I had the pleasure of attending an amazing yoga workshop over the past weekend (Lila Donnolo’s Maha Practice- 3 hours of chanting, asana, pranayama, mudra, Yin, Restorative, and meditation) and was intensely struck and moved by its theme. I have been varying this same theme in all of my yoga classes this week:
Nobody’s life is entirely free of pain and sorrow. Isn’t it a question of learning to live with them rather than trying to avoid them? The greater part of human pain is unnecessary. It is self-created as long as the unobserved mind runs your life. The pain that you create now is always some form of nonacceptance, some form of unconscious resistance to what is. On the level of thought, it is some form of negativity. The intensity of the pain depends on the degree of resistance to the present moment, and this in turn depends on how strongly you are identified with your mind. The mind always seeks to deny the Now and to escape from it. In other words, the more you are identified with your mind, the more you suffer. Or you may put it like this: the more you are able to honor and accept the Now, the more you are free of pain, of suffering…
Eckhart Tolle, The Power of Now
Suffering is…resistance to what is.
Pain is inevitable. (Well…not really. If you follow Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras 2.15, 2.16, 2.17 by staying detached and not associating your true Self too closely with your body and mind, pain is avoidable- but we’ll get into that another time!) Suffering is optional. Acceptance=freedom from suffering. Our time on the mat is a preparation for the rest of our time off of it. We come to a yoga class and hold postures that can challenge us physically (‘You want me to put my foot WHERE now?”) so that we learn skills to handle the challenges that face us in life mentally and emotionally; with breath, stillness, patience, and understanding. Yes, holding that high lunge for several minutes will cause physical discomfort and bring you to your “edge”. The lesson lies in how you deal with it. Do you give up, allowing yourself to fall out of the pose? Or do you practice taking deeper breaths, quieting the chatter in your mind, and relaxing into the posture- maybe leading to a longer and more enjoyable hold? Translate that practice to your day to day life. We are bound to be challenged mentally and emotionally. Accept the challenge instead of being swallowed up by it. Breathe deeper, take some time to be quiet, and be confident that you are strong enough.
Where do you “go” when you face challenges and pain in your life? Do you maintain healthy habits to help you deal? Things like music, art, nature, books, exercise, yoga, meditation, or seeing friends? Or are you struggling, stressed, overworked, depressed??? Maybe you can benefit from some self-reflection; time for yourself to figure out what works for you? Come to a yoga class!!!