When we moved back to Kingston in 2006, I bumped into a project manager from our days in tech. We drank coffee/tea and chatted and a most interesting discussion took place. The typical catch up occurred – “What brings you back? Are you both still in IT? Where are you working now?”. I remember telling Dave that i was in a new career – I am now teaching yoga. I was not sure how he would react (people react in all sorts of fascinating ways) and he simply smiled warmly. He asked me exactly what it was i taught people. I shared with him what i was teaching at the time. Turns out he’d been practicing Transcendental Mediation (TM) for over 26 years! No wonder he was so great to work with 🙂
We then proceeded to talk about meditation, the different practices and spirituality. It was wonderful. Then he said something that i really had to think about. Dave made a comment about how “meditation is not to be used a refuge from life” – spiritual practice (meditation or otherwise) is not an escape from what’s going on, it’s a tool which allows us to integrate and interconnect more deeply.
Did i ever have to think about this one. And i have been, ever since he said it years ago. And after many years of contemplation, i have to say that I agree with Dave.
One of the definitions of yoga that i really appreciate is Micheal Stone’s – yoga as “intimate interconnectedness”. Even if we go with the basic “to join or unite” definition, it is apparent that yoga is about bringing together not moving apart. I have experienced where moving apart was needed in order to move more closely together… yet in the end, it is about coming together, about love.
If we keep this in mind as we move through our practices, a very simple barometer would be the simple inquiry “Does this create union, or not?”.
For me, a massive part of the yoga practices (the toolkit) is to become more skillful in my actions which allows me to deepen all my relationships. I do it because yoga gives me perspective, it allows me to be more open, grounded, compassionate, loving and understanding… It helps me to be a better daughter, sister, wife, friend, teacher. It helps my authentic self to come forward… to shine, which in turn allows everyone else to shine too 🙂
Has this always been the case. No. There was a time where as I practiced I was blessed enough to have a lot of ease. Practice came very easily and life was easy (not many trials or challenges) and i actually became “more spiritual than thou” or “holy-er than thou”. I judged those that weren’t strong enough to be vegetarian, I felt pity for those who could not complete a power yoga class, I did not understand those who were living the challenges of life – I was floating in grace and did not want to come down off that cloud to understand those who were somewhere other than where I was.
Yep, that was me. Sounds “un-yogic” eh? Looking back on that time, I now realize that I was using the practices, these beautiful amazing gifts, as a way to isolate myself from my world and relationships. If I’m in the mind set of judgment, pity, and condescension, I’m not moving towards union. Quite the contrary. I was using the practices to move me further and further away from those I loved, those who loved me, and those I hadn’t had a chance to love or be loved by yet. I was creating lots of space… because i was trying to escape. I was unhappy on the inside, and didn’t even know it, and was definitely not ready to deal with it. I used the practices as a refuge from my life, instead of a way to integrate more deeply into life.
Thank goodness I learned. We all have the opportunity to learn from our experienced. I definitely don’t know it all (not even close!), yet now I know that I needed to work through my challenges and fears. The universe brings us all our fears so we can figure them out, work through them, and come out stronger and closer to our authentic self…. more compassionate, integrated and interconnected in our lives to the people, places and experiences.
When I choose my practices now I am more mindful – does this practice allow me to connect (with myself, others, my life), or does it isolate me? Why am I practicing what I’m practicing? Does it serve me? Does it serve those I am in relationship/interconnection/yoga with?
Om Shantih and Prema (universal peace & love),
Mona L. Warner, ERYT500 & RYS500