Tag Archives: decisions

Open to the Openness

My focus for the past week’s classes has been something I usually incorporate into my classes, but I felt it was so relevant to the process of examining how we live our lives that I decided to not only make it the focus, but to also write about it. My work in waking people up to their true selves and their true missions in this life basically always comes back to what I’ve been discussing with students this past week, so please feel free to consider this to be a fundamental truth, one from which all other aspects of one’s life stems.

Regardless of whether your yoga practice consists of standing up in the morning and stretching after a long night’s sleep, or if you take a 90-minute active group class somewhere, then you might have already clued in to the fact that everything that you do relating to the asanas directly relates to your approach to what you do in all other aspects of your lives. I have always encouraged and instructed students to bring their home practice to a group environment, to take the same liberties they would afford themselves when practicing alone, confident in the knowledge that their practice should fit their bodies, and not the inverse…I remind everyone that they’re not doing it to impress me, nor to impress the people around them. I often remind everyone that what the person is doing directly next to them in class has absolutely no bearing on their own practice, that the essence of Yoga is about looking inwards, and forgetting what their senses are interpreting from external sources. Most importantly, I encourage students to keep moving, even micro-movements in static poses, all in the hope that they’ll wriggle around and find an even more comfortable and stable posture than they’ve been used to, regardless of how long they’ve been practicing and how well they think they know their bodies, the practice, etc… The reasons for my approach are manifold: I am a firm believer that I know nothing. That we know nothing. That we go through our lives with stories about each other, about the world we live in, but mainly about ourselves. We tell ourselves we are this way, we like these things, we see ourselves here, there or elsewhere in the future, that we believe in whatever we think we believe in…however…when given the chance to wriggle around and test the boundaries of who we think we are and what we think we’re capable of, all of a sudden we realize that we are more capable, more aware, more awake, more, more, more than we knew. We are more than we think we are, and in the immortal words of Jean Klein, we need to remain “Open to the openness.” We don’t know everything about anything, and so the more we realize that, the more hesitant we are in defining ourselves, each other, and the world around us because we understand that everything is in a state of transformation, of flux, and we become more of who we are with every passing second. The other reason for my approach is to give people the perspective necessary to really see themselves and the way they live their lives…to examine how we make decisions, and whether those decisions are bringing us closer to where and who we want to be, or if the roots of those choices we have made (and continue to make) stem from any other motivation.

If a student feels empowered enough in my class to take an extra breath when he or she needs it, or if a student feels comfortable enough to wriggle around and make self-adjustments in the understanding that they will find a better practice waiting on the other side of those movements, then the same student will also feel empowered enough to draw outside of the lines in their own lives…to work within whatever parameters exist in whatever realm they find themselves in, i.e. their jobs, relationships, etc…, but to also feel confident that by incorporating their own inquisitiveness and personalities, they will find an even more gratifying space of truth in whatever they’re doing. On the other end of the spectrum, if a student feels paralyzed by fear in their practice, and they take a pose and hold it for dear life while shaking and suffering, counting the breaths until they can come out of it, then that tells them how they deal with challenge, trauma, and essentially any other facets of daily life that don’t immediately sit comfortably with them. The yoga practice tells us everything we need to know, we just need to understand that and be open to the openness of the worlds within and all around us. If a student finds themselves reluctant to explore their options with in the framework of a class, they’ll be reluctant to explore in all other areas of their lives. I’ve said before that if we want to change the way we live, we have to change the way we think, so basically yoga is a system of tools that encourages us to look at our thought processes and challenge them when appropriate…all to give us what we need to make better lives for ourselves. That’s it. That’s why I teach. It’s why I practice. It’s how I live.

