You will find it time and time again, the people who are really into yoga are the people who have (or have had) a lot of problems. Most of us don't walk around in a light filled bliss bubble and then say "hey, I'm going to go do a bunch of uncomfortable things with my body and see what happens". Maybe the first entry point varies. You got intrigued by yoga because a friend introduced you or you were curious, or you found a book, etc. But as many a yogi story goes, both in ancient mythology and modern times, we get super into our practice when the shit hits the fan. Why? Because yoga works! We practice, we feel more present, more clear, more free, and we can go back to those same problems with a bit more spaciousness and clarity.
Ok.... so fast forward 5 years, 10, maybe 20 and eventually we land in the place where the rubber hits the road, we gotta put our money where our mouth is or our feet are, or roasters are returning for roasting. Or something like that. We have to see if all this practice, all the breathing, sweating, sitting, chanting, studying, crying, napping in public spaces is helping to change us where it matters. In our lives. In our relationships.
So this is where I'm at. I've been doing it for awhile. Mindfully working in relationships and looking within and all that but at the end of the day, like at the end of yesterday, here I am still getting into pretty unmindful arguments with the people I love the most. Don't get me wrong. It's better. It's not quite so ugly and I recover faster, apologize quicker, forgive easier. But it's still there. Say the right thing to me (or the wrong thing) and I will still totally lose my breath, mind, body, & spirit while I throw my middle fingers up. What's worse, is the closer the relationship, the less mindful I am. In the last 48 hours, I had the pleasure of witnessing this play out in 3 different conflicts with 3 different levels of relationships. One not so close, one closer, and one the closest I have. In large steps downward my skillfulness wained. Why is it that with the ones we love the most, we are often the least patient with, the least kind, the least giving?
I've been reading a bunch of business-y stuff since opening up Love Hive Yoga in Portland, Oregon and one article said that in order to be successful in business, you need to decide your end goals first. What does it look like if you are wildly successful and then make every decision based on that vision. This is very applicable to our lives. What is our best vision of our lives? What does it look like if our relationships are wildly successful? How do we move and behave and relate in that vision with each other? This is where the teachings come in. In Patanjali's Yoga Sutras, in The Bhagavad Gita, and in the story of Rama from the Ramayana there are all references to single pointedness. To a concentrated attention. Patajali says that we can focus on quite anything that is pleasant and use that as a way towards freedom from suffering. There is the story of Arjuna and being so concentrated that he can only see the blackness of the pupil of the eye when he is aiming at a bird in a tree. There is the story of Rama and winning Sita's hand by shooting a spinning fish that is only visible through the reflection of water. These stories are meant to symbolize how challenging it is to stay focused. To keep your attention in the direction of your most highest vision. This requires enormous work. Much more work than just sticking your foot somewhere fancy. And it requires repetition and practice and bravery.
So where are you pointing your arrow at? What is your yoga practice about? Ultimately, what is your life about? I think that for most of us it is about connection, about love, about the relationships we have we each other, with ourselves, and with God (feel free to replace the G-word with whatever word keeps you receptive). This is the tricky part. In order to get that... we have to give it all away. We give our attention. We give our effort, our focus, our love. And in return, when we do this we receive as a reaction to giving. But the giving has to come from a place where we are stepping out of the center of the world and into the circle where we all belong. When we can step back in line with the whole to see from a wider perspective, we see that giving is the quickest way to receive it all straight back. But as taught in all of the teachings... it is giving without the expectation of receiving. It is giving to give. This way we are not in the center demanding attention, demanding love, demanding respect, keep tabs on what we've given which only makes it that less likely we will ever receive it. We are out along side each other. We are giving to the center. Once we open in this way it flows out and then right back in. Step one is to point your arrow towards the highest vision for your life. Step two is to give all our effort in that direction. Not by moving to get it but by sending our attention towards it and seeing our lives from the perspective of the whole vision not just the micro-moment or the self-centered storyline we create that keeps us isolated.
What does that look like in your life? "When I can look at the mountain and not see it as a comment on my own life". When you can look at another person and who they are and not see it as a reflection on who you are. When you can give love, simply to give with out an expected return. Do the dishes with the same attention and affection as you do your yoga practice. Say yes the next time your partner asks for a favor or needs something without expecting anything in return or needing it to be repaid. Make one thing in your everyday life sacred and soon you will see the sacred in so many ordinary moments that your life will have new meaning. Give your attention to anything, absolutely anything, fully and from the heart and the entire universe will open up to welcome you back into the circle from which we all belong.
Om shanti, shanti, shanti
That is the full, this is the full;
from fullness comes fullness;
when fullness is removed,
fullness still remains.
Om. Peace! Peace! Peace!