Despite our best attempts at perfecting our bodies and attitudes, we remain uneven, imbalanced and asymmetrical.
As we mature, we tend to get comfortable with the fact that nothing is ever perfectly balanced, and—if we’re lucky—maybe even begin to find a bit of beauty in this fact. There is always an injury somewhere, a misalignment, an overdeveloped side of the body—just as there is always a chip in the glass, a scratch on the finish—if we look closely enough to spot it.
Yes, asymmetry is perfectly normal; not a single one of us can claim perfect evenness on his or her talent card.
If we could have it, would we really want perfect evenness? Would life be all that interesting if everyone’s geometry was already as pure as a square, as trusty as a triangle?
If all was already aligned, there could be no path to tread, since we’d already be where we want to be—centered and symmetrical. So it seems we say, “yes” then, to our imbalances—we see them as teachers, while we are at the same time careful not to identify ourselves with our imbalances (“That’s just my personality, deal with it!”), as if any label could exhaust the potential of who we are.
In an imaginary world of perfect symmetry, perhaps there would be no yoga, since yoga itself is a practice that reaches in the direction of evenness—evenness of body and mind. What a superfluous thing yoga would be if this imaginary world was a real one, because isn’t yoga, after all, for those who recognize and admit that they’ve got some work to do?
Our souls are curious about peace, about joy, about abundance of spirit, and so we return to the mat again and again to find that symmetry we call the balance of mind and body. But the goal, of course, is not perfect symmetry but rather greater symmetry.
There is always another step forward.
Evenness is like a horizon that we are always moving toward, and as we come to approximate greater evenness in body and mind, our notions of ourselves shift and change. When we see ourselves from a place of imbalance, or unevenness, we are appraising ourselves as if through those circus mirrors that distort reflection. We see curves where there are none. Parts of ourselves appear augmented while other parts diminished. We see qualities in the circus mirror that aren’t there, as if reflected back to us is a clown version of ourselves.
From the distorted perspective of an uneven body-mind, we project distorted narratives. We tell stories about ourselves that are as imbalanced and inaccurate as our myopic gaze. “I’ll never find love again,” “I have nothing worthwhile to offer the world,” “I’m in danger when I’m not in control.”
A teacher of mine recently said in class, “Seek the plum line beneath the story line.”
The narrative, the story, is not who we are—a perhaps unorthodox claim in a society grounded in individualism, where our Self-understanding is characterized by the labels, the stories, the concepts that we horde under the umbrella of the “me” brand. Who we are is that impossible plum line that calls to us, that keeps us practicing, seeking, and loving.
We are that symmetry we seek.
Besides “to yoke” (yu-ji), yoga means “to balance” (yu-ja)—seeking your plum line is a practice in the spirit of this latter meaning. To seek the plum line does not imply that we will inevitably reach a state of complete evenness (for yoga is a lifelong practice). However, we can, through the seeking, expect to encounter greater peace and a more expansive capacity for love and understanding.
In the process of becoming more even, more balanced, we are forced to let go of the previous, distorted notions of who we are, as we glimpse and savor the mystery of the plum line, that ever-elusive axis of evenness and symmetry that gives meaning to our order and disorder, our chaos and our harmony.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Apprentice Editor: Kristin Monk/Editor: Travis May