December 16, 2012

Is a Disciplined Yoga Practice Worth It?

Photo: Sasha W

Every moment is a choice to show up and a choice to reconfigure even if all our participation just creates a firestorm within.

I secured entrance to my first college concert by pretending to be British.

From some radio station in Houston with a bored DJ who was entertained by me enough one night after an hour or so on the phone with my tongue clipping and put-on giggles, I, “the girl from Herefordshire,” “won” the tickets.

Collective Soul was the headliner and Eve 6 opened for them. I drank illegally procured alcohol, caught a guitar pick (in my memory, at least) and had the time of my life with my roommate of the semester, Shannon. That was the year that I was “choking on the rind and the lack thereof would leave me empty inside” while a honey-faced girl posed as record art. I slept through most of that semester.

I was thinking of that album cover today in meditation. I sat in the morning calm and remembered…

It’s as if I have turned a great corner in life. I feel like an exploded beehive. As if some intruder killed the queen and the leftover pieces of me have evacuated at great velocity in many directions.

For example: the swarm of blondes that accosted me last weekend and reminded me that not all groups of women are inherently warm and nurturing, especially those lacking breeding, cultivation or grace. There was extreme clarity and beauty in that experience: great revelation of and gratitude for the women of my life sprang forth along with the memory of my uninhibited youth, when I was screaming and writhing in a daytime mosh pit, beer-soaked and blissed out of my mind…

Some meditations are like that for me.

Rumbling around in my head are seemingly disconnected ideas and current experiences, which then leap out into a coherent relevant meme and throttle me, as if they are being shaken by an overwhelmed mother imploring with her animated face for me to Please. Be. Silent!!

So I listen, absorbing the things people say to me, along with the rumbling deep within that bag of potato chips I have been forcing myself to leave on the shelf all week. Hoping a message from the Universe will come forth that will offer me a knowing of which direction to turn and where to rebuild, having since come far past that corner I turned a few months back.

With great curiosity, I reboot. I sit. I choose to meditate. I listen.

They say discipline’s a choice.

I’ve heard it said that it is prudent to follow one’s instinct and then dive into the choices we make with haste. Imperative, in fact, to jump in head first, or we will most certainly run off course due to inclement weather and unexpected delays.

Actually, I am not confident that that is a statement of truth backed by experience. The inverse may also be true. I am, after all, still listening…

Trying to practice what is preached, I have been wondering where the answer is in yoga to all of these feelings and emotions that arrive in the act of living, and in breathing the toxins out in Downward-Facing Dog. What’s the point, I wonder in meditation, in reflecting on the choices I have made so far?

We tell our students that there is stability in the practice and a balance that can be found in the breath. We tell them, essentially, to go inside and all the answers will be there…or the absence of the need to know will be there…that beyond all the confusion and electrical storms of images that leap out of our hips and hamstrings there is stillness and clarity.

We say that within an earnest practice there is a gift of discernment, and that the understandings we will take away from our diligent efforts will trickle out into our lives off the mat following a trajectory of improvement. That there is a prize in all this “practice.”

Is this claim full of shit?

All I’ve been learning on the mat is that it is hard for me to make the choice to be there. It does not for me feel like much of a payoff to bother to show up and work on my transitions in Surya Namaskara.

Most days, when I dare consider that the practice could be more than just the postures, I am overcome with a desire to burn my mat and my certification and to close the doors of my sweet studio in order to run far far away, where there are no crystal bowls or prayer flags or smiling benevolent Ganesh statues staring at me while I sit secretly embarrassed and indifferent.

It is hard to show up and be with myself outside a tempest of labels (owner; teacher; tether; friend; sister; inspiration; daughter; responsible, sturdy, fun, woman; lover; wordsmith) and to just smile from my guts as I so often instruct others to do…to turn that instructor voice off along with the critic, and breathe deep into my unlabeled self with trust and tenderness.

I can be so very hard on myself, and then incredibly flippant, and while all of that is occurring, while the sweat is dripping down my nose and my wrists are screaming for Balasana, while my knees are turning cranky and annoyed with lotus, while my body and my mind are raging in conflict…all I wish for in these moments is to expatriate myself from what feels like a bondage.

Is it my body or my mind that holds me hostage? Where the hell is my prize? I feel ungrateful and confused as I stare gently ahead while cultivating bhanda.


Screw this yoga, I think!

While I sit and breathe and reflect, I find that I’m not convinced that this path we are on is worth it, or even efficient. Just as when I once left the Church in the midst of personal reflection and revelation, I find that I am again inclined to believe that the foundation we have set our lives upon is just a crumbling relic of ancient myths and that there is no magic in yoga. There are no answers, or peace, or stability, or illumination.

What kind of student am I, I wonder?  What kind of teacher? Sat Nam. Sat, Nam. (Whispered, whimpered—sat nam.)

Although skeptical, I continue to be disciplined in my meditation and practice in spite of the discomfort and in the midst of grand (irrational?) emotional responses.

My teacher tells me, “It is every moment a choice to show up and a choice to reconfigure even if all our participation just creates a firestorm within.”

“Don’t ignore that tapas,” she says.

I have trust in my teacher and faith that she believes in what she is teaching me…so I make a commitment that I shall continue to show up. I shall participate actively and consciously and hope to hell that I am not a big fuckup of an example. Though I am not convinced it is all worth it, there is not enough evidence to the contrary for me to actually throw in the towel, walk away, leave it all behind.

There are so many things I do not know, and yet what I do know is that I yearn to be steady. Is it a childish desire, I wonder? Can I be sensitive to those parts of myself that are still tossing around in the air, having not yet settled back onto the canvas of my life, sticky from honeycomb, fragmented and fragile?

That’s the art part of it, I guess.  To be courageous and sensitive, to resist the urge to use my weakness and revelations of mind against my body.

That is how I reboot. I wake up every day, and in the morning calm I remember…



Editor: Jayleigh Lewis

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