The Goal of Yoga
(No, it's not handstand)
The yoga pose is not the goal.
Becoming flexible or standing on your hands is not the goal.
The goal is the create space where you were once stuck.
To unveil layers of protection you've built around your heart.
To appreciate your body and become aware of the mind and the noise it creates.
To make peace with who you are. The goal is to love, . . . well, you.
Shift your focus and your heart will grow.
My mother who was recently reacquainted with yoga after about a forty year hiatus, shared this post with me she found on Facebook. She doesn't quite understand it, yet, but she sensed I would. Guarded, hypervigilant, barely breathing and wound up tight, I first got exposed to yoga just shy of turning 21. I haven't stopped practicing since. Over two decades later, the practice continues to inform me from the physical to the subtle to the meditative, to the deep awareness, uncovering, disarming and acceptance of me. I fell into teaching group classes originally by happenstance across the MidWest and intentionally in the San Francisco Bay area for nearly fifteen years. I stopped after feeling disenchanted with my ability to get this message (above) across to my students. It seemed most students were showing up for a workout and less interested in the emotional and psychological journey. I can appreciate and teach a strenuous physical class to a group, but it is the healing journey that is of primary interest to me. It was challenging as a teacher in these crowded classes, to reach the individual in their unique process as they struggled or eased with their mind and body from posture to posture. Their truth, their wounds, their trauma, their emotions, their trials were evident in their bodies, in their breath, in their reactions to a posture. I could see it more than they themselves were aware. This witnessing, plus my own healing journey diving inward, were largely my motivation to pursue a Masters Degree in Somatic Psychotherapy. Today, I often use yoga asanas in individual Somatic Psychotherapy sessions. This allows the safe space to explore and dialogue with the physical sensations, stuck places, the emotions encapsulated in the tissues not to mention the limits we might place on knowing and accepting ourselves. In the slowing down, paying attention and letting go of the getting to a perfect handstand, we reveal ourselves to us.
I frequently work with individuals and couples who can't seem to find the right partner, keep choosing the same partner or aren't satisfied with the partner they chose (cause it IS a choice). Endless arguments, secrets, miscommunication, enmeshment, codependence and lack of connection are sadly the norm. Over and over, I try to explain the concept of loving oneself first before love happens fully, effectively, healthfully with another. Many times I am met with blind eyes and deaf ears. "Doesn't love happen when one person completes the other?" clients ask. Gag me! NO!!! One broken soul doesn't compliment another broken soul. It just equals more broken. Love needs to happen with the self first. I repeat: YOU are your soulmate. YOU are the one you've been longing for.
Sometimes we need to see, read, hear the same message multiple times by various sources for it to stick. I am not immune. My journey began at age 7. These words by Anodea Judith in "Eastern Body Western Mind" are so significant that I need to share the entire passage. She writes it well.
"Intimacy, as Thomas Moore so aptly points out, is about bringing forth deeply interior aspects of the self. In order to have intimacy we first need to have a sense of self. We need to be intimate with our own interior, to know our needs, wishes, fears, boundaries, and hopes. Through knowing the self within, we can honor the self that lives within another. We need to be able to love our own self enough to offer it openly to someone else. Without self-love, this cannot happen.
The most common block in the heart chakra is the absence of self-love. How can we have intimacy with others if we are distanced from our own self? How can we reach out to others when we are drowning in shame and criticism? How can we maintain balance between ourselves and others if we have no balance within? How can we treat another with respect if we treat our own selves abusively?
Ideally, the demon of shame has been transformed in the third chakra, leaving us ready to enter the heart with an honest regard for the sacredness of our being. To love ourselves is to act respectfully and responsibly toward ourselves, to enjoy our own company when in solitude, to honor our limits and speak our truths. In general, self-love is an act of treating ourselves the way we would treat anyone else that we love—respectfully, honestly, compassionately, with feeling and understanding, pride and patience.
Our relationships with others reflect our relationship with ourselves. We will find others who treat us the way we expect to be treated, others who respond to the relationship program we carry inside our heart chakra. Self-love is the foundation for loving others."
After you fall in love with YOU and let go of needing another to feel loved, love WILL show up for you.
