Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Do Your Yoga and All is Coming

“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?


Anonymous said...

Doing what you are supposed to be doing sounds like an unrealistic way of thinking about things because there is no right or wrong answer to that. I love the saying “he who is truly happy, is the one who is happy with his share”. I think this comes back to ambition, I have an uncle Bill who makes almost no money and lives in van. He goes from place to place, visiting girlfriends all over the globe, doing odd construction jobs, and he is truly one of the happiest people I know. Is he doing what he is supposed to be doing? Probably not in the traditional sense of the word but he is happy and spreads his happiness any place he goes.

I think lack of ambition is often more a fear of failure or low self worth. I just had a conversation at lunch with someone who was going on and on about all the problems they were having with their job and why they wanted to quit. By the time we were done she said none of it really mattered if her boss would just tell her she was doing a good job. Why does she need that? Why can’t she recognize, like the rest of her co-works already do, that she is doing a great job?

So to bring this thought full circle, is Uncle Bill happy with his share because he is confident about who he is?

Renee said...

I'm having that moment now, where I am finding a lot of satisfaction saying, "I teach dance, and help run a yoga studio, and occasional teach yoga." But there are also moments when that seems really flakey and Unimportant and I feel like whoever I said that to is thinking, So, you don't have *real* job then? And then I hope that this desire to have a child isn't just me trying to create some legitimacy in my life.

Anonymous said...

Wow Anonymous, that is how I feel a lot of the time. I sometimes have these really great ambitions and inventions and they are great and needed and then the closer I get to pulling the trigger on them, I start thinking about how much work it will be and how i don't want to put forth the effort because I will probably fail anyway. I am like the person you had lunch with, everyone probably thinks I am doing a pretty good job, but i don't think i am am i need to hear it, I am not hearing it from my 5 year old that is for sure. I don't know why I need to hear it from someone else, but even when I do, I don't actually beleive them...something I really need to work on big time. I am glad you brought this up.
I was only coming on here to tell susie that my newest Yoga pose I have mastered the last 2 nights is a Lemon really makes me feel warm and fuzzy...just one and a few deep breaths has been doing the trick!!!

susie said...

Renee - Having a "real" job is highly overrated! The child question is a big one, and you can drive yourself nuts trying to justify it. I have been alternately thankful for the children to give my otherwise slacker life "legitimacy," while also resenting the little buggers for keeping me from realizing important goals and dreams. Really, though, my children do neither of those things. As Mr. Iyengar said, I am learning my limitations.

Anonymous, your Uncle Bill sounds awesome. I suspect he spends a lot less time arguing with himself about what he "should" be doing than many of us do. He's made a choice. Yoga philosophy says we must know ourselves. I have felt afraid of what I would find if I really knew myself. I have been afraid that my true nature is to live like Uncle Bill, or something close to it. So we all work with these opposite ideas.

Also, I think it's fine to want someone to tell you you're doing a good job. It's normal. Everyone needs it.

Rose, that Lemon Drop "yoga pose" wouldn't happen to include citron vodka in a sugar-rimmed shot glass, would it?

Anonymous said...

Well All I had was grey goose, but the citron would really be better.


susie said...

Another thought about lack of ambition: Not all of us want to be in the rat race, striving and competing and trying dominate in some way.

Some of us truly don't care and find ourselves feeling mildly suicidal in such environments.

Anonymous said...

One other note on Uncle Bill, he says if he cant fit in to a suitcase he doesnt need it. I so wish I could fit everything I own in a suitcase... then again, I wouldn't be able to have my boat, my car, my motorcycle, and everything else he borrows and we enjoy together when he is around.