Trusting the Teachings of Life14/11/2012 22:37
Before we begin our Pranayama session this morning, Stephen invites us to take a moment to thank our teachers, formal and informal, those that have made a difference on our paths. I usually think of my first important yoga teacher, of the teachers from my foundation training, of my mother and her Buddhist teacher... Recently I also often remember a choreographer I had started training with for a short period of time in New York. I had fallen in love with his work, and desperately wanted to dance with his company. I had completely idealized him and thought I had found a great mentor. Unfortunately, like many successful dancers, he had gotten a little caught up in his ego. I quickly sensed that he didn't like having me around. Even though I liked his work, I was still rather critical and independent. He didn't accept people that questioned his work or his ways.
One day he sat me down and kicked me out of the trainee program with the words: “You're not a dancer, you've got nothing going for yourself...” Maybe you can imagine the impact these words had on me at a time when I was dedicating myself solely to dancing. I was heart-broken, cried for days. Looking back, however, I realize, if he had asked me to join the company, I would have been fully absorbed by that. I would have been obsessed with the need to prove myself or I would have rested on the laurels of my success. But I didn't get in. Back then it felt like all my hopes had been shattered, like there was nowhere to turn to, but soon I began to explore new paths.
It was around that time that I met my first important yoga teacher, Tara Marie Perri. Her nurturing and constructive teaching was healing in so many ways: certainly physically, but also because it provided the understanding that it is not only about winning the race (in dance it often was), it is not about achievement, but about understanding why something happened and learning the lesson.
So, I often thank this choreographer when told to invoke my teachers, because put into context, he was a very important teacher for me. Without him I might never have gotten into yoga. And yoga has become a huge part of my life (and not to mention my current occupation).
In Yoga (and everywhere else) we choose our teachers according to preferences. We like someone we can identify with, someone who is kind and compassionate, or some of us like teachers that will give them a little push to explore their boundaries. In short, someone who fits the bill. But one thing is true for everyone: We tend to choose someone we like. In general, the people that make us uncomfortable, in yoga as in life, we tend to push them out of the way. Or like Stephen said today in his lecture about the sutras: There is a form of laziness that always wants to seek out bliss in the yoga experience. There is nothing wrong with that, except that it denies the wholeness of life. Because life does not consist exclusively of blissful moments. And looking back – like I do on my dancing days in New York – aren't the obstacles in life the greatest teachers?
And maybe – after we've dried our tears – the obstacle itself can become the meditation. In A Path with Heart Jack Kornfield talks about his “Returning Visitors” - thoughts or wounds that would keep bubbling to the surface in his meditation. I incidentally read a great quote today, by C.G. Jung: “What you resist, persists.” If the experience is not blissful as you would like it, and if you suppress it, it will just keep revisiting you.
So maybe we can make some space in our heart for the returning visitor and actually see the resistance as something positive. Ok, it is not fun to investigate and reflect honestly why a particular person our situation makes you want to run or scream hysterically. But it is extremely worthwhile.
And how do we create that space for self-reflection? I think one answer is faith. If we can trust that everything happens exactly the way it's best for our growth, then it becomes possible to deal even with the greatest of losses. We will still prefer pleasure to pain, we will still choose teachers that we are naturally drawn to, but we will not shrink back the same way if the teachings of life are a little harder to digest. We will accept that portion as well and make the most of it.
It is not always easy to trust life. Some things are so challenging that we really begin to doubt. So it helps to look back and remember how things have played out in the past. Maybe then we can see the connections and realize, at the end of the day, there is some higher power, the universe, fate, the divine, something taking care of us. And we are always exactly where we were meant to be. So here's to surrendering – to accepting that you are not the doer, that there is a backdrop to our existence where the threads are held and intertwined. And who- or whatever is interweaving them, know what they're doing.