I was teaching a yoga class the other day, and the topic was embodiment. We talked about the foundational components of a yogic lifestyle, the eight limbs of yoga and about finding our path. The first precept of living a yoga lifestyle is Ahimsa or non-violence. Of course, it’s easy to make the connection between violence and things like war, guns, and road rage. Thoughts of violence against ourselves are more rare. In my experience as a yoga teacher, the first thing that often comes to mind is not “how do we treat ourselves on a day-to-day basis?”
On our path we all have thoughts that cycle through our mind (most of them unconsciously) that are negative. These thoughts do not serve our better selves. On top of that, there are the things we expose ourselves to on a regular basis; whether it’s violent movies, negative news, or synthetic foods–when did fake food become real food? There are also the acts of violence toward our own bodies; whether through addiction, poor life choices, or lack of connection with our inner and outer selves.
When we begin to expand our vision of ahimsa to include all of our thoughts and actions, we begin the process of identifying and ultimately changing behaviors and ways of being that are not serving our best selves or the greater good.
There is a Zen saying: “our path is where our feet are, so we might as well start there.” Yoga helps us to “find our feet” physically and metaphorically, and helps us to connect with our path.
But first, we must accept and connect with our path.
There is a Zen saying: “our path is where our feet are, so we might as well start there.” Yoga helps us to “find our feet” physically and metaphorically and helps us to connect with our path. It is when we can begin to accept the present moment and situation that we can make this connection, move forward, and begin to change.
How often do we find ourselves trying to start from a different place? We can spend our whole lives getting ready. When we have the right shoes we will start walking, if we find the right partner we will be happy, if we have the right job then we will excel, and even if we have more time we will launch a yoga practice: the list goes on as we keep “getting ready” to live. We can end up in a permanent state of getting ready and never truly get started living because we can’t start from any place other than where we truly are.
Always “Getting Ready”
I lived in that “getting ready” place for decades. I filled my closet with clothes to be ready for some event that never came. I cleaned my house until it was spotless so when others would come it would be ready, but of course, they never came because I was always cleaning. Who really wants to do that? I couldn’t take a vacation because I was too busy and didn’t have the time, so I kept waiting and preparing for when I would have time.
Then one day, time stood still. I experienced in a moment the finite nature of this precious gift of life when I was on the receiving end of a cancer diagnosis. It was a shock that began the process of waking me up to life. A journey of finding my feet, my path, and of saying “Yes!” to life. I don’t wish it on anyone, but for me, it was a well-needed wake-up call that prompted me to begin a journey inward through the mind-body practice of yoga.
Find Your Feet, Realize Your Path
It can be scary to find our feet and realize our path. It can be overwhelming to connect to our bodies after what may have been years of disconnection. Especially if our bodies have let us down and we feel betrayed. But we must connect if we want to heal and move forward.
Webster’s dictionary defines healing as “becoming whole.” That is what a mind-body practice facilitates if we approach it with sincerity and intention. We begin to get a glimpse into our authentic selves away from the roles we are playing and that are assigned to us by society.
We begin to notice that we are more than any of those roles and that there is a place deep inside us that is separate and independent of any role. We begin to experience ourselves more thoroughly and from a more connected place. That is where we activate the body’s innate self-healing abilities.
Letting Go Into Reality And Acceptance
It is important to note the subtle difference here. When we let go of the struggle of wherever we are, and we move into the actual reality and into acceptance and from this place, we begin our journey. We stop giving energy to the fight and to anything that isn’t serving our greater good. There we begin to find our feet and our path, both on the mat and in life.
It is from that place in the present moment that we begin to blossom, becoming what we have always been: that which is indefinable and unbounded. It is from this place that we can find and define a life of abundance, health, energy, creativity, connection, and stability.
Even a glimpse of the beauty of our authentic selves can be well worth the effort. By getting present, we can let go of the struggle (not to be mistaken as giving up,) and find our feet and our path so that we can move forward on our journey and hopefully into living our authentic life.