So I ask you: what are your patterns? How do you live? Have you ever asked yourself where your motivation comes from when making decisions that will affect your happiness? If not, start now. You’ve always had everything you needed, you just needed to know what questions to ask. So ask them. This is your time, and it’s why you’re here…

Just Do It

I’ve never been one to make New Year’s resolutions. In fact, I often found it incredibly strange that I seemed to be in the minority of people not vowing to change some aspect of my reality and/or behaviour come the start of a new year. My reluctance is not rooted in any type of aversion to wanting to better one’s self, or having the clarity of mind and confidence to illuminate the darker recesses of one’s personality and behaviour, all of which I find quite commendable, actually. I simply found it odd that the majority of those around me felt the need to take advantage of one specific date out of the annual calendar to attempt to bring about positive changes in their lives. As far as I’m concerned, every day that I wake up in the morning is another opportunity to bring about the changes that I’d like to see, taking individual steps towards realizing my ideal self. Despite all this, I am definitely aware of the opportunities that a new year can offer, and so I felt compelled to mention a couple of things for those who are getting closer and closer to the imminent day of reckoning.

My relationship with change has come a long way from where it used to be, which was a place of stagnance and defiance. When I was younger, most of the change that occurred in my life was imposed on me by my parents and teachers, which I eventually bought into (or, as Don Miguel Ruiz, the author of The Four Agreements, would say, I made agreements with). Once I found myself in a position where I had control over my life, I found myself waiting for change to happen, at which point I would react in whichever way I found appropriate. Nonetheless, I allowed myself to hand over all of the power and opportunity that was available to destiny, hoping that good things did indeed come to those who waited. I lived like this until a couple of years ago, at which point I realized that my life was not unfolding in the manner that lived up to the standard that I held for myself, and that it was time to take control of the decisions and choices that would determine which paths my life would follow.

Making the decision to actively choose where I wanted my life to go was probably the hardest one I’ve ever had to make, because it involved breaking the agreements that I had made with my superiors when I was younger…and it wasn’t something that happened overnight. I gradually went through the better part of a year making sure that I wasn’t being hasty or irresponsible, while wanting to be able to procrastinate what I knew was inevitable. This incredibly drawn out process resulted in the ultimate truth: putting off any changes that we know will be beneficial to our lives simply because they’re daunting is a far greater waste of energy and time than simply making a decision and sticking to it. The amount of time I agonized over whether I was being foolish and impetuous was monumentally more taxing to my overall state of mind than if I had just decided to step up and do what had to be done. I got there in my own time, obviously, but I am now more conscious of my potential to accomplish what had previously been unimaginably intimidating, even impossible.

There is a concept that states that people lie to themselves constantly about the most significant and insignificant of events and subjects simply because to be 100% truthful would be paralysingly harsh. Due to our tendency to sugarcoat the truth to ourselves, we inevitably end up lying to each other because we are afraid that our imperfections will be evident, that they will be seen in the harsh light of reality, flaws and all. I was responsible for lying to myself about where my life was headed, and must have justified it ad nauseum to those around me simply to make myself feel better about it all. When I stopped lying, when I felt like I had no choice but to take the other available option, a quote by Nelson Mandela soon popped into my head that I had first heard in a yoga class and which stayed with me as a pseudo-mantra. Mandela’s quote is, “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.” A truism to remember always.

We can do anything we set our minds to. Granted, there are some that have higher obstacles to overcome, but regardless of where we’re starting from, the only person we have to answer to is ourself. In the coming weeks, and throughout the rest of our lives, the changes that we feel are inevitable, those that we’re afraid to incorporate into our lives but that we know are beneficial and that will bring us closer to our ideal selves should be actively pursued. We need to stop beating ourselves up about why we haven’t already taken these steps, and just take them. Nike’s motto “Just do it” is possibly the best advice anyone can ever be given. Think about flicking on a light switch – it’s that easy. Make the choice, take the decision to bring change into your life, and then stick to that decision until you see your life flourish as a result. Don’t get defeated and never take “no” for an answer. From my experience, taking the initial steps towards truth, beauty and light inevitably result in opportunities presenting themselves to help out along the way. If, for whatever reason, the end result is not what was initially desired, then at least an attempt was made and the rest of one’s life is not littered by “what ifs” and “I should have.” And if we end up living our lives in control of what happens to us as opposed to being ricocheted from event to event like a pinball, then we’re already a step ahead of the game. At least we did our best. That’s yoga 🙂