Finding The Balance.

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The ego-less, spiritual yogini…with super cute earrings.

Yoga people, at least those who can afford to attend yoga conferences, tend to be toned, tight and taut, bedecked in flattering outfits that emphasize their toned tight tautness to perfection (and yes, I can be an alliterate fool). Much as I tried to remain indifferent to the physical beauty surrounding me when I volunteered at a recent conference, twinges of body envy smacked my ego around a bit.

I attempted to overcompensate, somewhat, by purchasing my own cute yoga outfit, one that provides the illusion of lithe leanness: a strappy purple camisole top emblazoned with the crown chakra symbol and well-fitting black pants (finally!) sporting a tie-dyed, earth-friendly peace symbol on the left ankle. My consumer-greedy self has been kicking my frugal self ever since for not snapping up a few more outfits: the $10 top usually retails for $40; the $25 pants sell for $75. But even though the prices were exceptionally reasonable, did I really need more?

Conferences such as these confuse my senses, marrying crass consumerism to spiritual soul-searching. I fall victim and prey to both: I want both, I desire both. Who wouldn’t covet the cute organic tie-dyed yoga bag, the extra-sticky, ultra-cushiony mat, the perfect lightweight block? And the jewelry…good gosh, I go weak-kneed bananas over yoga jewelry (and here I confess again, slightly shamefacedly: I also bought a pair of brushed golden Ganesh earrings, light, luscious and lovely, because goodness knows, I could use a little obstacle-removal in my life).

But deeper in my soul, I yearn for serenity, peace, joy, the higher plane, renunciation of all unnecessary material possessions. And so, excitement over my gleeful material purchases receded as I ferreted out a bounty of workshops and classes that moved me, taught me, inspired me. I emerged from the conference mentally engaged and physically exhausted: my inner fire was awakened through Rod Stryker’s challenging poses (can you say…peacock face plant?); my unformed ideas were sharpened and clarified through Dhamra Mittra’s gently humorous teachings; my hips relaxed and opened so much in Rodney and Colleen Yee’s class that by the end, my foot easily slipped behind my head…and that’s just for starters.

For many years, I’ve sought to integrate my spiritual growth into my everyday life, to create my perfect rajasic (intense, fiery, passionate) practice. Naturally, I aspire to be the best yogini ever (which I realize in itself is a product of ego), but I cannot seem to renounce the pleasures of the flesh. Wait. That’s not entirely true. I don’t want to forsake my earthly delights, from flavor-rich foods to scalding hot showers to passionate sex to really, really cute earrings.

A few weeks ago, in our teacher training morning session, we discussed methods of reaching higher, taking ourselves further toward samadhi (bliss). The path to samadhi is smoothed through certain physical actions, such as eating bland foods or taking brief lukewarm-to-cold showers, so as not to diminish or disturb the aura.

I listened, I absorbed, I believed.

But then, during the lunch break, I sneaked across the street, purchasing a fabulous spicy tuna roll with extra wasabi and pickled ginger. I devoured my meal, thoroughly enjoying the dancing tingles on my tongue, but…I also remained hidden, eating solo, feeling just a bit uneasy. Later that evening, sore from the long day of postures and sitting, I stood in a steamy shower for an obscenely long time, notching the dial higher and hotter instead of lower and cooler.

I wondered: Why am I deliberately fighting against the lessons I just learned?

I have no answers…yet.

But at least I’ve come to accept that I will never be the perfect yogini; heck, I may never even be a competent one. I will always and forever be the “me” yogini: the one who carries good intentions in a full and well-meaning heart, but also the one who can’t resist a deliciously fiery meal or a bubbling hot tub, the hotter the better, preferably enjoyed under the stars with a beloved one.

Alone, I am, for the most part, free from ego and the material concerns that accompany it. I tend to practice my solo sun salutations wearing nothing but my wide-open heart, body free and exposed to the warmth and air, caring not one whit about my outer appearance, focusing instead on my inner one.

Yes, on the inside—where it matters most (to me)—my personal practice and my meditations strip away pretenses and material desires, sometimes (rarely) carrying me to a place outside my physical self, where my soul unfolds, opening to the heavens and to infinity. At these magical times, I reach deep into my core, searching for my true spirit, and there I stoke my inner radiance, my agni (fire), my light, often clumsily, but with pure intentions. And while I may never ascend to the highest heights, the lessons learned slowly edge me ever closer, propelling me toward a place where transcendence intersects with buttercream-frosted cake, forming my own unique, personal and perfect version of samadhi.

And so, somewhere within, I will find my balance. I will find my bliss.


