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July 13, 2013

Public Perception vs. Yoga Reality. ~ Melinda Matthews

Not too long ago, a “friend” dumped me (via an email drop-and-block) because she perceived me to be an ineffectual parent and, in a somehow-related vein, a poor yoga practitioner.

One of her reasons for eliminating me, she wrote, was that my parental bad behavior didn’t jibe with someone who is “supposedly into yoga and meditation.”

[For the record, I’d been considering dropping her as well, for different reasons, but because she was moving away, I figured time and distance would unravel our relationship kindly and organically.]

Her use of the word “supposedly” stuck in my craw especially sharply and jaggedly. Did she mean that my behavior (and her judgment of it) rendered me unworthy to practice yoga or meditation? Or was she implying that, because of my imperfect behavior, my love for yoga somehow became tainted and immediately suspect: phony, an act, a sham?

Though losing the relationship hasn’t particularly damaged me, I have chewed on that phrase at regular intervals, wondering exactly how someone who is “into” yoga and meditation is supposed to behave.

Please tell me: Is there a rule book on yoga comportment that I missed during teacher training? Are yogis held to a higher behavioral standard than non-yogis? Do practitioners wear signs around their necks or halos on their heads indicating spiritual superiority?

Exactly what magic alchemy transforms someone who happens to love yoga and meditation into a person who never has bad moments, parental or otherwise?

When the hell was the pedestal erected and why the hell was it set so damned high?

And how the hell do I get off?

I realize there’s a bias—perhaps perpetuated among yoga practitioners themselves—that loving yoga equates to a peaceful soul, perpetual calm, and a wide-open heart. One needs only to gaze upon the many serene depictions of Buddha to understand yoga’s spiritual attraction. And that’s definitely one major reason why I practice yoga and meditation. Naturally, I strive towards these admirable characteristics: peace, calm and unconditional love for all.

Oh yes, I long to be like the Buddha of my imaginings.

But the more honest reason why I practice yoga and meditation: I exist so far off the mark from these noble attributes that I desperately need my practice to guide me back on track. I am flawed–deeply flawed—filled to the brim with doubt, chaos, turmoil, and sometimes, even, black despair.

I am nothing like the Buddha of my imaginings.

Still, I wonder where I’d be without yoga and meditation. For as flawed as I am, my practice always returns me to my core and center, a place where I re-establish my footing, take a deep breath, and begin fresh. It doesn’t matter that I’m constantly starting from a place of mess and goo—what matters is that I slowly, inch by inch, pull myself away from it.

I do not begrudge my ex-friend’s choice to end our relationship. I do shake my head sadly, and in wonder, about how she chose to do it. Even though it seems like she judged me harshly, I cannot judge her in return, for whatever motivated her is her reason and hers alone.

And the fact that I can let it be, bewildered but with a modicum of empathy, speaks volumes about the path I am on, the one discovered through my regular yoga practice. If, one day, I find I can understand my former friend—and perhaps even love her unconditionally, despite what transpired between us.

Then I will have taken one giant step closer to that Buddha of my imaginings.

 

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Assistant Ed: Judith Andersson/Ed: Bryonie Wise

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Melinda J. Matthews