Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Polishing the Mirror

I keep coming back to yoga as relationship and as the mirror in which we can see our reflection more clearly. When I say relationship I don’t just mean with a lover or a sibling, or any specific person. And, more to the point, it isn’t even about the other person. It is about the way in which we relate to anyone or anything that is before us. And even more specifically it is about how that relating reveals our own true essence.

Whether we are relating to a friend who asks for help or to our car that just blew a tire, the way in which we respond or relate to a situation is the relational side of yoga to which I am referring. These people and experiences act like mirrors because they elicit a response from us. Through the reflection of how we react and respond we can better see who we are. I’m not suggesting that there is a right or wrong way to respond nor that we will always have some simple, peaceful, centered reaction to everything. I would hope that if we won the lottery and if someone near to us passed away we’d have completely different reactions to those two experiences. I am, however, suggesting that how we respond and react is an excellent way to better step into relationship with oursleves.

Who and what we are relating to, what is going on around us, even our feelings and reactions are always in flux. Seasons come and go, breaths rise and fall, careers start and end, even our bodies change daily based on simple things like food and sleep. With so much always in evolution, how then do we know exactly at what we are looking in this mirror of life? How do we know who we truly are when so much is always changing?

The experiences and the ever-changing scenarios of the world are sign posts that point to our Truth. Often we find ourselves stuck staring dully at the sign post—getting caught up in the emotion and drama of our reactions—and forgetting that the sign is pointing to something much, much deeper. Through yoga we practice seeing the changes as part of our transformation and refinement, but also we look beneath them. We train our eyes to see the beauty in it all, we train our hearts to feel the connectivity between seemingly separate experiences and we train our minds to know the unwavering Presence that sits as the foundation of it all. When we practice looking at our experiences and relationships in this way, then we begin to see the outer fluctuations as well as the inner Truth. We can distinguish the two from each other and begin to know that though we have feelings and emotions they are not who we are, and though we have experiences and hobbies, they are not our identity. And so through the practice we polish the mirror and start to see ourselves more clearly.

On our yoga mats, the poses can always lead us both to the rich ever-changing texture as well as to the stillness underneath the flow. We practice a whole slew of poses, we re-visit them frequently and yet they feel different every time. We change and the poses reflect that our bodies are changing too. The poses offer a chance to bump up against our tight spots, sore muscles, injuries, fatigue and the accompanying emotions and thoughts that correlate. In the process of feeling those edges and having time to self-reflect we go deeper into our very center. When we meet this center the object to which these life-experience-signposts are pointing is revealed.

Another means to polishing the mirror and seeing ourselves more clearly is the oft forgotten limb of yoga that is the hallowed ground of meditation. We close our eyes and sit still so that all that change and flux can be felt and we can learn to differentiate between them and the vast other part of ourselves that is stable and unwavering. The world beyond our closed eyes continues to go on and to change—we are not trying to stop it—and we learn to look within and become familiar with the still and quiet part of ourselves. This is the part that exists in unconditional love, that can sit back and witness our reactions and our feelings without judgement, that can see the beauty in any situation and can surrender into the change and even learn to enjoy the process

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