Nearly everyone has heard, "the one constant in life is change." Yet how many of us fight tooth and nail when being pushed out of our comfort zones? Many of us like to be in control. We like to have predictable outcomes. We like labels and finely packed secure little boxes. We want change, yet we want things to stay the same, especially the things most important to us. We want a partner by age _____, to be married by age _____, and kids by age _____. Yet, if things were meant to stay the same, we as mammals would probably not grow, get smarter or age. (And, don't get me started on how the vanity industry would like us to believe we're not supposed to look a day older than 20 years, either. Seriously?!)
In "Meditations on Intention and Being," Rolf Gates writes, "If we fight against the waves they will beat us relentlessly, but if we flow with them they will take us on the ride of a lifetime," You've all probably either witnessed or been the person at the ticket counter irate that something didn't go the way it was supposed to. Or writing that nasty text to your Love after you realized you both had different understandings of "monogamous." Or walked out of a job fuming from being passed over for a promotion. Those moments of desperation clinging for your control feel tense, red hot, angry, anxious, toxic sick in your body. Flowing with the waves of life requires a certain amount of trust in the friendliness and benevolence of the universe. This feels loose, flowy, lighter, juicy, loving in your body. Life is a journey. I repeat, LIFE IS A JOURNEY. You don't plan a trip and looking at the agenda, realize the final destination is back home, so why even leave the house to begin with, right? We go on a trip for the journey, for the experience, for the ways it's going to change us. We can loosely set intentions on who we want to be, with whom, where we want to go, and how things should go, and then we must detach, let go, breathe and find the present moment. Remind yourself THE UNIVERSE ALWAYS PROVIDES OPTIONS. In a world of constant flux, stability exists in knowing the flux never ends.
Next time you get tunnel vision focused on the end goal and how exactly you intend to get to the end goal, please try to remind yourself that as long as you've agreed to be alive, you have agreed to wake up to each NEW and UNIQUE day of experiences. Labels, highs, agreements, goals, hardships, lows, final destinations are fleeting. They will never end until you, as human, end to exist.
Ever notice what's the most common question asked in a social setting or networking event?
Something close to: "So what do you do?" and the close cousin: "Where do you work?"
And then we commonly immediately begin to form ideas, opinions, make up stories about that person and size them up, right? As if we know the whole of them just by what they do and where they do it. Wouldn't it feel really different if we asked each other "WHO ARE YOU?".... instead? And how many of us could answer that question? Difficult, right?
If I met you on a deserted island and you did not have your job, your car, your partner, your kids, your family, your clothes, your usual favorite music, cafes and entertainment hot spots, WHO WOULD YOU BE? What would you tell me about yourself?
In the current day society we have created for ourselves, in our first world country, what someone does for work pretty much sums them up. Why have we done this? Do we really have no idea who we are? Perhaps not. At an early age between 4-7 years, we begin to take notice of other's opinions of us, sometimes so much as we get to adolescent and teen years, that we override the knowing of who we are. A false self forms.... the one we present to others. (I know most of you out there on some level know what I'm talking about.) Tuning inward became to uncomfortable, not safe, too difficult. The distinctions between doing, having, and being have become unavailable to use when formulating a vision of the good life. Our inner life has gone unintended as we have sought to find happiness without it.
Nothing helps us better tune back inward to WHO WE ARE then daily meditation. Start with a few minutes. Quiet the outside and inside chatter. Find those fleeting moments of BEING, of safety, of knowing all is ok as YOU ARE. It's in the silence that you will get more clear of the soul inside. Rumi has a poem that suggests something like, "there is a voice inside that has no sound, listen for it." When you are in touch with that knowing, that being, less of the superficial labels and doings matter.
HI! Have we met before? Let me introduce myself. I'm Vanessa... a witty, often irreverent, shy, friendly, loving, creative, empath, light being.
"Our first attempts at present-moment awareness are like a person trying to form a word she has never heard before, or a fish trying to swim for the first time. We've explored the earth, the sea, and the skies, we've even traveled to space in search of something we never find. We're tried every conceivable virtue and vice. We've tried an infinity of cults, conspiracy theories, and time-saving devices. And all of this trying steals us away from what we are actually seeking. Yoga suggests that if we stop looking for something, we will find that it was never missing in the first place. Resting in the felt experience of being here, we realize that there is nothing lacking."
