Eventually you will see that the real cause of problem is not life itself. It’s the commotion the mind makes about life that really causes the problems.
― Michael Singer, The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself
I’ve been practicing yoga on my own now for a while but just this past year I have been practicing with others at a yoga studio. The presence of others can certainly challenge the practice, especially initially! Judgement, embarrassment, distraction, all kinds of energies swirling around the room…it can be difficult to focus with all these things contending for attention. Our mind wants to react to it all!
What a joy it has been to face these exterior and inner workings with curiosity. By no means have I overcome the temptations of the mind during my practice, but that’s not really the point anyway is it? Instead of overcoming (a bit too violent a term for me these days) the mind and its wanderings, what is better sought perhaps is a steady awareness in the midst of the wanderings. Or, as others have talked about it, remaining in the Seat of the Witness as distractions come and go, generating reactionary thoughts and emotions in our psyche.
Now, on a great day, I am eager for the challenge of going with the “flow,” riding the waves, and letting my yoga practice be one of mindfulness as well. Even on a not-so-great day I find that I can at the least be comfortable with the surroundings and the resulting mind chatter, knowing that each practice is unique and has something to teach. I have also come to terms with my yoga practice being JUST. WHAT. IT. IS. …no more and no less. I begin with fewer expectations, judge myself less, enjoy my breath more, and notice unfamiliar nuances of my body electric with great gratitude. The practice guides me more and more and there is actually a great sense of freedom in that.
Last evening, as I meditated and prayed in my room, sitting on my yoga mat, I was struck with the similarity of the challenges one faces in these activities as well. Challenges and benefits. Outer distraction, the wandering mind, physical discomfort, self-judgment…there they are, ready to greet you during your “quiet time” (an ironic label actually.) They require the same detached allowing as they do in yoga. And, just as the yoga mat can teach us to remain open to what our body calls us to do during our yoga practice, so too the mat of spiritual practice beckons us to heed what our hearts call us to do in spiritual practice. When we let go of rules and scripts before going inside to meet with god and our Self in prayer and meditation, we find that same freedom that we find in yoga. We flow in the trusting of our Selves, our body, and our connection to god.
May you find freedom on your mat!