Monday, April 18, 2011

Coming Home

Sometimes it feels like we are a house-full of sorrows. Every corner, under every piece of furniture, in every drawer, memories, thoughts, regrets, disappointments, worry, grief. It's all there and what do you do with it?

The ancient Sufi poet Rumi suggests we welcome our sorrows, make them a cup of tea, sit, and listen.

In the highly relative world of emotion, one thing that is certain is that those sorrows do exist, at least for the moment. They feel so real because we can feel them. This is countered by another thing which is true which is: when we learn to uncover our True Nature through practices such as meditation and yoga, we see clearly that what we are is deeper than even these pervasive, transitory emotions which seem to rule our lives. From the grand perspective of our True Nature, which, the ancients say and invite us to discover for ourselves, is boundless equanimity, we allow ourselves to experience our emotions fully, knowing that when all is said and done, our emotions will come and go but this True Nature will stay constant. By experiencing our emotions from this perspective, often these sorrows seem to get whatever it was off their chest, finish their tea, and then see themselves out. Regardless, each thing that comes to our door, like Rumi says, is our teacher.

In yoga, it's nice to know that we're not trying to "fix" anything but rather simply uncovering the most True part of ourselves, the part that is not subjective like our emotions. Plus, it just feels really good to be with that True part of ourselves. It's like coming home.

The Guest House
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they're a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
~ Rumi ~

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Provocative Evolution

Whether we are new or seasoned practitioners, our objective in practice is always the same: to step up to the the comfortable relationship with our edge. That invitation to step to our edge is so provocative! It suggests leaving the comfort of what we know and move toward our yet unknown greatness. Yet, the invitation is to be in proper relationship with your edge so that it doesn't overcome you. If I were to experience the Grand Canyon by standing on the very edge, all I could think about would be my own imminent death. With a little space, I can appreciate my edge rather than repel from it.

I like the word "frontier." In my mind, it conjures images of rugged people working with the land and wrestling with the unknown, growing and learning and being present with a life that is bigger than them but in which they play a part. The word "frontier" suggests perhaps our edge, our limit of experience or ability. It is the place which we have never been.

I think that whether you are working at a frontier of mindfulness, spirituality, or physicality, to place yourself at that edge of your experience is to truly live. Being at the edge isn't always easy but it is always real.

Simply being at our edge, we become stronger, literally in the case of asanas, but in every aspect of living, we find ourselves more and more able to sit in the heat of our own growth and the inevitable unfolding of the unknown. Because we have to be observant at that edge, we will notice the miracle of what we've created by being there. It's the miracle of watching our frontier, limitations we thought were so fixed and immovable, recede away from us. So that where we find ourselves is no longer the limit of our experience or ability. I could only touch my knees when I began practice, now I can touch my toes. I could only focus for a few seconds when I started, now I can stay in rapt attention for several moments. I barely understood myself before, now I see a divine creature unfolding.

As this edge recedes, we are again provoked by our own potential to take another step closer toward that edge. And again we find ourselves at the familiar relationship and distance with our frontier. Periodically, we may look back to see all the ground we've covered. That growth is a nice reminder that we're moving in the direction of our intention but ultimately secondary to what's real and present and constant--our commitment to be at the frontier. Our commitment to growth.

So here's the biggest paradox: the only way to get there is to be here, where you are currently. And here is always changing.

Until one day we realize that this is where we've set down our roots, in the paradox of constant movement as we chase our frontier, the eternal growth toward our highest self. We have arrived as we witness our own evolution.

Come to practice this week and join me as we practice living at this frontier, especially at the special workshop that Erin and I will teach where we will explore the radical idea of backing way off from the edge.