Do you, individual personality, take the universe to be your lawfully wedded spouse…
My individuality is made up from the stories that define me, and yoga practice helps to go beyond the stories into a more expansive and connected sense of myself. Yet the word ‘yoga’ describes a joining or balancing of being an individual and being a part of a larger connected whole.
I can see why the practice leans toward gleaning insight about that which is beyond form. After all, we do tend to be mesmerized by the physical world. So to balance us we tend to need a spiritual practice, lest we get wrapped up in the daily tasks and then think that that is all there is to our lives. ‘I am a bill payer’ would be an example of an aspect of this kind of reduction.
At the same time I recognize that my warm and cuddly human form with all its unique expressions is a part of this connection. So it’s not about blotting out my individuality in exchange for some kind of compassionate one without a past that informs the present. On a less-than-completely-conscious level I misinterpreted the teachings of yoga in this way. These teachings are an aspect of a total process that includes my earthly existence. Yeah!
The reasons for my past misinterpretation are twofold. One reason I made this mistake is because I read each teacher as if they had “it”—meaning the whole story—when individuals always have a particular take on things. That’s just the way it is. And another person’s take cannot be my own. I have had to integrate my own understanding. So while I was trying on the ideas of other yoga and spiritual teachers I was a bit confused about how to live this kind of excellent life that I was seeking. So my unsophisticated and underdeveloped sense of myself gravitated towards self-rejection under the aim of becoming the best person I could be—which turned into some things that were against the me that was born and will die. And it was under the good intention of helping others. But I have done that at the expense of developing my personal life. I have been Brooks Hall the yoga teacher, and now I’m just trying to be myself: a woman in the world who lives life, enjoys life and teaches yoga.
And as contradictory as this might sound I also recognize that my immersion in spiritual teachings is now part of my life path. Furthermore it is a blessing, and for any confusion and struggle that may come as I continue to assimilate and integrate what I am able to in my life, I am grateful—because this adventure is one I want. I want to see how far I can go, and live what I can learn.
The other way I got off track with the teachings of yoga was my misinterpretation allowed me to hide from hurts from my past. If I can be a yoga-inspired person I can be totally healed and happy, right? There is something false and Pollyanna-ish about the commonly advertised image of yoga yielding a perfect and always-happy life. For me, there was self-denial present. I was fooling myself to think that my old painful self would just disappear—I still have to deal with that one. It also was an easy fit for my self-loathing. Self-loathing loves denial! This way you can hate yourself without feeling the rawness. Have you ever seen someone with the fake yoga smile (the fake smile exists in other places of denial, too)? It’s the kind of smile that holds pain in the eyes—like they’re afraid that you’ll see what’s really going on there.
I understand this because I’ve lived in the fear that others will see just how pathetic I really am—of course that was never true, but was instead a particularly pungent self-judgment. I am who I am. And plenty of people like me and there are some who don’t (exactly as it should be).
What is called for is a sacred marriage or union within myself between the stories that give my life form and the great mystery that is formless and beyond any one person’s comprehension. And while I recognize this I also think that the mystery is something that we hold together, across people. This is an important reason for us to come together and to listen to one another—to explore the mystery and wonder of life!
Together we hold the total understanding of our collective humanity. Separately we only understand a piece of it based on our individual viewpoints.
* This (somewhat improved since it was first published) article is offered with love from the archives of Yogic Muse. *