Life in our bodies on this earth is at once precious and a paradox. In practice, yoga teaches that we not only aspire for kindness, wisdom, and love, but that our true essence reflects those most divine qualities. How is it then that life is so wrought with difficulty and dissatisfaction? If we are being more honest in our inquiry, we might wonder why we struggle with such profound fear in this life. Why do we suffer?
Our innate ignorance is the source of suffering. There’s much we don’t know and yoga can help us see what we need to learn. Paradoxically, what looks like yoga can also be the source of maintaining the status quo or prolonging patterns of suffering. It’s normal and okay to be ignorant, by the way. Learning is a gratifying product of practice.
My teachers have taught me that the cravings and aversions we use to cope with and avoid difficulty are in fact the source of ever more compounding difficulty. Much of my time, and most likely yours too, has been spent in the pendulum swing of not wanting for something or wanting for something else. If we are ignorant to the truth of the craving and averting mind, we live in a constant “gotta get it done” and “wish I was somewhere else” mentality.
As a regular practitioner of meditation and asana, my pendulum swing has become far less severe. This is certainly true for others and it will be true for those who begin to engage in a meaningful dialogue with the parts of self that are suffering. So… we should all practice yoga! However, it’s not so cut and dried.
One of the reasons I came to yoga was to remove physical difficulty from my experience. I’m sure it was promised at some point in those early days. I learned quickly that what was uncomfortable in my body was inextricably linked to my mind. A feeling of intensity was all that was needed for me to react with aversion and stay stuck in a cycle of mental reactivity. Over the last fifteen years, I have grown to trust that intensity is not to be feared but that it’s a part of me. It’s a guide.
It’s also taken me much longer to learn that difficulty is never going to be removed. Fear is not ever going to go away. Sadly, the human qualities that are born from fear are with us to stay. Our knee-jerk reactions to these qualities can be minimized as our minds become less avoidant and more consciously responsive.
Yoga as a practice of physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual wellness asks us to start with ourselves. We become familiar with difficulty and suffering in the form of intensity, or distraction, or emotional and physical pain. Yoga gives us tools to apply useful awareness techniques to cultivate an attitude for healing and wellness. We are then on a very different trajectory aspiring for more positive outcomes.
We will still sometimes disagree. We will still sometimes be angry. We are still human.
We must remember in our activism, quiet or collective, that we are all part of one collective kindness. We are one wisdom. We are, at our essence, love. We must face the obstacles that prevent us from realizing our true essence. We must also be angry if we are angry. We must feel sadness and fear if that is what we feel.
Yoga will help us see clearly the gift of life in our bodies, as a self, part of the whole, beyond the paradox.