I have come to realize, after my years of practice, that my Yoga practice comes down to one question – which fire am I tending?
You might wonder what I mean by this. Let me elaborate.
Yoga is the practice of non-dual awareness. Simply put, this means recognizing that I (and you) are not separate from anyone, anything, any experience, thought or ideal. From the view of Spirit we are all interconnected to each other and to everything. We are one.
The reason why we don’t always have this experience of unification with all that is, is due to the inflation of a construct known as the ego. Our ego is the part of us that creates a sense of separation from all that is. Instead of “we are one” the ego says “you versus me”. Basically, the ego takes us away from WE and into ME.
Everything we do, every choice we make in our lives either fuels one of two fires: are you fuelling the fire of your Spirit and interconnection, or are you fuelling the fire of ego and separation? Only you know which fire your are tending to.
When you offer to help someone else, is the offer for them (spirit) or for you (ego)? If you have a certain way of eating, is it because that’s the choice that promotes strength and health in your tissues (spirit) or because you can use it to be superior to someone else (ego)? Do you practice because it connects you to yourself (spirit), or because it makes you look good to others (ego)?
You are the only one who knows the answers for yourself.
I have a great example of how this showed up for me. A few years ago I decided to undertake a 100-day mantra practice. It’s a mantra practice, so it’s spiritual, right? Well, it depends. I’d say that for the first 60 days or so this practice was about the practice, the mantra, my growth – it was tending to the fire of my Spirit. Then something interesting happened. I noticed myself thinking one day “well I have to get to 100-days because Uma did 100-days and I want to at least do that too”… Oh… I just changed which fire I was tending. I took what is meant to be a spiritual practice, and starting using that very same practice to bolster my ego. I lost the spirituality in my spiritual practice. Oops.
As soon as I realized that I was now practicing for something other than tending to the growth of my spirit, that I was practicing so I could “say” that I had done 100-days just like Uma did (so I’m at least as spiritual as she is, right?), I dropped the practice. It was tending the wrong fire.
Today, I might continue the practice and instead course correct where my intention was coming from. Back then, I didn’t have that level of understanding or refinement. It was broader strokes. This is why sometimes “the road to hell is paved with good intentions” – we lose sight of the fact that our intention changed, which means our impact in the world changes. Either way, I’m happy to have noticed that, and to continue noticing in each moment what I am cultivating, to the best of my ability to be present with my life.
My new practice is to ask myself constantly – which fire am I tending to with this thought, action and choice? Regardless of which fire I tend to moment to moment, having that awareness is spectacular!
I invite you to inquire around your practice – which fire are you tending to: the fire of your ego, or the fire of your spirit? With compassion and without judgment, notice what there is to notice.