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anonymous Aug 17, 2011 10:13am

[…] Tickets to Yoga Festivals can get pricey, especially if you also need to find a way to pay for lodging, airfare, car rental and food. […]

anonymous Dec 14, 2010 9:59am

[…] […]

anonymous Nov 29, 2010 6:28pm

Typo alert! What's an indugle? Is that okay, too? 😀

anonymous Nov 29, 2010 11:06am

Great article. Balance is key. That includes the good and the bad.

    anonymous Nov 29, 2010 7:27pm

    Thank you, Martha. Time to do tree pose. 🙂

anonymous Nov 29, 2010 8:33am

Dear Melina, I enjoyed your article and it is refreshing to see your soul searching. I hope you don't mind though if I tell you that it is ok to enjoy life–part of the goodness of life is material and physical. There are many paths to blessedness and if someone finds joy and peace and happiness by eating bland food and denying physical pleasure, that's great. But if you enjoy a spicy tuna roll and a hot shower then enjoy it guilt free. There are spiritual pitfalls no matter what you do as the kind of extreme asceticism recommended by the workshop you mention can lead to a different kind of egoism. It sounds like you are a good yogi and a good person and you deserve to enjoy life!

    anonymous Nov 29, 2010 7:25pm

    I don't mind at all, Alan! Deep down, despite my agonizing, I believe this, too. I don't believe we were put on this earth to deny ourselves the bounty and pleasures laid out before us. I AM trying to pull myself away from material desires, but as for the rest…life is too short, sweet and wonderful not to partake!

anonymous Nov 29, 2010 6:23am

i make a point to teach yoga in sweat pants and a non-yoga related t-shirt. this is also the ego…

the more peaceful we are the less we need the yoga bling; it will become natural that we buy less or need less as peace grows…and maybe until we are there it's natural to enjoy being cute. maybe it's all natural and OK! let's chant…i am not this mind, i am not this body, i am not my cute be present pants!

    anonymous Nov 29, 2010 5:03pm

    Hey, now, I drew the line at the Be Present pants, even though they were selling for "only" $20! 🙂 I did, however, take a free button which I keep pinned to my bag because I love the message. But all flippancy aside, I agree that material wants (not needs) matter less as we find inner peace. And I also realize that being the anti-cute yogini is a different product of ego, but ego still the same. So, yes, let's chant away!

anonymous Nov 28, 2010 11:28pm

Love this post. Thanks for the sincerity. Can't wait to hear more from you, Melinda. ~Angela R.

    anonymous Nov 29, 2010 7:22pm

    I'm sure I'll be submitting more posts, Angela. Thanks for your support and taking a chance on me. 🙂

anonymous Nov 28, 2010 8:42pm

Great post, and I can't believe I found you on here, i follow another blog here, and happened to click on yoga topics and there you were, right up top.

I volunteered with you on Thursday for the Yoga for Vets class I think was when we got to talk…it was such a blur…that week! I had the store by where you are now taking your teacher training, in the Gateway Plaza. Keep in touch and keep writing!


    anonymous Nov 28, 2010 9:03pm

    OMG, of course I remember you! That week was indeed a glorious blur, but I really enjoyed sharing door monitoring with you. I can't believe you found me here either. I think you have my email, right? Or find me on Facebook…definitely let's stay in touch, at any rate.

Bob Weisenberg Nov 28, 2010 8:09pm

Great blog, Melinda. Reminds me of the story from Stephen Cope's Yoga and the Quest for the True Self about the monk initiates sneaking off to get ice cream in town.

Bob W.

    anonymous Nov 29, 2010 4:48am

    The mental image tickles me, Bob. The link didn't work, but I'd love to read the article sometimes.

      Bob Weisenberg Nov 29, 2010 7:30am

      Here's the corrected link. It was the book that attracted me into Yoga: Yoga and the Quest for the True Self

        anonymous Nov 29, 2010 5:08pm

        Thank you for sharing! It looks like a great book, plus I have long been curious and intrigued about Kripalu, too. Now I wonder…if the ice cream is named something like Buddha's Blueberry Bliss, does that make it okay to indugle? 🙂

anonymous Nov 28, 2010 4:33pm

This is the kind of person I would love as a teacher. Someone I can identity with but really learn from.

    anonymous Nov 28, 2010 8:01pm

    Maybe one day we'll meet in a class! I'd love it. We can share cake afterwards…

anonymous Nov 28, 2010 4:17pm

So, then, I refuse to feel guilty about eating those pancakes smothered in maple syrup! 🙂 Seriously, though, as I delve deeper into my practice, I'm discovering that executing poses perfectly is mattering less and finding inner spirituality is mattering more. Perhaps, as Sandy said, it also has something to do with getting older..and hopefully wiser. (P.S.: Laurie…I like Doritos, too!)

anonymous Nov 28, 2010 2:55pm

You sneaking off to get your tuna roll with wasabi reminds me of the time an acquaintance said, horrified, "you're a yoga teacher and you're eating Doritos?" From her facial expression and tone of voice, it sounded like I was an escaped axe murderer! We take from yoga what makes sense and is meaningful to us, and leave the rest for another day. I enjoyed your article. Balance and putting things in the proper perspective is harder than the poses. Namaste.

anonymous Nov 27, 2010 6:57pm

Nicely done, Melinda. You may be the wise one after all.

    anonymous Nov 28, 2010 8:02pm

    Thank you, my friend. Not wise, just blessed with good people in my life!

anonymous Nov 27, 2010 5:23pm

It gets really good once you get old, sick and see how silly this all was. Best on your journey.

    anonymous Nov 29, 2010 7:26pm

    Thank you. I get the impression you've been on quite a journey yourself, Sandy. Best to you, too.

anonymous Nov 27, 2010 4:38pm

Simply awesome… Thank you…