Jai Jai Gurudev!! July´s full moon is coming soon and it is one of my favorites because it brings us the opportunity of thanking the presence of our teachers, of all those beings that, through life, teach us and who have helped us in becoming more evolved. This year my special gratitude goes to all the practices that have presented big challenges. Down below you will find my latest article for Yoga en Red, the magazine with which I collaborate on a monthly basis.
UNCOMFORTABLE IN YOUR PRACTICE? YOU ARE ON THE RIGHT PATH
One of my favorite celebrations is July´s Guru Purnima, the time to honor the teachers in all their forms. This year I want to offer my respects to those practices that make us more uncomfortable, that push our buttons and annoy us, that stir things inside and out. All of them are amazing teachers.
We live in a society where accommodating and self-complaisance attitudes prevail. We are always looking for a sense of well-being that, without knowing it, is a trap. It seems that everything is ok as long as I am comfortable, but is all that comfort really good for us? It is interesting for me because the yogic process is in itself transformative and as awakening talks to us about the opposite, as a matter of fact, it can be quite unpleasant.
Years back, when lived in the US Northeast I learnt how all that comfort is not healthy in many ways. I remember one woman who used to work near me, wore the same type of clothes all year around. Wether it was snowing or scorching hot you would always see her dressed in her long jeans, moccasins, long sleeve shirt and cardigan. Well, wearing or not wearing a coat added some variation. The thing is that she didn´t really need to change because during the winter she would be in heated environments: from the sofa to the car, to the drive-thru bank and breakfast, so when she made it to work she as still warm and cozy. In the summer, the routines where the same, but it was under the coolness from the AC.
The threshold of her tolerance for change and her adaptability were quite narrow. Consequences of this manifested in her health and took form as respiratory problems, skin issues and allergies, but she also suffered at the mind level because she was the kind of person that became stressed whenever she had to come out of her routine and she showed disproportionate reactions towards natural and common situations that would take her to feel more than what she would normally feel. She was scared of the idea of things being different from what they were.
I have realized that many of us, to some extent, behave like that in our yoga practice. We get warm and we think that we are going to dehydrate; the sequence is challenging and we start telling ourselves that the level is too high or that our bodies can not do this or the other; the time to do inversions comes and we flee to the bathroom. Well, yoga is challenging and it should because when we become too comfortable within or comfort zone, transformation can not happen and in these times that we are living… no one is going to remain as he/she is due to the fact that there is a lot of karma in need of transmutation.
The following three yogic concepts talk specifically about that:
The first one is raga, one of the pancha kleshas or the five kinds of thoughts that hinder our evolution. Raga is the addiction to what we “like” and I put this word between quotation marks because it refers to all of those things that are comforting like my granny´s mashed potatoes or vanilla ice cream. Not practicing what is a challenge, repeating the same sugary poses, doing only what we feel like and moving the same way all the time, increase raga. By this I don´t mean that we have to look for challenges constantly, what I mean is that we should aim high in our path, including the development of the physical body. It´s current state, here and now, is not the state in which it´s going to feel in the future and the changes can happen for the good, really good changes can happen as you grow older, but it happens this way only when we face challenges that rock us out from the comfort zone. Such challenges vary from person to person. It might be that for someone who tends to practice asana at a very high level every day, the antidote for his/her raga means to practice less in the physical body and do more inner practices. The opposite can happen to a person that meditates every day for longer periods of time and whose physical body is rigid or weak, he/she should work harder in the physical asanas and sweat them out at least for a while so he/she can observe the evolution changes that will happen inevitably.
The second yogic concept is another one of the pancha klesas and it is quite related to the first one, it is dvesha or the rejection of what is uncomfortable. The truth is that it would be great for all of us to broaden our sensory limits and to open to experiences that we tend to repudiate. It is not necessary to sleep on a bed of nails, but we could start taking cold water showers, of going a bit hungry before putting food inside our mouths -in general, we overeat- or by saying yes to all those asanas that make us feel the most. There are many things that we do not like and that are the most beneficial for us. Our current lifestyle demands that we start working harder in the physical practice, gentle muscle aches, burning in the thighs, arms or gluteus are good sensations because they mean that there is an awakening of the tissue that is quite sleep after all the inhumane hours of being seated, caused also by the huge amounts of sugar and refine carbohydrates that we eat as a society. It is highly beneficial for us to broaden the level of tolerance to all those people who we consider irritating, who push our buttons or who we can´t stand. Even though we would probably not choose them as partners in a desert island they have the same right to exist that you or I and for some reason they exist in our lives. At least for a period of time, may we say “yes” to what is uncomfortable.
The third and last concept that I want to share with you today is tapas, its literal meaning is “to heat” and it refers to the transformational fire of the practice. The qualities of the fire element make tapas sharp, penetrating, fiery, hot, caustic and therefore uncomfortable! Tapas is one of the niyamas or yogic preceps for conscious living and it creates the indispensable friction for the transmutation of karmas and past conditioning. This metabolization allows the pure energy of the indwelling Self to continue its journey through evolution. Tapas works at many levels, not only in the practice of asana, it also burns jobs, relationships or anything in our lives that needs a transformation in order for us to go on. The deep changes that come out of the practice of tapasya make us pass through uncomfortable but necessary transitions.
Dear yogins, this coming Guru Purnima, may we fasten our seat belts, get focused and trust the Pure Consciousness that we are authentically. She knows very well where to take us so we grow in Light, Wisdom and Love.
* * *
Guru Purnima night will happen on July 16th. Send a message of gratitude to all those that have played the role of teacher in your live. It doesn´t have to be a physical message, you can dedicate a meditation to them, you might want to use the one that I will be guiding in the Live on Tuesday July 9th or create your own ritual. I am sure they will receive it.
aham prema – we are love