‘how do you know you are confronting a classic “hindrance” on your spiritual path? just ask yourself: am i losing my sense of balance, my sense of priorities, and my sense of what’s really important? am i being carried away by temporary reactions, by destructive emotions? that’s what challenges do; they obstruct your insight and prevent you from seeing things as they really are. they stand between you and the calm clear awareness of the enlightened mind’ (Lama Surya Das).
i’ve been attending a yoga philosophy class for about four months. during the last class, the teacher opened up the conversation to the attendees to share how yoga had changed their lives. at first i was excited, knowing all the positive, wonderful and expansive life altering experiences yoga has brought into my life. after about a second, however, i began to feel my heart race, my cheeks flush and my mind start to whirl – oh my god, what do i say?! what if they can’t make any sense of my words?! what if i sound like a babbling idiot?! how do i express everything i want to in a concise and clear manner while at the same time being able to show the love and openness and joy and peace and calm that i now live in?! after a minute or so i realized i wasn’t living in that peace and calm anymore. i recognized my old pattern of obsessive, crazy mind chatter that i had perfected and relied on for years to define me. it was yet another opportunity to love myself, to turn inward, and become aware of my physical, emotional and psychological reactions in that present moment.
i did muddle through a few personal comments during the class, while at the same time attempting to quiet my inner conversation and physical symptoms. i wanted to share how, years ago, while in the middle of a very heat producing, difficult divorce as well as losing an important friendship of a woman i had known and loved, i found yoga. my then husband and friends’ presence became so overpoweringly prominent and all consuming in my mind that i would hyperventilate just hearing the telephone ring, fearing it would be another conflict. i was not an open person and emotionally travelled great distances to avoid any possibility of conflict or strife. another friend at the time would refer to me as a ‘cloud person.’ the physical practice of yoga helped clear my mind, over time, of the crazies and allowed a glimpse of the peace i would eventually come to know. so with the practice of yoga, respected friendships, my children and my art, i slowly emerged from the dark place into the light. the divorce became less of a hot spot, my friendship was severed and neither was the end of the world. i came to understand and accept that this too shall pass. good, bad, positive, negative, flux and change are part of this life. there’s no getting around it. holding on for that dear life just creates more drama and trauma and holding my breath creates death.
getting back to my reactions to sharing in the yoga class, i could name them easily as i’d been down this path many times before: fear of not having anything interesting to say, being shunned and having backs turned in protest, being called stupid. it’s all so familiar, yet each time a surprise. this new year i find i’m utterly amazed with almost every experience. even what i would have seen as rather ordinary before i find quite remarkable. and once over the surprise, accepting comes automatically. much of the ‘old behavior’ i can spot rather quickly, name, accept and investigate within a short span of time. others take more inquiry.
this particular situation required a bit more investigation even though i was familiar with the historical background. one of the feelings/emotions that didn’t come up, surprisingly, were feelings of self hatred and loathing. typically this would be mixed in with all of the other ‘problems about me’ that i took responsibility for. not this time. and there i was again, utterly amazed. pratyahara (withdrawal of the senses, turning inward) is another avenue of yoga practice that allows the mind and senses to be still, to look within, to stop inflicting pain on ourselves. i have broken the cycle of self-destruction again and it feels good. i have come to love myself, no matter what. and with each new surprise that love sinks a little deeper yet becomes a little clearer. i accept each and every moment and am learning how to be mindful, to use my senses to discover what the experience is right here, right now and not layer it with non-issues, clutter from another time. i accept the pain and the joy. i accept the pain and the joy. i accept the pain and the joy.