I was having a (gasp!) coffee with a friend of mine recently and we started talking about what some of the yoga practices were about. Newer to yoga, my friend noticed that she felt confused by some of the dogma she's come into contact with. She noticed that sometimes practices seem artificial or downright judgmental. She didn't like to sing what she didn't understand. And, she'd long ago decided that self-worth was tied to lifestyle choices. She came to yoga as a way for to connect, not a way to classify.
I told her I felt like that too.
Who Made The Rules
Having been weaned on rigidity, I instantly understood what she meant. For me, rules and guidelines have often been scapegoats for deeper discontent, and sometimes rules have been downright harmful. I've learned (through many missteps) that I need to question- WHO made the rules. I need to respect my own needs over deliciously tempting dogma. I need to stay connected with change, not become attached to control. I need to stay in the slippery mental space where I am most alive. And, for me, this is what my yoga practice is about.
I know I still need to struggle and watch my mind flirt with rigidity. I know I need to embody change until it doesn’t scare me. I know I need to connect to what is real and visceral for me, even when it hurts. I know I practice so that I can practice settling into me.
Pema Chodron talks about how all practices are really just vehicles. We get on board with something so that we can travel closer to ourselves, but, ultimately, how we travel doesn't matter. Because, our real journey is inward, not into let-me-prove-a-point-with-how-spiritual-I-look. We practice so that we can honor ourselves, not our artifice!
The 'Real' You
The 'real' you is always there. It might be the voice that tells you there is something to this yoga thing. It might be the part that is grasping to ‘understand’ practice. Hell, it might even be the voice that says: ‘this teacher is full of BS.’ All of this is okay1
The truth is: we are all practicing. And, whether we practice under the guise of friend, sibling, teacher, yogi it doesn't matter. The name doesn't matter. How you serve yourself, your family, your friends, your community-- that matters. Simply, you can observe 'yogic' practices and still be a crappy person.
Be That Something
Of course, I still want it to be as simple as a new diet, asana, and some mala beads. Of course, I would love for something to just wash my experience of struggling and suffering away. But, that would not be real to me. And, when I feign to embody a blind, ‘yogic’ other-worldly connection, I know I am faking it. This artifice of ‘yoga’, like my friend’s experience, leaves me dissatisfied and disillusioned. And, thankfully, I have come to realize that the emptiness I feel when I practice false experience is exactly reaction I need to have. I will not learn more by tuning out.
We all deserve something. We deserve to embody ourselves. I am my something. You are your something.
When we honor our hearts, we are never faking it.