It never seems to fail. The week before I present at a workshop, I am given unlimited personal examples to share on the subject at hand. Perhaps I am more conscious of my own behavior or perhaps the “threat” of exposing myself to people I don’t know brings my “humanness” to the surface, either way it has become quite comical to me over the years to witness. The themes and lessons that have woven themselves into my life, into many of our lives, are courage, contentment, fear, and escape. They have always been there, waiting, like an old friend, like an old enemy, keeping me up for days, making me long to sleep for days, sometimes whispering, sometimes shouting, bringing me to the brink of ecstasy, bringing me to the brink of insanity. In her book, The Wisdom of No Escape, Pema Chodron reminds us that it’s our emotions that prevent us from viewing life from a bigger perspective. “The more sensitive we become to this, the more we realize that when we start getting angry or denigrating ourselves or craving things in a way that makes us feel miserable, we begin to shut down, shut out.”
It is our nature to seek pleasure and avoid pain, at all costs. Why else would we eat an entire gallon of rocky road ice cream or a whole bag of double stuffed oreo cookies over a soured relationship? What do we do when we have a bad day at work? Do we look to explore the source of angst or do we look to medicate, whether by the local pub, television show, or any other method of escape? When life doesn’t go the way we think it should, do we embrace the life we have or do we fantasize about the life we are supposed to have? Ooohhhh, didn’t you know that I’m supposed to be 5’7 with thick curly blonde hair that nestles around my shoulders…my build is that of a warrior yoginini princess (this is my fantasy after all) who is able to practice for six hours every day…when I’m not practicing, teaching, or holding my workshops around the world, my husband, son, & I are off on wild exotic rock climbing adventures…my level of climbing 5.14…I might make a magazine cover next month…right after I publish my first book…and own my own yoga studio (voted the best of the valley, by the way)…the reality of it all? my six hours of yoga daily is replaced with making coffee & sandwiches, other hours are filled with teaching yoga, helping brides plan weddings, quick books, godaddy, washing toilets, fixing exploding espresso machines….You get the point.
In Loving What is , Byron Katie teases, “If you want reality to be different than it is, you might as well teach a cat to bark.” My goodness, how many cats have I tried to convert???!!! Each time we experience loss, sadness, fear, or anger, we can use it as a tool to access the unlimited supply of courage, inner strength, compassion or we can use it to shut down, shut out, or escape. Each is just as critical for personal growth. As we begin to witness pain and pleasure as opportunities for growth we learn to become content with all lessons and obstacles placed on our path. Yoga has taught me, by remaining neutral, how to embrace every life experience as an opportunity to transcend attachment and aversion, pleasure and pain. Through both pain and pleasure, suffering and contentment we learn to live our lives with an open heart. We learn to live with what is, not with what is supposed to be or should be. We come to understand that every life experience, in and of itself, is neutral. It is our resistance or attachment to that experience that creates suffering.