I hope that those who are coming to asana class are enjoying the quotes from Pema Chodron that have been shared these past 2 months. Her writing is always so spot on, people often feel like she is speaking directly to them and addressing their personal neurosis and suffering. We spoke at the book club this past Thursday about how she creates such a safe space for her students (and for those of us reading her words years later) because she speaks of her own struggles and she assures us that it is ok to be just who we are. In fact, she points out how us wanting to improve and to be "better" is really an aggression against ourselves. She challenges us to consider, and eventually believe, that we are fine the way we are already. She stressed that our practice is not so we can "be better", it is about being at peace with who we are, right now.
Consider how contrary that is to the western way of life, which is about doing better, being bigger and faster, and then being even better at it all once you got good. You might see that this ideal has leaked into yoga practice here as well- do better poses, become stronger, more flexible, do more, take more classes, get more certificates, become MORE PEACEFUL. The real teaching of "be here now" gets lost in all that "doing" and "becoming". Ahimsa (non-harm) is the first teaching of a yoga practice. If we are continuously striving to be a better ME, we are continuing that aggression that Pema pointed to. Aggression and ahimsa are just not able to share the same space. Santosah (contentment) is another important tenant of yoga. Can we be content with who we are right now, without constantly trying to be a better person? Anyway, how long have you tried to be a "better person" and how is that going? When will we become a good enough person? The teaching says never! Can we ever be a good enough, strong enough or rich enough person? Will you ever be popular or successful enough? Most likely just as you reach one goal someone moves the post further away from you. Gandhi said “The world has enough for everyone's need, but not enough for everyone's greed.” Greed of course can be directed at more than just money.
There is a thin line that is difficult to tread (my teacher calls it the razor's edge) between attending to things, like our body and mind, and not getting caught in the trap of doing these things so we can "be better". We still need to do asana so our body remains healthy. A meditation practice is here to help us find the path of contentment, peace, and ahimsa. A full yoga practice which incorporates movement, meditation, self study and surrender, is designed for the purpose of helping us reach contentment. It is not to give a great beach body- although it might do that. There are a lot of things yoga can do for us, but if we keep our sights at the pinnacle of the practice- peace and the inherent joy of being- it will work! And then we can be kind to ourselves and give up the aggression of trying to be better. We all can agree that this world needs more kindness, and like everything else, it starts at home, in this case in your own body. It is hard to not get distracted by all of the other trappings of yoga, and the being betterness of the world around us, this is true. But that is why we have practice, books to instruct us, and teachers to guide us. And we have our own hearts to remind us why we started in the first place.