This past weekend I started Yin Yoga Teacher Training with Daniel Shankin at Yoga Home in Conshohocken. I’ve been diving into a lot of study lately in hopes to find the spark I had when I had first begun discovering everything yoga had to offer me. I’ve felt dull and didn’t want anyone to see it. It was important that I always be a bright, guiding source.
A focus of this training was mindfulness. Now you have to understand, I left the meditation portion of my teacher training because it was so difficult for me to sit through. I felt like a failure and got incredibly frustrated because I just couldn’t do it right. My mind chattered incessantly. My back hurt and I had to wiggle around. I was judging the breathing of the people around me. It was all sooo….human.
The first of the Four Noble Truths in Buddhist tradition is “Life has suffering.” As humans, we don’t like suffering so we try to move away from it, obviously. It’s worked out pretty well for us as a species so we should continue to do it, but in the end, life still has suffering. We can’t control that, but free will gives us the choice of how we react to it. Through mindfulness, we can influence the extent of our suffering.
At what point had anyone told me that proper meditating, mindfulness or being a good yogi meant being someone other than the human being I am? When was I promised a completely balanced life, no pain, pure thoughts, and a still mind? Never! My guess is you’ve never had a teacher or guru tell you otherwise either (and if you have, start questioning). Our practice brings us towards lessening the pain associated with our reactions to the inevitable undesireable things in our lives, but they will always be there because that’s just the nature of being human and living in this world.
I’ve hated on myself for suffering. When anger, jealousy, depression, fear, etc set in, I hated the feeling and in turn judged myself for feeling that way. I shouldn’t feel those things because they are ugly and they make me a bad yogi. When I try meditating and my mind chatters and my back hurts so badly I want to cry, I believe I’m doing it wrong and hate the feeling of failure I’ve created for myself. Honestly though, at what point did someone promise me complete bliss, acceptance, or balance? I was the only one who placed that impossible expectation on myself. Life has suffering, life has ugly things. I have a body that will hurt and a mind that will chatter about food, my resentment for that sandbox incident from when I was 8, and if I’m breathing too loudly. It will inevitably happen and as soon as I get over myself, I can continue living mindfully. After all, it’s being mindful not mindless.
It’s okay that this isn’t my best writing and doesn’t clearly express what I want to share. I acknowledge that I sometimes get depressed, angry, annoyed, jealous, and fearful. When my back throbs, I will experience it without taking on the second sting of hating myself for feeling pain and blaming myself for what I may have done to create it. When I meditate, I will try to smile each time my mind wanders off like an errant child and then welcome it back with patience and love.
The biggest challenge: continually forgive myself each time I deny these human parts of me.
"Everything is perfect except that you don't think it is." (paraphrased by Daniel Shankin and then by me)