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Monday, April 30, 2012
Riders on the Storm
"...What we choose to fight is so tiny! What fights us is so great! If only we would let ourselves be dominated as things do by some immense storm, we would become strong too, and not need names. When we win it's with small things, and the triumph itself makes us small. What is extraordinary and eternal does not want to be bent by us..." (from Rilke's poem "The Man Watching")
In light of Rilke’s poem, one of these "extraordinary and eternal" powers is what we can access in yoga. And none of us really understands it. And, truly, none of us can really control that extraordinary and eternal force that is larger than ourselves. When we practice yoga, we are submitting ourselves to something great and powerful, within and without us. Yoga is mysterious and strong stuff, as is Life itself. We have the opportunity to dance with it and to learn from it and access something greater than our small everyday minds and lives because of it.
Sometimes we "use" the yoga to feel like we have total control, over our bodies or minds or relationships or circumstances. And this makes us feel temporarily safe, like we can somehow order this mystery in a way that keeps us from pain or loss. But, in the end, we've been disillusioned: our bodies change, grow old, our lives change, people disappoint us, etc., and we feel a sense of our vulnerability and our tenderness. In the meantime, something powerful and wise and mysterious has been trying to spend time with us, change us, heal us, "have its way with us." Yes, we can come with intention to our yoga mats, with intention to our lives, (which helps give us direction and helps flex our muscles in making what we love out of our lives) but then we can let go. We can empty our cups, admit sweet defeat, and approach our mats ready to watch and learn, and ready to be taught and surprised. We can enter each day the same way.
Rilke finishes his poem: "Winning does not tempt that man. This is how he grows: by being defeated, decisively, by constantly greater beings."
There is probably nothing harder for human beings than to soften into our lives (and our yoga practices!) with a sense of wonder and humility. However, in the end, this is what will best serve us and everyone else. There is so much we DO have say over, using our wills to GET to yoga class for one, to step into the mystery in the first place, to work with our thoughts, to forgive, to love, to change, to help others. There is so much we can create, there is so much strength we can access in ourselves, yes, BUT nothing good can come out of our trying to control our lives, our bodies, our yoga from a place of fear . And until we learn to befriend the mystery, we're missing the opportunity to be taught by something wiser: "This illusion of being in control, that we can control everything that happens to us, is so destructive, so aggressive" (Treya, in Ken Wilber's "Grace and Grit"), destructive because we avoid being changed and taught and grown, which hurts us and those around us. Not to mention that if we believe that WE'RE in control, then that implies that everyone else is too and we feel judgment and lose compassion for other human beings, who are also subject to the mystery.
Eventually we can befriend the mystery: we can see we are neither victims of our time on this earth, nor are we sole authors. We are in a dance with the Storm itself (to use Rilke's imagery), with Life, with our bodies, with Yoga, with ourselves, with our families. We are the other player in this cosmic chess game.
I'm going to focus on letting go and befriending the mystery myself this week, in classes and in private. Please join me! We're all in this mystery together!