This thing we call Yoga is a practice, a way of life.
Although it may seem like a linear path forward, it is at the same time a continual circling back and returning home to who we are deep within: our truth and our union with all there is. Our practice, whether it be the physical asana or otherwise, is meant to put us up against our greatest challenges. Doubt. Fear. Insecurity. Boredom. Anger. Sadness. Frustration….to name a few.
In a recent weekend of teacher training, we contemplated the sentiment that “It’s the work you do in the dark that keeps you in the light.” We talk about the Dark and the Light all the time, but suddenly this idea was re-illuminated, another layer revealed as we circled back around.
Some days we just don’t feel like practicing. I can list 100 reasons why just today I haven’t yet sat quietly in meditation for my 11 minutes – one of them being I’m writing this blog instead. Sometimes, this resistance to practice is because we don’t want to be alone and quiet with ourselves, for fear of what we will find there. So each day brings a choice; an opportunity to commit to our practices regardless of the reasons we don’t want to or think we can’t. And let me be clear – sometimes the right and most beautiful choice is to skip your formal practice and to watch Netflix and pet your cat instead. And then to hold yourself in compassion and trust that you know exactly what you need.
But some days, we’ll choose to sit on the cushion, to unroll the mat, or to drive ourselves to a class anyway. Something inside us will propel us to move through and choose to look these feelings in the face. And that requires incredible courage and discipline – known as Tapas in the Yogic tradition – the fire and drive in the belly that keeps us returning to our practice time and time again, even when we don’t want to. This Tapas is there for us within us, we just need to tap into to. The Sanskrit verb tap means to burn. (I wrote “tap into it” before noticing the connection. Coincidence? I think not.) Tapas burns through.
The resistances we face surrounding and during our practice may never dissolve away, but what we can do is learn to dance with them. To trust that we know when to look at them from across the room, when to lovingly hold their hand, and when to rock them in a firey tango until they’re on the ground panting and you’ve forgotten they were even there.
Our own personal experiences and relationships to darkness are our greatest teachers. Our gurus.
Without the darkness there would be no light.
The syllable gu means darkness, the syllable ru, he who dispels them, Because of the power to dispel darkness, the guru is thus named. — Advayataraka Upanishad, Verse 16
Mantra: Ong Namo Guru Dev Namo I bow to the subtle divine wisdom, I bow to the divine teacher within.