Each time we roll out the mat and move our bodies the sublime understanding is that our mat is like a mirror. How we perform on the mat is how we perform in life. If we are hard on ourself in poses chances are we have high expectations of others and of our self in life. If we want to take strides in a certain direction it starts with the behavior we lay out on the mat and hopefully spills into our behavior off the mat. This is why yoga is referred as a ‘practice’. It is meant to be a preparation for our real life experience.
When we experience yoga in the form of asana (postures) the layout reads like written paragraph and has three separate phases. First there is the opening (breath work and warm-up) the body is next (sequence and asana) and the third is the conclusion (sivasana). The incorporation of all three phases often is what gives us the euphoria we experience upon completion of our yoga practice.
So if our practice is meant to spill into our daily living why is our euphoria a fleeting affair rather than an oasis we have throughout our day? The obvious answer may be that real life includes much more that just our individual self and there are many more balls being juggled than the steps to triangle pose. This is a very valuable response. Yet perhaps there is also deeper underlying layer that we continuously overlook in our busyness of daily life. If we were to examine our daily activities we may see that we take less time in our introduction, we focus primarily on the body, and almost always eliminate sivasana, the conclusion and most important part.
Take for example a scheduled meeting. If we arrive 5-10 minutes late were frazzled. We lack the time to set-up how we would like, to pause and think about what needs to be discussed and to simply adjust to the space we have walked into. However we do manage to ‘pull it off’ and cover the topics needed and have a general sense of accomplishment. This is the body. The meeting finishes and often one of two things happens next. We either are so tightly scheduled that we rush off to the next appointment or we convince ourself that we can squeeze one final little task in before we need to be somewhere else. There is no reflection...no sivasana.
What this creates is a constant snowball of either the mind, body or spirit trying to play ‘catch up’ with the rest of the body. The end result is that we lack presence and awareness. If this sounds familiar and perhaps a cyclical tendency that we would like to adjust perhaps begin by taking your yoga practice off the mat. in other words spend time on completing each paragraph that makes up the different chapters of your book of life.
Here is the paragraph steps in daily living examples:
When the journey of mindfulness calls there is a deep feeling of both commitment and optimism. However the beginning stages of this path can sometimes shine it’s light on where we fall short in behaviours and relationships both within ourselves and with others. For some this is where the journey ends. Old habits and patterns enter back in, or worse we spiral into a spiritual darkness replaying the story of our short comings and limiting beliefs. What appeared so clear to us when we started is now so very far away from the direction that we were headed on. Yet if we were to listen a little closer we’d actually see that were are right on course.
The word ego often times has a negative perception, a part within ourself that needs to be conquered. The ego is so incredibly amazing. Here is this piece within ourself whose sole purpose is maintaining our survival. It acts in order to protect us and keep us safe…just like a loving mother. Yet like a loving mother the ego can be blinded. Where behaviours were once put in place, in order to keep us safe or maintain our survival, they may still be playing out even years after the threat has left.
When we turn our attention into the practice of soul or spirit we begin to shift from the need to do (ego) and start to experience the state of being (consciousness). At our core we are human beings not human doers.This shift sends the ego on high alert because the ‘law of maintenance’ states that ‘that which we feed… grows.’ If we are no longer feeding the ego and instead nourishing the spirit then over time the spirit will begin to flourish and the ego will diminish. The ego feels this threat coming on and like a mama bear finds the resources within us to preserve our survival. Ego preservation will transform in many ways such as the inner critic, the skeptic, or the image consultant.
So step back into the scenario of where an individual is embarking on a spiritual path but rather than feeling the euphoria and enlightenment sensations they begin to feel the opposite. The inner critic may enter speaking statements of unworthiness “I can’t believe you just behaved like that…and you call yourself spiritual”. Or perhaps the skeptic enters “really you think waking up at 6 a.m. to meditate is the secret to peace?” Then there is the image consultant “hmmm wonder what Larry would think if he knew I was listening to Deepak Chopra”.
These responses are not a signal to wave the white flag and admit that we are unable to lead ourselves forward. They are instead the perfect opportunity to begin the honest work of bearing witness to our own ego and engaging in relationship with it. The inner critic when used in the right manner can be such an amazing driving force to help inspire higher standards; to no longer be content with playing small. Engage in conversation with your own critic. “Really you think I’m unworthy? Hmmm that’s interesting because my kid thinks I’m awesome and my kid is one of the smartest people I know.” Or “How can I be unworthy if I was born whole? This unworthiness must have somehow been taught to me along the way” The skeptic when used honestly is going to make sure that you validate what you are doing so that you are not lead down the path of scams and unsupported product claims. Let’s face it there is a lot of money to be made in the business of spirituality. So begin to decipher as to when the skeptic has a valid voice and when the skeptic needs to move to the backseat and let go and let be. As for the image consultant what better way to take a deep look at your relationships and need for approval. If the people you surround yourself with don’t see you as your best self and inspire you to be your highest self then are they honestly loving you? If you seek the approval of others more than the approval of yourself why is that?
The beginning stages of going deeper will inevitably point out our ego. The recognition that we have an ego is a deep call for us to start doing ‘the work/play’. The ego is like a new puppy. It wants to be fed often, it enjoys mischief and it needs to be trained. Space in your life for stillness is how spirit grows brighter and ego recedes. Watch how these tender pauses bloom into your everyday until one day you’ll just happen to notice a difference…