Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Perfect Conditions

It was a perfect day today in the mysore room for practice, and not in the way that you would imagine. Not many people showed up, of those who showed up, several were dealing with injuries from minor aches and tweaks to intense, debilitating pain. Of the ones who did not have physical pain, a few were dealing with intense emotional upwellings and changes. Did I mention that I've been dealing with an ongoing, non-yoga related, physical sensation as well?

So why was this a good day, you ask?

Because all of us, including me, could have said fuck this and left. Because all of us, including me, could've not shown up at all. Because all of us could have chosen ways of not-seeing, of not-feeling, of not-knowing. Because we showed up, and because we felt, there is no way that we can unknow now. I've long believed that you cannot call yourself a yogi, certainly not an ashtangi, until you have dealt with an injury, used the practice to learn about the patterns that may have caused it, and in the process developed more compassion and patience, a different perspective on the why of practice. I am not advocating a deliberate drive towards aggression that will cause said injury--one of the students in the room had slipped on ice in Atlanta and hurt her wrist, yet she showed up to see how she could practice in her new body--my point is that as embodied beings, it comes with the territory that our bodies will not always cooperate. It is our practice to accept the limits, while compassionately pressing against the edges of possibility. The practice is not there to coddle us and deepen the grooves of our existing patterns; rather, it is meant to bring us face to face with our tendencies, with our desires, with our doubts and insecurities and fears. It is meant to expose our mind and heart until we can't take it any longer, and precisely at that moment, we practice by staying, by saying yes, by being with all of the discomfort and the ugliness.

The practice is not separate from us. It is not a place to hide. It is not an indulgence of our senses nor of our ego. The practice will expose our wanting ways, our petty and valid desires: to be seen, to be heard, to be loved, to be touched. To be the best. To be perfect. To be somebody else.

When this unbearable, stinking bouquet of 'self' is presented to us, we know the practice is starting to take root, that it's starting to work. Until then, we are raking and digging our way to the core of our being.

I want you to hear this: to practice only when the conditions are perfect is missing the point. To wait for a rested, open body, to wait for a calm, steady mind, to wait until your life is not overwhelming you with its many demands is like waiting for Godot. He ain't coming. So get on your mat, stay on it, and practice! I don't mean postures; I mean practice seeing, practice compassion, practice radical acceptance of what is. Practice being truly in the body you have today, with no preconceived notions and no expectations. Practice staring at your fear of dying, at your fear of not being good enough, your fear of stepping into who you really are. Practice the big things and the small also: how you think about yourself, the language you use in your head when thinking about others; practice deep, ruthless honesty. Practice opening your eyes and your mind and your heart to everything around you. There may be other options. But chances are you will not be able to undo the knowledge of where your true work lies. Consider this a profound blessing. 


  1. Today, I too was struggling, at home trying to go within yet feeling somehow connected to the group and to you. Thank you, Erika, for all you do and are to us.