“Do not think you must have something extraordinary to show people. [The fruit of your yoga practice] has to come naturally, not artificially. So work, and let it come or let it not come, but continue your practice. Then, even if you have a family life and family commitments, there are no problems.”
-B.K.S. Iyengar, from the Tree of Yoga
So work, and let it come or not come.
This idea is a balm to my mind. My crazy mind usually can’t forget about all the things I have not achieved. It reminds me almost every day of the job titles I have not held, or the people I’ve met who didn’t respect me, how I haven’t earned the right to call myself anything but a female human, aged 36, sucking resources and stinking up the planet like every other ordinary person. It asks me what I have got to show for myself.
It’s ironic that my mind offers me this thought so often, because at the same time, I really am not an ambitious person. I have been reckless when attempting to write novels that had no purpose, foolhardy when I took jobs for which I was woefully unqualified, and arrogant when I overtook projects because I didn’t like the way someone else was doing them and thought I could do better. But really, truly, ambitious in the way we think of it? No.
I am playing with yoga very carefully now as I tread the teacher’s path. I do not want to become ambitious with yoga. I do not want to become greedy with yoga. Ambitions, when they come to me, tend to be short-lived. Then I become so disappointed with myself. At the same time, not having enduring ambitions to, say, become a famous writer before I hit forty, saves me from so much grief! With ambition comes attachment to outcome. If there is one place in my life that I do not want to be attached to outcome, it’s in yoga.
Once my best friend asked me, if I loved yoga so much, why didn’t I become a teacher? I made a face. “I don’t want to have too many goals in yoga,” I said. “I don’t want to worry too much about getting my heels to the floor in downward-facing dog by next month, for example. I enjoy the way my practice serves me right now.”
Then I went crazy and found a new purpose in life, which is to support the mommies of the world. One way I want to do this is through teaching yoga to pregnant ladies. Now that I am training to be a teacher, people ask me, “So you want to open your own studio?”
We’re funny creatures. We’re always thinking of the next step. Anne Lamott, in her great book Bird by Bird, says she writes only as far as the headlights shine, which is to say, she goes a little, looks, goes a little farther, looks, goes a little farther. She doesn’t run ahead where there is nothing. I like this approach in general, and especially in what I’m doing with yoga and my “supporting mommies” vision.
As to the “family life” part of the above quote, I must admit it’s comforting to hear the father of yoga in the West, also a father of six children, believed that one could have a meaningful spiritual practice even in the midst of family life. I have often wondered about this. Often I have wondered about this while doing yoga poses in my living room with my children crawling all over me. But, says Mr. Iyengar: “The yogis of ancient India were householders, and reached the zenith of yoga while living amidst household activities.” Here I must respectfully point out that the yogis of ancient India were not personally bearing children. They were all men. Even so, this doesn’t discredit Mr. Iyengar’s following statement: “You have to find out your own limitations. This is what yoga teaches: first, to know your limitations, then to build from them.”
Oh. So what I’m doing with my struggle to balance my responsibilities to myself and my family is exactly what I am supposed to be doing. Maybe there’s not some other, better, easier way to do it.
What do you think, readers? Do you ever feel like you’re doing what you’re supposed to be doing?