May 10, 2012

Using our Imperfections for Spiritual Growth.

Photo: Sarah Reid

“There’s a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”

~ Leonard Cohen

By embracing our imperfections, by recognizing the various cracks in our bodies and psyches, we learn from our imperfections, from our mistakes. By allowing the light into the dark recesses of our being, we can make amends.

We spiritually inclined yogis who love to sit in meditation for hours, sometimes bypass our personal life. Ascending into the light of spirit, we sometimes neglect to negotiate with and adjust to the people around us—those we are in relationship with. We sometimes neglect to adjust or bodies, our asanas.

We spiritually inclined yogis who love to dance kirtan for hours, sometimes bypass our repressed emotions—our anger, our fear, our resentments. Ascending into the light, without grounding ourselves in the world, in our hearts and minds, and with those we live in community with, we let that very light cast a shadow of unresolved feelings and behaviors.

In Tantric yoga, these personal imperfections are seen as our best friends and allies. Because these cracks in our subconscious being can, as Cohen says, become openings for “the light to get in.” When our spiritual light is reflected into our inner darkness—when we embrace the totality of who we are—we can better see, understand, and face these shadowy, repressed aspects of ourselves.

We can better use our imperfections for our personal and spiritual growth.

The yogic journey is not only a spiritual journey, not just a journey into the spirit world; it is also a personal journey into our bodies and into the psychic underworld—it is both an ascending and a descending journey. When we ascend into a pose, we release and awaken stored emotions, repressed fears and angers that have resided in our muscles, joints and glands for years. Breathing light and mantric energy into these places and into our souls we gradually release their secret hold on us.

Psychologist, Carl Jung, wrote:

“That which we don’t confront within, we will meet as fate.”

In yogic terms, we will have to face our karma, our samskaras, in order to  grow into spiritual wholeness. What we ignore will eventually come back to haunt us.

If we don’t let the light of meditation through the cracks of our psyche, we will be ruled by the energies of our subconscious, our karma, our shadow. And when the shadow rules us, we project it outwards onto the world, our friends, our partners, our community.

Thus the spiritual journey is as much about facing our shadow as it is about pointing our soul toward the light.

Here’s a sweet story about the growth that unfolds when we practice the yoga of imperfection:

The Cracked Water Pot

A water bearer in India had two large pots, each hung on each end of a pole, which he carried across his neck.

One of the pots had a crack in it, and while the other pot was perfect and always delivered a full portion of water at the end of the long walk from the stream to the master’s house, the cracked pot arrived only half full.

For a full two years this went on daily, with the bearer delivering only one and a half pots full of water in his master’s house. Of course, the perfect pot was proud of its accomplishments, perfect to the end for which it was made.

But the poor cracked pot was ashamed of its own imperfection, and miserable that it was able to accomplish only half of what it had been made to do.

After two years of what it perceived to be a bitter failure, it spoke to the water bearer one
day by the stream.

“I am ashamed of myself, and I want to apologize to you.”

Why?” asked the bearer. “What are you ashamed of?”

“I have been able, for these past two years, to deliver only half my load because this crack in my side causes water to leak out all the way back to your master’s house. Because of my flaws, you have to do all of this work, and you don’t get full value from your efforts,” the pot said.

The water bearer felt sorry for the old cracked pot, and in his compassion he said,
“As we return to the master’s house, I want you to notice the beautiful flowers along the path.”

Indeed, as they went up the hill, the old cracked pot took notice of the sun warming the beautiful wild flowers on the side of the path, and this cheered it some. But at the end of the trail, it still felt bad because it had leaked out half its load, and so again it apologized to the bearer for its failure.

The bearer said to the pot, “Did you notice that there were flowers only on your side of your path, but not on the other pot’s side? That’s because I have always known about your flaw, and I took advantage of it. I planted flower seeds on your side of the path, and every day while we walk back from the stream, you’ve watered them. For two years I have been able to pick these beautiful flowers to decorate my master’s table. Without you being just the way you are, he would not have this beauty to grace his house.”



Editor: Brianna Bemel

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