Thursday, July 24, 2014

2014.07.24: Yoga and Me: The Acceptance of Nothing

Hello. I feel I need to apologize to my blog and muses for my long absence. I have missed you friends, but seem to keep allowing my busy-ness to keep me from wordiness. But I have made time to post a few empty words on the experience I have of the nothing of yoga. And so, I have let my fingers go.

When the teacher is ready the student appears cannot be less true than the frequently cited opposite. And so I, a student of the most elementary beginnings of yoga, have come to find in yoga a teacher. And I hope that the teacher has likewise found a student.

And as it happened yoga found me. Found me in the guise of Babeeta in the Nataraja Wellness Centre she happened to open on the half of a city block that I walk every Saturday morning. Odd because if the Nataraja Wellness Centre had opened up anywhere else the odds of us finding each other would have been negligible.

I have wanted to sign up for a proper yoga class for thirty plus years. And always other priorities superseded that want. On hindsight I recognize that at that time I did not value my Self enough to honour it with anything so selfish as attending to the needs of my well being. But something has changed inside me. And so when I heard with great clarity the modestly appointed Nataraja Wellness Centre calling me each and every Saturday, my struggle to ignore the call became increasingly difficult. I ignored its call for many weeks — I am nothing if I am not slow to respond to opportunity. Eventually I walked in to talk, to feel out this place that had been pulling on me so powerfully. The short conversation with Babeeta felt good and the price was right. The past fear I would have had for making such a bold and ostensibly selfish act no longer existed and this time I honoured my Self enough not to be dissuaded from taking the class. My budget would be adjusted to make room for yoga.

“Smile gently and feel joy.” OMG! In my first class ever of yoga I was being directed to smile gently and feel joy! And the student teacher relationship was for me sealed because the change in me that had brought me into this class was that of moving from anger and fear into peace and joy. In fact it was only in the week before this class that I first articulated that what I had begun to feel was joy. I had told Mark that until a few months ago I had never experienced genuine joy, and that it had taken me a while to become consciously aware that that is what I was feeling. And for my yoga instructor to articulate my experience of joy so soon after I had first expressed it was nothing short of miraculous.

You are not aware of the physical changes I have been undergoing in the last two years, of course. I’ve had more than one person ask me, with hesitancy, whether or not I am sick. I have smiled, and said ‘No, I am more alive now than I ever have been and will die, as I was born to do, when I do.’ Others have simply commented on how good and healthy I look. And I have been forced to buy three changes of clothes as my excess weight fell away without effort. Yet these changes are no more than a tiny reflection of what has been changing inside of me.

And that has lead me to an odd question. Who comes first: the student or the teacher? And then I chuckle about the age old chicken or egg question. I laugh because I have been a both a teacher and a chicken all my life, and what it was that egged me out of that and into being a student of yoga was a letting go of fear.

Without that shift inside — be it a shift in attitude or, perhaps, towards a ‘deep’ understanding of Life’s transience — all change will be superficial and transient. I’ll see if what I am experiencing will be lasting or not. I find myself laughing at my own pompous arrogance. 'Deep understanding'? Pshaw! Bullshit! I am aware that self-delusion is very hard to see, and that my perception of any truth is at best tentative. And that is especially the case as it applies to truths of one’s self. So for now I will continue to do yoga with Babeeta and accept it as a path to my awareness of nothingness.

I perceive that something has changed inside of me and I have been wrestling with how to verbalize it. When people have asked me about what they no longer see in me, I have answered ‘A small change of attitude, a small change in diet, and a small change in exercise.’ To others I have appended that with ‘But the change in attitude was the most important thing, and while it may have been small it was very big.’

But what has been the attitudinal change? That I’ve wrestled with too. And the closest word that I can find to describe it is acceptance. The acceptance of what? That my life is both completely insignificant and totally meaningful at the same time.

‘I am nothing, I want nothing, I do nothing.’ I laughed when Babeeta cited these words of her Guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. So true. And yet, I am enough to be aware that I am nothing! And that is not nothing. And so I have become intimately aware of Lao-Tzu’s observation that the Tao that can be named is not the true Tao. ‘The nothing that I am that can be named is not the true nothing.’

‘What is yoga to you?’ And each of us in her class provided a different answer. Exercise, to increase flexibility, get in shape, heal old injuries, etc. The answer that came to my mind instantly was that yoga is to integrate the spiritual in the physical. And this class represents that path with me. Babeeta’s Nataraja teaching of Sri Sri Yoga is the way I am incorporating more fully — i.e. deeply into my physical being — the shift in me from a fear-based life to one of openness and joy. There are people around me who have helped immeasurably in different ways. But in the end the change was mine to make. And took more than thirty years of effort to see without seeing it a small shift in attitude.

Very quickly in Babeeta’s class my body increased its flexibility far more than thirty years of self taught yoga had been able to do. And I know in my being, without a rational explanation, that where my body is stiff is where I’ve stored fear. As I find the inflexible and sore bits in my muscles, I feel the fear they have embodied, accept them and then release the fear. It is remarkable, inexplicable. And it is wonderful.

And while relaxing stiff muscles by letting go of fear may be an epitome of the immeasurable, there are measurable changes in my well being since beginning Sri Sri Yoga too. The most remarkable measurable change has been the reduction in the severity of my deviated septum. Since beginning yoga a few months ago, the obstruction in my right nasal passage is tangibly reduced. What surgery had made worse, yoga as spiritual embodiment has improved almost instantly.

The other remarkable measure of physical change has been my ability to sit in the half lotus position for extended periods. After years of self effort the best I was able to do was maybe ten minutes. Now I can sit for four times that. And there are other changes too numerous and too subtle to list.

I reread this and confess to wondering what it is I have written. It began with the request from Babeeta for me to verbalize some of the changes I was experiencing. And through that to bring energy to her centre and to promote an upcoming charitable yogathon for 'Care for Children'. If you are at a turning point, and a small voice is calling out from inside you to begin a transformation physical spiritual and social, please join Babeeta at The Nataraja Wellness Centre. If you want to have a great time testing your physical stamina while helping others on this planet, join us at the Rise for A Cause Yogathon Aug 16 at the Jack Poole Plaza.

Care For Children

Nataraja Wellness Centre

Vancouver Yogathon

And for awe and inspiration: