I Practice Yoga
I practice yoga. For me, at this point in my life, this means learning to be attuned to and aligned with life as it arises within and around me. This is no easy feat. Again and again, I find myself standing in protest to aspects of my experience. My practice then, is to grow the capacity to softly hold and integrate the vast, pithy, varied and often challenging circumstances and emotions that life brings about.
Largely I go about this process through a daily practice of Ashtanga yoga. As I’ve experienced it, Ashtanga yoga is a meditation practice. Indeed we move our bodies, but stillness is cultivated inside the breath around which we move. As Adyashanti says, breathing has a quality of stillness…in breathing, stillness arises. Stillness also comes simply from cultivating a practice for a long time. Stillness is important because it is a spacious viewpoint. It’s a little bit like when you gaze out upon the world from a mountaintop, or the seaside, and this view somehow freshens and changes your perspective. Stillness is the place we can grow and become vast and able to hold whatever it is that arises.
20 years into this particular daily effort, I can look back now and see the value in sticking with one practice without changing and shopping around. If you stay with something long enough for it to get very difficult, and then stay some more, you will bang up against your own self and limits. It’s not comfortable, nor is it meant to be. But in order to evolve, every single living being must struggle. It can be very helpful to do this work, of struggling, inside the container of a form, a practice, which is grounding in its simplicity, in its instruction. It’s even better if you have a teacher who can witness your process and help you to stay on track.
It seems like people sometimes get confused and become fixated on form itself. Yoga, as it is known by most Western people is a great example. I go crazy when I find myself sucked in to yet another perfect-beachside-asana-instagram-feed. An image of yoga is simply not yoga. The obsession with asana, with perfecting it, with building an identity around it, is absurd. Have you heard the Zen saying about the finger pointing to the moon? It goes something like, “I am but a finger pointing to the moon. Don’t look at me; look at the moon.” Please understood this, the finger is the method, the instructions, and the map. The finger is the teacher. But, as with any spiritual teaching, be careful! Don’t fixate on the finger, instead pay attention to where it is pointing.
Our practice is one of moving with breath (moving with life and its ups and downs). It is training our attention in a way that both settles our being and expands its capacity to be with all that arises within ourselves and within our lives. This finger is pointing to a vast and endless space within me, within you, within all of life.