So, as you know, this month I have been mostly doing Yoga. I can’t believe I am just over a month into my course! I am stronger, fitter and healthier than I have been in a long time. To be honest I was expecting that. I wouldn’t be taking a Yoga Teacher Course if I didn’t already believe that Yoga is incredibly good for you!
So what wasn’t I expecting? I was expecting to learn a lot of new stuff from the vast cauldron of Eastern Philosophy. I was expecting this to be interesting and perhaps even insightful. But to be honest, I wasn’t expecting to actually believe much of it!
However it seems 20 odd years of determined cynicism is being stripped away, to be replaced by... what? I’m not sure yet.
In our first training session our Teacher pointed out something very obvious and crucial: that you must practice what you teach. If you are going to stand up in front of a class and encourage them challenge their body and mind, you have to live by the same rules. “Of course” I thought, “that’s obvious!” (Although, if I’m honest, it wasn’t something that had occurred to me earlier). However, in that spirit I decided to be open to whatever ideas were thrown at me, and to try and live by the principles that I was prescribed.
I am still trying to do that – although it’s not easy and is going to take a lot more time and dedication than I originally supposed. But the Constraints are fair: do not harm yourself or others; do not steal or lie; control your passions and do not be greedy or covetous. You can’t argue with that! The Observances too: purity or cleanliness; honesty; austerity or self-discipline (by far the most challenging for me – but I can’t deny I need some!) and self-study. All good. I am having trouble reconciling what the last Observance – awareness of the Divine – might mean to me as an atheist. But I am assured that Yoga is not a religion – so perhaps human endeavour and our ability to love is my ‘divinity’?
The daily practice of physical yoga as well as meditation and pranayama (breathing control) is also undeniably good for me – although requires more daily discipline than I have managed to summon so far!
So what’s the 'BUT'? Perhaps there isn’t one... except... I am not sure if I fully recognise myself anymore. I am changing.
I was thinking about my Yoga Class and what I think of my fellow students – all good things! But that led me to wonder what they think of me, and how they perceive me... and I realised I have no idea.
I have always had a very clear idea of how I am perceived. Maybe I have been wrong about that! But I always FELT that I knew. I no longer have any idea. I have stopped talking about the experiences that I used to think defined me. It was not deliberate – I’ve just become aware that I have.
You know how you have key information that you give about yourself when you meet someone: you don’t give a life story and complete self-analysis – who would listen! You give key facts, experiences – maybe not consciously – but you are giving the information that you believe will allow people to see you for who you are.
I am always very interested when people start by giving their job title! As if what they do for a living is the cornerstone of who they are. But perhaps for some people is genuinely is. In contrast, I have always enjoyed the fact that my brother refuses to discuss what he does for a living – claiming that even he doesn’t fully understand!
I used to introduce myself with my travels and some experiences (told as ‘amusing’ anecdotes – thereby displaying my sense of humour and communication/storytelling skills). This, I believed, defined me. And having that ‘Past’ was important to me. It was a foundation for who I am. I built that ‘Past’ – strived for it – to become the person I aspired to be.
I don’t do that anymore. Why not? What information do I give instead? I am not sure... perhaps I don’t introduce myself so much. It’s all starting to seem very unimportant: where I have been, what I have done, the adventures – this foundation I have built. It feels like I’ve built a beautiful Conservatory, only to discover that I don’t have a garden.
Am I just finally doing the last 10 years of growing up in this 6 months? What a crazy thought – like Dorian Grey, in a distant town somewhere, someone has cleared their attic and thrown my mental picture into the rubbish! Tomorrow, or someday soon, I will awaken to find I am AN ADULT!
But you have to loose your mind, in order to find it again, and I am told, before you can receive, you need to let go.