Early Morning Musings
For fifty years I have practised yoga: all over the world, in all kinds of weather. In spaces large and small: quiet and noisy, cluttered and uncluttered, clean and not so clean. For fifty years yoga has been a major resource for my body, mind and health. There is not one part of me that has not benefitted. I have many tales to tell arising from this experience. And so do you: each one of you who opened up a window of a time, chose a space, stood, sat or lay down on a mat and practised a few asanas!
Story telling can be a potent resource for any yoga student as long as we develop the understanding that our stories are myths created by our own minds for a variety of reasons. Who has not thought from time to time: did that actually happen or did I make it up? Listening to someone else’s story about an incident where you were also present did you wonder whose memory was faulty: yours or theirs! Our body, mind and senses all develop differently.
One of the benefits of learning in classes is that that you follow a prescribed series of asanas not chosen by yourself so there is a different pattern which can break through some of your defences. These defences use up a lot of energy, and energy is one of our most treasured resources.
One of the benefits of practising on your own is that you can begin to unravel the reasons for these seeming contradictions. In my early days in yoga a book came out which was not specifically a yoga book but very helpful to me in my yoga. It was called The Body has its Reasons by a Frenchwoman called Thérèse Bertherat. Sometimes you discover that the reasons for one of your limitations comes from an experience of many years ago, was helpful then but serves no useful purpose here and now today.
Another influential book of my early days was Be Here Now by Baba Ram Dass. He made a suggestion which I followed for some time to post a couple of questions on your refrigerator as reminders to ask yourself frequently during the day: –
“Where am I? — and the answer is always “Here!”
“What time is it?” —and the answer is always “Now!”
Prompts and reminders are valuable. A good teacher will make use of such tools to bring your attention to something you are missing. And you will not always be grateful, particularly at that moment. Gratitude is another potent tool to be cultivated on the spiritual path along with opening your hips or lengthening your hamstrings.
The teaching may vary but truth does not. In all students there is a need for direction along with a need to find a good teacher who has walked further on this path than you and learn what they can teach you about making this journey. You will need to procure tools and develop skill in making use of them. And these tools need to be used or they will rust whilst your newly acquired skill atrophies! You will be clumsy at first but gradually become more adept with practice so you can discover the truth for yourself.
And what better way to end than with some encouragement from The Buddha:
There are only two mistakes one can make along the road to truth;
not going all the way, and not starting.
Shirley Daventry French