Extended family is proof of yoga's truth that each of us is an essential part of a greater whole. As you practice, you begin to recognize that story you are "writing" as you live and love is an essential part of the whole collection of stories that led to your life - and that will lead to the lives of those to come after you. Let’s promise one another to treat our lives like the treasures they are – and, while we’re at it, to share the stories we collect along our way with those who come after us.
As a recovering perfectionist, yoga and meditation have been powerfully healing. Richard Rohr writes, “If there is such a thing as human perfection, it seems to emerge precisely from how we handle the imperfection that is everywhere, especially in ourselves.” I'll confess to being a little tweaked by the idea of one day being able to handle my imperfections perfectly. Lucky for me, my practices continue to give me a zillion chances to surrender to just how out of reach even that teeny-tiny chance of perfection is.
When an old friend smiled and said, "Life is being very lifey, isn't it?" he packed loads of wisdom and mindfulness into a five letter, made-up adjective. Lifey is a skill we can practice. When we accept that life is being lifey, we are able to maintain the same even keel when when our kid is injured, or our parent is sick, or we’ve lost our job, or our partner is leaving us as when we’ve gotten the promotion at last, or when we’re head over heels in new love, or when the kids are all getting along. A perspective of life being lifey, in good times and hard times, holds life lightly; trusts that life will change; and understands that life is a series of moments – all of which can be relished.
I used to feel somewhat panicked and nauseous over in-class observations. The fact that my “upset” felt out of proportion to the situation was a clue that I needed to look a little more closely at what was really going on. When I did, I saw that I was not seeing the intention of these observations clearly and my whole perspective changed. Seeing clearly not only freed me from some self-induced suffering, but, as an added bonus, some led to some really exciting growth.
When you and I are kind, yoga philosophy promises that we are changing the world around us. My favorite way to grapple with yoga philosophy is with little real-life encounters. A random smile shared with a total stranger in Bed, Bath & Beyond last week accidentally confirmed that the ancient yogis were onto something! Pay attention - you want to be the change you want to see!
Having kids in their twenties feels like someone has installed a revolving door on my home. No sooner does one move out than another moves back in. Each time the door spins I feel a surge of resistance to all this change. With practice I am slowly learning to to trust the revolving door of my life - to release my natural resistance and choose instead to welcome each change.
I don’t like messes – physical or the less tangible kinds. I prefer order in my environment – bookshelves organized, laundry put away, gardens weeded, to do lists filled with more checked off tasks than not. In short, messes make me uncomfortable, antsy, and agitated. I am learning through my practices of yoga and meditation that many of life’s messes, though uncomfortable and sometimes painful, can be the fertile soil of growth and change – but only if I resist the urge to clean them up.
Yoga philosophy teaches that letting go of extra “stuff” actually frees us. When we step back from our attachment to the stuff we have, the things we have no longer own us. Helping my son clean out his closet reminded me of the power of decluttering and how important it is to the quality of our lives to regularly clean out, pare down and straighten up our spaces, our days, and our minds.
One of the most transformative gifts of a yoga practice is the willingness to be patient with slow progress that often doesn’t look like progress at all as it weaves and circles and backtracks. This willingness allows us to survive and even thrive as we navigate grief, unexpected career changes, “long-haul” parenting, caring for a sick or dying loved one, the collapse of a marriage, the upheaval of a global pandemic, and so on. In times like these, it’s perfectly natural to hope that Google will have the answer or at least the phone number of an expert who has the answer. It’s understandable to want an easy fix when you’re worried or in pain. But the healing, creativity, perspective, strength, and resilience that we need in situations like these do not develop quickly. These are times for the patience and persistence of a yogi (or a tortoise).