I learned, early on in my foray into yoga, what an incredibly powerful practice this is. Whatever intention you set for your practice is what will manifest. If your goal is more flexibility or strength, you will achieve this. If your goal is to look good, your ego will grow and each practice will become a performance rather than an exploration of your inner landscape. When scandal befalls a famous yogi, I always think they must’ve lost their way somewhere along the path and set intentions – either consciously or subconsciously – that are in alignment with who they ultimately became. Yoga can bring you power, attention, sexual energy, and an inflated sense of self if you channel your energy towards these things.
Yoga will bring your clarity, humility, wonder, peacefulness, compassion, focus and love if you channel your energy in this direction.
A seed planted deep into the earth, blossoms once it is nourished with water and sunlight. Your inner dialogue, too, acts like a planted seed and unfolds on the physical plane once watered with breath and mindful movement.
This means it is HUGELY IMPORTANT for you to frequently check in with, and monitor your inner dialogue while you practice. If cultivating self-love is your goal and yet your inner dialogue is filled with self-deprecating comments and insults, your yoga mat will simply become a place where you reinforce your negative attitudes towards yourself. It will be yet another place where you are not enough, where you are flawed somehow, where you are failing. It is up to YOU to decide what qualities to manifest, what kind of attitudes and beliefs you want to flourish. Don’t underestimate and misuse the power of this practice and the impactful time you spend on your mat! Today, decide what kind of spring flower do you want to experience yourself as and in what way will you shine your beauty to the world?
You are not meant to practice yoga and meditation when times are tough. It is unrealistic to think you should have the energy during times of grief or hardship for spiritual practice. So, don’t feel guilty for not practicing when you feel you ‘should be practicing’ or ‘need it most’. When life is good, practice as much as you can so that this will act as a life raft during the periods of stress or grief. – Peter Marks
Any spiritual teacher I admire, whether I have been their student, read their books or watched them interviewed, have all embodied a childlike exuberance. A twinkle in their eye. Smile lines, visible compassion, an understanding of the playfulness of the cosmos, a deep-seated and unshakeable joy.
When I realized this, I stopped taking my existential questions so seriously. I lifted the burden of judgment and shame I carried with me. I let go of the self-flagellation that had become the foundation of my spiritual explorations. I stopped saying things to myself such as: ‘Katie, you are spiritual, you should know better than to think/say/believe… ‘Katie, that is such an un-evolved way to think/talk/act.’ Why can’t I judge less? Why aren’t I more disciplined? Why am I failing at living ‘from the heart’? ‘Why can’t I tolerate more, protect myself less, learn my lessons, step into my greatness?’ and so on, and so on. It was only once I relaxed into myself and trusted that my path was unfolding just as it’s meant to, did I begin to understand that this adventure is meant to be light and full of laughter! So, as a lighthearted exercise today, I took stock of all the ways in which spiritual practice has changed me and the areas in which I have stayed stubbornly unenlightened! Check it out:
Yoga/meditation practice have improved my:
- Appreciation of the breath and how it can instantly ground me
- Patience with myself
- Appreciation of my body and what it’s capable of
- Connection and compassion for others
- Appreciation of my inner struggles and the struggles of my loved ones
Yoga/meditation have NOT improved my:
- Tendency to eat my lunch (ok, breakfast and dinner too) while driving
- Ability to stay calm while inserting a car seat
- Patience with others
- Ability to stay calm while on the phone with a BELL representative
- Length of time I stop (ok, pause) at a stop sign
- Tendency to skip dinner the night before a yoga tv or photo shoot so that my stomach will appear flatter
These lists are inexhaustible. Try making lists of your own and see what you come up with! It’s humorous to realize that no matter how many countless hours we spend meditating on a mountain top in a loin cloth, in some ways, we will always just be OURSELVES. And that is worth smiling at! 🙂
Although we have been made to believe that if we let go
we will end up with nothing, life itself reveals again and again the opposite:
that letting go is the path to real freedom.
Just as when the waves lash at the shore,
the rocks suffer no damage but are sculpted and eroded into beautiful shapes,
so our character can be refined and our rough edges worn smooth by changes.
Through weathering changes we can learn how to develop
a gentle but unshakable composure.
Our confidence in ourselves grows, and becomes so much greater that goodness and compassion begin naturally to radiate out from us and bring joy to others.
That goodness is what survives death,
a fundamental goodness that is in every one of us.
The whole of our life is a teaching of how to uncover that strong goodness,
and a training towards realizing it.
– Sogyal Rinpoche