July 9, 2014

My Practice is my Mona Lisa. ~ Michael Collins {Video}

Photo: Screenshot from video

I am an unlikely yogi.

In fact, my affair with yoga began as a happy accident during my college years as a science major. At the time, I was annoyed at having to complete a physical education requirement to graduate. To be ironic and flippant, I decided to take something stupid like, “Yoga.”

I didn’t want to sweat too much.

I thought, “It’s probably easy… Just breathing and stretching, right?”

I was quite obviously wrong, humbled and frustrated, but also intrigued at the intricate refinement of alignment, poetry of the motion, and most importantly, how tapped-in, receptive and peaceful I felt at the end of my practice.

As life would have it however, through a series of career twists and in defiance of the guidance of my heart, I settled into the most physically removed and isolating profession imaginable: A Software Engineer.

It’s no surprise that we often find antisocial personalities in this profession; our consciousness begins to speak an inner language of structures and visual concepts that don’t really have analogs in verbal communication. It doesn’t make us thrilling conversationalist at dinner parties.

Furthermore, it’s just about the worst possible profession for our physical health, requiring us to sit for long hours, hunched over, stressed out, staring at a screen, and eating vending machine doughnuts.

I would deeply feel Isadora Duncan’s words, “You were wild once, don’t let them tame you.” It seemed like a wrong way to live, but this was me. I had become a cubicle computer nerd—to be sure this was not the deepest desire of my heart.

Yoga remained with me, but the process of transformation was very slow and painstaking. At one point, at six feet tall, I weighed only 130 pounds, weak from spending so much time sitting, pasty white from too little sun and also experienced frustrating conditions like panic attacks and agoraphobia when I dared to go out in public.

I was depressed and socially isolated.

It was bad, but I knew there was more to the story for me.

Anais Nin said it best:

“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”

Sometimes in our lives, we simply wait—sitting, stuck, idle. We are married to our jobs, resigned to bad relationships, acquiescent to our daily patterns—confining places from which we feel powerless to escape. We might live in a place of restricted consciousness, but we can feel deeply that there’s a river of energy, apart from our inner blocks that lead to our greater purpose.

For me, finding myself and opening my practice didn’t mean quitting my job and joining a commune, but it did mean slowly and frustratingly tapping into my own inner river, making small but significant changes in measured increments.

It started with attending class once a week, then twice, then thrice, but always committed to exploring the outer envelope of my practice consistently. That commitment extended to other areas of my life, such as staying centered, focused, and balanced in social situations, approaching every challenge like a difficult asana on uncertain footing.

I wish I could say there was a moment or turning point where everything changed, but it hasn’t happen that way. Truthfully, I can understand DaVinci’s frustration working on Mona Lisa’s mouth; it’s a process of subtle refinement that simply doesn’t end. The work of art is less a stroke of sudden brilliance and more an act of unwavering and committed patience.

The blossoming that happens in a life committed to transformation doesn’t happen in a sudden burst of inspiration.

Rather, it’s the sum of small deliberate steps of painstaking frustration and repetition. You are your own work of art and the genius artisan of your body, life, and soul, and sometimes that even requires a completely new layer of work, much like I am a yogi painted over a layer of nerd software engineer. At some point, we will take a step back and admire how far we’ve come… maybe this is what we would call a bloom. We might not even notice that it’s happened.

In the spirit of stepping out of my confines and honoring my own hard work, I decided to take my yoga practice out of the studio and into the streets—it turned into a kind of entertaining video.

For me it’s important to share because this person is a far cry from the emaciated, socially-phobic computer nerd who would scarcely dare to be found in public.

My practice is my own Mona Lisa, never finished, but maybe it’s time to take a step back, share, and enjoy the bloom of dedication’s hard work.

May the light find us all with time, patience, and dedication!




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Apprentice Editor: Kim Haas / Editor: Catherine Monkman

Photo: Screenshot from video

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