"We need to take care that there is real progress in our practice. Every so often, we may have to look back and assess: 'What has happened with me? Is there any improvement in my personality, in my character? Am I more or less attached to things? Do I have more or less craving, more or less aggression? In which direction am I really going? Am I improving, or not improving?' We may think, 'Now I have been meditating for five years... ten years... fifteen years. But what has really happened? Can I discern any real improvement when I compare how I used to be with how I am now?' It's very good to scrutinize yourself that way, to check and see if there is any progress.
It may sound strange to say this, but when one practices in a place where there is no external support for dharma practice - a place where people don't necessarily respect and praise the fact that you are a spiritual practitioner - maybe it is more possible to be a really genuine practitioner. In fact, maybe it is much easier. Who knows?
Conversely, in a place where there is a lot of support for practice, there may be plenty of people who are not really practicing genuinely." (Tsoknyi Rinpoche)
The above excerpt popped up during another heavy phase of contemplation. Yes it's true, I get skeptical about my level of desire and aptitude for being 'on stage' promoting this yogic lifestyle and as a performer of acrobatics. Almost on a daily basis, I am caught between a rock and a hard place of feeling grateful for this community and the level of healing that we're committed to, while also wanting to run and hide from the show, from the masses and from all the inauthentic garbage on social media. There is so much of myself out there as a teacher and my questioning and controlling mind easily spirals into the ether, lost in: contempt towards the hype of yoga and the allegedly 'enlightened' stars of the industry, shame about my level of spirituality, unworthiness to consider myself on 'the path' and my lacking ability to maintain a consistently balanced mindset. And to boot, I'm uncertain as to whether these unending questions are of help to me or to those eager to learn from me.
I'm hyper-attentive to my own steps backwards, injuries, exhaustion, awkward self-promotion and self-judgement while to others, I'm simply 'living the dream', and what looks like a perfectly whimsical dream at that. Sensitivity to feedback, admiration, adoration and silence seeps into many moments of teaching and non-teaching. I literally give away my power to anyone to judge the direction of my path and level of success. My inquiry has no "off" button and the quote above deems the inquiry as a crucial component of the practice.
With this essential questioning comes observation: I watch myself in front of others as a leader, I watch myself surrounded by loved ones as a peer and I watch myself in moments of quiet and exhaustion. Getting consumed in the bright lights of the yoga spectacle and in the pressure of wanting to be liked triggers insecurities and I retreat into darkness. I grimly wonder if I am the only one who genuinely feels this self-inflicted violence. I long for us to stop wasting time creating images of perfection, I long for us to be motivated by inner yearning rather than praise, I long for us to share what is accessible and what is true.
In my most honest of moments, I feel alone in the discomfort of discerning my truths:
- is my voice authentic, am I sharing what is truly important to me, without regard for how it 'looks' to others? is anyone really with me in practicing slowness, introspection and balance in this driven society?
- am i honouring my changing body? are my classes an expression of respect towards everyone else's diverse body types and genetics? Can my limited education and understanding help others to find grounding and peace in their own aging, injured, youthful and temporary bodies?
- am i good enough, funny enough, philosophical enough, fit enough, perfect enough? How can I help others tap into their springs of goodness and worth when my reserve is so low?
Yes, it's dark and yes it's self-absorbed but it's real and keeps me inspired to offer what is close to my heart rather than working to keep up with the spectacle, the physical or being the best... which is all so temporary anyway. I'm not proud of how hard I can be on myself but if we aren't examining how we contribute in this world and how we portray ourselves then we are not ALIVE. I find great solace from the support of my dear guides and mentors, who have no involvement in this yoga community or the online community but they hold me accountable, perhaps even more so due to their lack of interest in yoga. In my purest moments of reflection, my value is not informed by someone or some photo or some yoga pose or some class size or in some enlightened meditation. All clarity and ease surfaces when I am alone. It's a solo journey and the only feedback that truly informs my growth and my 'answers' remains within, after the classes have ended, after the body has left me, after the smiles and the tears.
I advocate various methods for inquiry: I've celebrated, I've run, I've cried out a thousand past lives, I've moved through injury, pain, ecstasy, I've breathed, hyperventilated, worked for praise, loathed my process, trusted all of it and find myself over and over again in the earth. The answers are nearby when I venture out alone: I want to share stillness and breath, help alleviate anxiety in others, stand up honestly to the fears, the doubts, the stories in myself and others, I want to empower whosoever is willing, I want to take big steps towards living life fully, I want to feel confident in my choices and my offerings without affirmation from anyone... After all the questioning and the darkness, I return to nothing. No technique, no one right answer, no person to lean onto. As always, I question, let go let go and soften into the earth, her cleansing waters and calming breath. When all is said and done, we have only ourselves, our questions, our beliefs and the earth that we stand on. And then back into the light we go...
"Spiritual people can be some of the most violent people you will ever meet. Mostly, they are violent to themselves. They violently try to control their minds, their emotions, and their bodies. They become upset with themselves and beat themselves up for not rising up to the conditioned mind's idea of what it believes enlightenment to be. No one ever became free through such violence. Why is it that so few people are truly free? Because they try to conform to ideas, concepts, and beliefs in their heads. They try to concentrate their way to heaven. But freedom is about the natural state, the spontaneous and un-self-conscious expression of beingness.
If you want to find it, see that the very idea of "a someone who is in control" is a concept created by the mind. Take one step backward into the unknown." (Adyashanti)