Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Finding Ritual, Faith Lies Underfoot

"When people start to meditate or to work with any kind of spiritual discipline, they often think that somehow they're going to improve, which is a sort of subtle aggression against who they really are. It's a bit like saying, 'If I jog, I'll be a much better person.' ' If I could only get a nicer house, I'd be a better person.' ' If I could meditate and calm down, I'd be a better person.' Or the scenario may be that they find fault with others; they might say, 'If it weren't for my husband, I'd have a perfect marriage.' 'If it weren't for the fact that my boss and I can't get on, my job would be just great.' And 'If it weren't for my mind, my meditation would be excellent.'

But lovingkindness — maitri — toward ourselves doesn't mean getting rid of anything. Maitri means that we can still be crazy after all these years. We can still be angry after all these years. We can still be timid or jealous or full of feelings of unworthiness. The point is not to try to change ourselves. Meditation practice isn't about trying to throw ourselves away and become something better. It's about befriending who we are already. The ground of practice is you or me or whoever we are right now, just as we are. That's the ground, that's what we study, that's what we come to know with tremendous curiosity and interest."  -Pema Chodron

I  blame the changing seasons, but I have been feeling the flux lately and all the control issues and lack of control that comes with it. Amidst it all, I have been re-examining my yoga/meditation practice. Often, when I 'fall off the wagon', as I like to say, I tend to get anxious about it. I worry that I am not practicing, or, rather, I am painfully aware of the fact that I am not practicing. Yet it is something to realize that these practices themselves evolve constantly. It would be something to practice daily, every morning at the same time. However, such a staunch routine can ignore the flux of the body and the mind; there are mornings when yes, you would be better served to take that extra half-hour snooze in bed. And then again, it is good too, to establish a good habit of getting on the mat.

I also approach my yoga practice in the same way as the quote begins above. Many times, if I am honest, I have gone to my practice to be better, to look better, to feel better -- body image or perfect asanas coming to the fore. I am trying to re-found the core of my practice; health is very much a happy result of yogic routine but there is a deeper communion which should not be ignored; it should be explored. I think I miss ritual in my life, and would like to find within yoga a way to reflect more mindfully.

I'm not sure if it is being 27 and catching sight of 30 down the way, but the future presses heavily on my mind too lately. Where is my career headed? Where am I to live? Where am I to start a family? It almost seems like anything is possible (and, too, that nothing can happen). It's scary. It also seems so silly to get caught up in planning all the tomorrows and forget about the todays. But reconciling being present alongside keeping a steady but not-too-firm hand on the steering wheel is quite a delicate balance. And as always, it is about cultivating faith, that intangible concept to which I come back again and again.

So to practice loving kindness, to feel the earth beneath my feet -- and to breathe in and breathe out, it really is that simple.

"My path is the path of stopping, the path of enjoying the present moment. It is a path where every step brings me back to my true home. It is a path that leads nowhere. I am on my way home. I arrive at every step."  -Thich Nhat Hanh

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