Trying to Be So Good27/11/2012 22:01
The tension before the final exam is palpable. After meals everyone is rushing off to their rooms or to their study groups to review philosophy, anatomy and alignment principles. Everyone wants to be prepared and to do so good.
This reminds me of a story Stephen once told us before an early morning Pranayama practice in Zurich. He used to go once or twice a year to see Tiwari in Kavailadhyam. He shared how every time he went, he wanted to be so good for his teacher. This always caused a little bit of stress, and only after many years, he said, he was finally able to relax about his progress. It was then that little shift in his attitude that became a great shift in his practice.
Isn't it funny how we always think we have to be so good for others to love and appreciate us? Isn't it absurd how we think growth and transformation means we have to become a better person? And isn't it interesting how that happens even to the best and most experienced of us? It is a great gift to find a teacher who inspires you and who can guide you on many levels, not only on the mat. The pitfall however can be that we become consumed with the effort to please our teachers – and by that I also mean the inner teacher or our informal teachers – and with the need for their appreciation.
As Stephen mentioned yesterday in his discussion of Aparigraha (non-grasping, non-hoarding), this Yama is not only about materialistic attachment. We also like to identify with approval, with the certainty that we are doing great. So, a great deal of our energy ends up being channelled into this effort of distinguishing ourselves from others. Or we try to emulate and imitate others because we think they are way ahead of us.
However, in the attempt to be different and excellent, we only strengthen the grasping reflex of the mind. “I will be happy when I have this. I will be satisfied when I am this.” We never solve the root of the problem, because temporary satisfaction does not equal permanent contentment (Santosha). We are constantly chasing after something other than what is. We only reinforce the dualism: “I am bad now, I want to be better.” The root of all suffering. And certainly not respectful and loving towards ourselves (Ahimsa).
Or to be quite straightforward: In my experience, constantly comparing and trying to be someone you are not is extremely frustrating and painful. It is an aggression towards yourself. But I will also say, it is difficult to own yourself, to be confident and be true to yourself. Especially in front of your teacher who you idealize and you want to be so good for.
However, in my experience this may be the most important part of the yogic process: Get to know all of yourself and then learn to be true to yourself. Own all that you are. And be confident that whatever your potential is, that's exactly what you were meant to give to this world.
Also remember that your teachers are not standing on the other side of the river, waving to you to cross over. They are swimming only a few strokes ahead of you. They have been where you are. They remember and they understand your struggle. They don't want you to be perfect, they don't want you to be a copy of themselves. They want you to express all of your potential, the way it manifests in you – whatever that may be.
I can see the light in all of you – always.