by Rolf Gates, Meditations on Intention and Being
This passage by Rolf Gates reminds me and hopefully you, that not much of this human material stuff really matters. Why are we here to begin with? Why do we exist? The truth is, we are energy beings having human experiences. The present moment is all there is and all that matters. Your job title, the material things you collect, the clothes your wear, the award you seek, is all an illusion to avoid facing the scarier question: what is this being alive thing really about? We, our bodies, our thoughts, our emotions, are composed of energy and are constantly interacting with the energy surrounding us. Like energy attracts like energy. Be negative and find yourself amongst negative people, negative interactions and negative events. Be and focus on the positive and find the positive. All there is, is the energy you are experiencing right here, right now. We do a number of things to distract ourselves from feeling into this present energy. We look outside. We look to "things." Instead, get quiet. Feel into your body. Deeper than your muscles and bones. Feel into the nuances, the spirit, the vitality, the love. That's what you've been seeking. It's been there all the while.
Somatic Psychotherapy provides an added dimension by taking the therapy out of the arena of second-hand reports (from your verbal mind) and into first-hand, felt experience. It can be very valuable in the process of self discovery and change. Somatics may open you up to information that can be overlooked in most analytic psychotherapy. Traditional therapy practices pay attention almost exclusively to thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. In Somatics, the added awareness of sensations and felt experiences within the body are used to deepen the work. This can provide a channel of cooperation between the unconscious and conscious. In turn, Somatics helps to facilitate communication among parts of yourself that may be lost, hidden, or isolated.
That being said, this does require a person to already have the ability to tune into their body and felt experience or at least the willingness to learn how to. For starters, do you know that your breath is both voluntary and involuntary? Do you know where your body moves as you breathe? Can you explore the ability to breathe more fully into your belly than into your chest? Are you aware of where you might be holding tension in your body right now while reading this? How do you know on a physical level when you feel increased stress, anxiety, sadness or even joy? Can you track your physical sensations while also having a conversation with another person?
At a certain young age often out of necessity and poor modeling from adults, most people have learned to ignore their intuition and internal cues. In reality, our bodies often reveal first what our verbal, self conscious mind attempts to disguise and hide. There is truly useful information, memory and psychology, however, in the body. When we return to and start to consult it and build Somatic awareness and strength, literally, from the deeper tissues inside, we often become more confident in speaking and living from our truth. From that place we begin to shine and live more mindful, purposeful, integral lives.
Consider reaching out and scheduling a session if you want to learn and heal more.
If you were to live as though you are facing death at all times, you'd likely become more particular, conscious, and intentional, yet less censored and more bold in your daily choices. You might start to realize that life is not about getting certain things or going certain places. It's about something you experience right here, right now. If you're busy trying to get something, you miss the actual experience. That reminds me of people who care more about getting the photo of where they're at or what they're about to eat versus actually pausing and fully breathing in the location, and tuning into all their senses, tasting the food, in that moment.
In The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself, Michael A. Singer says, "The only thing there is to get from life is the growth that comes from experiencing it. Life itself is your career, and your interaction with life is your most meaningful relationship."
How would your day, today, be different if you thought it was your last? Would you reach out to a long lost friend? Spend time outside? Eat what felt nourishing to your soul? Make love? Quit your job? Think about it and try at least one action to honor this reality. Appreciate every experience of your day. After all, life is fleeting and today could actually be the last.
"As you go deeper into yourself, you will naturally come to realize that there is an aspect of your being that is always there and never changes. This is your sense of awareness, your consciousness. It is this awareness that is aware of your thoughts, experiences the ebb and flow of your emotions, and receives your physical senses. This is the root of Self. You are not your thoughts; you are aware of your thoughts. You are not your emotions; you feel your emotions. You are not your body; you look at it in the mirror and experience this world through its eyes and ears. You are the conscious being who is aware that you are aware of all these inner and outer things." (from Michael A. Singer, The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself, p.128)
Does this excerpt blow your mind? Difficult to grasp? It seems that most of the presenting issues that people experience day in and day out, are all based on the disillusionment that they ARE their thoughts, their emotions, their bodies. "I am not good enough, I am sad, I am fat." And these notions create their reality. What if you tried this theory by Singer on for size for a day, a week. (If you haven't read his book on the New York Times bestseller list, I highly recommend it.) Life isn't about the "stuff" you think it is. Let go of the clinging to thoughts, emotions, body and if you're awake, you will find your SELF. Life gets more full of living presently when you do. Easier said then done... and still worth doing.
When things finally fall into place, I'll be at peace.
This is where I share MY TRUTH.... authentically, some of my thoughts, inspirations and insights that might be of service for whomever has interest and need.