I've been studying the fourth chapter of the Sutras with one of my teachers this summer. It's all about finding our own way. We each see the world differently. We practice so we can turn down the heat that gets the mind all frothy, so we can take action without an agenda. Meditation is training for having awareness in the midst of life. Though there are patterns to being human, though past and present exist for us all, we each have our own unique path. We must pay attention to find our own way, rather than relying on what works for someone else. This is lonely, we long for others to "get" us. We attach to being understood. I have faced this quite intensely in my life and though I surrendered in a big way several years ago, the desire crops up again and again. I want to be known and understood deeply! The ache of loneliness can take my breath away. And without breath I lose my connection to the present. In reality, each inhale and exhale draws me into a new moment, a different self than the one just before. Each breath brings hope and freedom. Tonight I notice the sun setting just a tad earlier and the reality that we're edging towards late summer begins to sink in. For the first time in my life, I'm in school during this lazy season and to my surprise I'm not at all resentful. Turns out permaculture is as much about yoga as it is getting my hands dirty. I'm reading this amazing book - The One Straw Revolution - which is about life and philosophy as well as agriculture. I found a passage that seems straight out of the Sutras fourth chapter, if I substitute "yoga/students/practice" for "agriculture/farmers/ farming." Here's my adaptation:
A truly successful practice requires not so much arduous labor as awareness, observation, connection and persistence. In today's yoga culture, businesses lure us into products and brands promising that by applying them to our practices according to fixed, prescribed schedules, without much thought about our unique circumstances, yogis can be sure of reliable results. This might be termed "know-nothing" yoga - very different from "do-nothing" yoga which calls on the self to question conventional practices that may be needless or even harmful to her/his own unique body. Let's advocate for a curiosity, openness, and willingness to fail so that we can trust. This is not simple yoga but a more complex, aligned yoga.
Summer is a good time to explore your practice in new ways. To break out of your usual habits. What does this look like? Perhaps the heat of the season poses a significant challenge. I usually avoid evening class at all costs when the temperature rises above 70 degrees, but this year I've surrendered and found myself loving the heat. By pushing just a little past my comfort zone I find a whole new depth to my practice. This isn't by any means the only option. Why not try out a new class time with a teacher you're unfamiliar with? Or pull out your mat at home. Both are opportunities to assess your practice through new eyes. A vacation can also become a chance to practice alone, to explore asana, pranayama and meditation without a teacher and others surrounding you. It can be scary and uncomfortable, and it can also be freeing to discover the teacher inside you. No one knows your body as well as you do, practicing on your own is a way to build trust with yourself.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not calling for an end to group yoga. There is power in community, in joining together with our breath and intention. I think balance is the key. We seek out space to explore on our own so we stay true to self when we come together. We give up mindless yoga and come to class with an awareness and sense of responsibility for our own journey. Rather than rely on someone else to point the way, we find alignment from within.