A girl turned up to yoga last night and found she had left her yoga clothes at home. She laughed as she told me about looking in her bag for a third time not quite believing that they weren’t there. She couldn’t shake the feeling that if she just looked again a bit harder they’d somehow magically materialise.
I used to be a great believer in ‘seek and ye shall find’. I thought the more effort one put in, the greater the likely result, whatever it was I was looking for. Now I’m learning it’s not so simple. Results, answers, resolutions can be elusive. You can pursue them only so far, but you can’t always chase them down. Urgency and activity and just plain wanting something really badly won’t necessarily make it happen. True of the missing yoga clothes. Even more true when it comes to our hearts.
I have a close colleague who is severely depressed. When we talk I can see different parts of his brain looking at the problem from different directions. His logical, rational brain (and his is one of the most logical and rational I’ve come across) tells him that he shouldn’t feel the way he does, that his emotions are disproportionate. I know that he sees this split also between head and heart and it adds to his distress. He continues to feel a degree of mental pain that is almost unbearable for him. He can’t logic his way out of this, but he doesn’t know any other way. I see him marking time until his brain and heart reconcile themselves, with a hefty dose of medication which may or may not be helping. After a year of feeling near the end of his tether he questions how he can continue living this way. His desperate quest for resolution seems not to have yet taken him very far forward. Trying harder won’t necessarily help him find the relief he needs. In fact the frustration this causes might just make the emotional burden more difficult.
How then do we move on with (if not move on from) the suffering and troubles that we inevitably experience in our complicated human lives? If I had a simple answer, I’d share it willingly. I’m just starting to realise there’s a much more subtle level of work than I know how to describe, where love can slowly displace fear, where tightness and tension soften, and a comforting space replaces what was a dark abyss. Such changes are nurtured through tender, daily care, sustained with a generous dose of courage. The work is to keep coming back to the source of the pain and hold it close rather than turning away. So my practice is teaching me. It’s not about pursuing and seeking and wanting things to be like this or like that. It’s about truly seeing and wholly accepting things just the way they are. atha yogānuśāsanam.
And my friend who’d left her kit behind? Well, when she’d finally stopped rummaging in her bag and accepted that she’d left it behind, a solution offered itself to her in the form of the kindness of the studio lending her stuff to wear so she didn’t have to miss her practice. No naked yoga here!
yoga bag image from livelovelulu.wordpress.com