same.

Welcome to your reality. Will you celebrate it and the empowerment the knowledge of your truth gives you to nourish yourself? Or will you eat a damn donut, even though you know it'll sit like a rock in your stomach?

What do you need to be truly, ridiculously, abundantly happy? Don't wait around for someone or something else to give it to you. Reach in that direction.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

If you waver, that just means you're really bad at life...and other falsities.

Today in yoga Austin asked us not to make it so hard. What we were doing felt hard (holding poses for so many breaths in 90 degree heat), but he asked us to stop telling ourselves it was hard and just let it be. Just be in it without making it any harder. Stop gripping your toes, clenching your jaw, holding your breath. Drop your shoulders. Smile. Breathe!

Like all yogic lessons, it's not really about yoga but about life (which is yoga for some of us). How many situations in life do we complicate significantly by making them harder than they actually are? How often do we hold our breath and grip fiercely when relaxing and letting go would serve us far better? Could we avoid frenzied emotional drama and instead stay neutral and calm?

This is what Austin teaches while we hang out for awhile and sweat in Warrior II- you don't have to be so dramatic about it. It's just yoga. He often jokes that if you waver or fall over in the pose, that just means you're really bad at yoga. I think we could consider life in the same way. It's just life! Yes, it's important and there are some very heavy realities to it, but long range vision tells us that in the end most things don't matter. We are all going to waver and sometimes we're going to fall over, but it doesn't mean you're bad at life. We're all just learning how to be- to get our voices heard and our needs met, to give and receive love, to find purpose and passion. Along the way we're bound to be a bit ungraceful. It's just a part of the process of becoming excellent at living, which, like the mastery of yoga, takes a lifetime (or three!).

Recently I've been attempting to apply this long range vision to all my interactions. I hold in mind what Yogi Bhajan said in regards to communication being not about wrecking today but about creating a better tomorrow. I am deeply moved by the Ram Dass quote, "We're all just walking each other home," and the sense of oneness and connection it elicits as I move about in the world. I watch strangers interact aggressively with one another with new amazement. In the past, in a moment of unadulterated frustration, I have absolutely unloaded on a stranger. However, these days I just want my communication to create friendships, connections, and the feeling of being loved and cared for in the other. I am beginning to understand how much strife and unhappiness is generated when one doesn't consider the future when they act and speak. One way or another our words and actions are creative, so I ask you, what do you want to create?

There is a common story in America that says life is a struggle from cradle to grave, that nothing is easy, that you have to fight for everything. Like a yoga pose held for a long time in high heat, sometimes life is naturally difficult, but why make it harder? Sometimes gripping and breath holding, drama and aggressiveness is about shielding ourselves from hurt. Sometimes it's about clamoring like a little kid to get our needs met, devolving into a big ol' mess of stomping feet, shouting and pouting. These old blue prints of behavior can be like small, tight knots that are so uncomfortable but feel impossible to undo.

This moment will end and transform into the next, maybe so seamlessly it goes unnoticed. We will become the future versions of ourselves, who are now nothing but pure possibility. It is for the sake of our future selves that we must learn how to live more easily, to loosen our jaw and our grip, and give ourselves a shot at happiness. Let's make our experience here easier by remembering that we're all in this together. "We're all just walking each other home." Then let's be kind and patient to ourselves and to each other. Life is hard enough without people being mean. And life does not need to be so hard.