In a recent visit from a wise person, I was reminded of The Four Agreements, a book written by Mexican author Miguel Angel Ruiz. I've spoken of this before, in its similarity to yogic wisdom. As one of my students said, "It's simple, but not easy". And so, we remind ourselves by eating this good 'spiritual' food. We remember the truth, we practice, we fall short and get back up . . . remember, practice, fall short, get back up . . . remember, practice . . . and this is what we mean by Yoga Living.
"Just witnessing is enough". These words were said to me in a letter during my first few months of living in Malawi, Africa, while serving in the Peace Corps. They have always stuck with me. I thought I knew what it meant to "witness" but I wasn't sure how witnessing could be "enough"? Was it enough to see all the suffering-AIDS, hunger and poverty-and not do anything?
At a YogaLife Institute teacher potluck, many of us were moved by the depth and wisdom of heart-felt discussions. The philosophy of Yoga is guiding us in transformative ways that result in self-empowerment, a loving heart, greater connection to Self and others, and a flow and synchronicity with life.
Personally, I find it most rewarding to see how each participant utilizes Yoga in a unique way, adds their own interest and talents, and then gives that back to the community. It is a beautifully dynamic, diverse and life-giving process.
The Yoga Sutras, a 2,000 year-old text that teaches yoga's philosophy and practices for optimum vitality and personal power, inspires and challenges us to move from a limited perception of what it means to be human, to an enlightened view of what it means to be a spiritual being of light.
Our human perspective lives within the limits of time, space, and the tangible. We believe our thoughts and let our ego direct our decisions, often based on very deep-seated fears or beliefs that we are "not good enough". Fed by messages from our culture, we over-consume, get too busy, don't take care of ourselves, and lash out against others, not seeing that they are just mirrors of our own pain and lack. Our unkind actions further perpetuate themselves-we reap what we sow, this is yoga's perspective of karma.
As spiritual beings we know that our thoughts are not "who we are", a practice that is strengthened by meditation and self-study. Some would say that our thoughts think us. Our present thoughts are based on our past memories and thoughts-our karma. A useful metaphor often used is one of planting seeds. Thought seeds that were planted in the past now ripen in the present moment-some for better and some for worse.
So, there is not much we can do with our present thoughts, other than face them with equanimity--that is, we accept that whatever negative thought we're having is a seed we planted. Maybe we're feeling angry at someone for hurting us and we realize that we, too, have hurt someone in the past. So, we accept and do the best we can to plant positive seeds. We breathe and try to have a positive perspective; we practice forgiveness-of ourselves and others; and we act in kind and generous ways towards others, to plant good seeds for the future.
This realm of learning to control our mind is something many don't attribute to Yoga. We often think of Yoga as physical exercises, which do help us to be more kind by releasing stress and improving energy flow; or meditation which helps us remember who we are beyond our thoughts. Otherwise the realm of the mind is developed typically in academia--we become trained to think we know something, which then prevents us from having the openness to really learn.
This is why the optimal student of Yoga is the beginner...and why we all return to 'Beginners Mind' again and again, so that we can open to learning in a way our mind can't even perceive of. You might say we come with a quiet mind, and an open heart and spirit. We invite you to many opportunities for deep learning, via our weekly yoga classes, workshops, and advanced Yoga Teacher or Meditation Training programs. As our community grows, we plant a garden of beauty, love, and peace.