Rainbows & Unicorns
“No mud, no lotus.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
We often arrive at the practice of yoga in a state of emergency. As human beings, we naturally yearn for happiness. However, life has a way of getting us confused about where to look for it. After wandering around life busy, distracted and confused while not getting great results elsewhere, we discover the architecture of peace called yoga.
Often we turn to yoga when we experience a major change in our lives, usually a crisis of sorts that causes us to suffer. Common catalysts that can spark us down the path of practice are the loss of a loved one, whether a person or a pet, losing a job, a break-up, leaving an abusive relationship, having a near-death experience, and severe accidents and injuries. Or perhaps there’s no major change, crisis or shift, but an underlying and nagging sense that’s there’s something more going on in life, and yoga gives us a small glimpse of this notion. And so, we begin our yoga journey. The Yoga Sutras begin with the line, “Atha Yoga Anushasanam,” meaning ‘Now the practice and teachings of yoga begin.’
When we begin yoga, there is typically a honeymoon period. The practice works! Despite our state of mental wellness when we begin our practice, if we are committed to the practice, it’s quite effective. We show up to class regularly and we begin to see things improving. After awhile, we start to feel a little better and we are making progress. Hope returns and soon thereafter there is sometimes a feeling that now that we do yoga then nothing difficult will ever come up for us. We have discovered a new way of moving through life and it feels fantastic. I recall thinking, “Yes, I’ve found it! The answer to all my problems!” It’s as if our life will be only filled with rainbows and unicorns from here on out now that we are a little more bendy and have a few cool yoga outfits. During our yoga honeymoon phase, we can easily fall into the thought patterning that goes something like this: “If I practice yoga, have good intentions and be a kind person, then my life will be perfect!”
But eventually the honeymoon ends and the real work begins. As we continue to practice, we start to peel back deeper layers of our mental conditioning. We confront parts of ourselves that have been hidden from our view. While we experience lightness of spirit, freshness of mind and a rejuvenating connection to our bodies, we also discover often in equal measure unacknowledged pain and sadness within our hearts and minds that needs time to heal. As our awareness of ourselves grows, so does the challenge of doing the real work as we notice more and more parts of ourselves and our world that need our love. As we begin to see the scope of the work that lies ahead of us, we might begin to question this whole yoga idea. The thought, “Wait, why did I ever sign up for this? This is intense medicine!” might arise when we start to actually do the work of being with all parts of ourselves and our mind. This is especially true when we are learning to be with the tougher emotions in the human spectrum such as anger, sadness and fear.
This is where faith comes into the forefront of our practice. What is unique about the kind of faith we develop through yoga practice is that it is based on evidence via our experience of practicing. This is not blind faith. The Buddha asked his followers to see for themselves and never to blindly trust teachings. By showing up to practice, getting on our yoga mat regularly and sitting quietly for meditation, we experience the benefits of devoted practice. We feel better and notice more, and with practice over time, suffer less. This experience verifies our faith that the practice works, and therefore we are given the needed reassurance to continue the path. The practice makes the philosophy apparent as we undergo the experiences which demonstrate the effectiveness of yoga and meditation.
Throughout time, many great spiritual teachers have reminded practitioners to stay close to the path of your practice, especially when it’s challenging because that is where the real nectar of transformation is found. When the honeymoon period ends, it’s time to cultivate our faith in ourselves and in our practice. It means making time for our practice even when we feel like we are too busy. It means getting to our mat even when we don’t feel like it. It is practicing with this kind of faith that will teach us the equanimity to meet every moment with awareness and love. We are learning to trust. We are learning to let go. The Thai meditation master, Ajahn Chah, said, “Do everything with a mind that has let go. If you let go a little, you will have a little peace. If you let go a lot, you will have a lot of peace. If you let go completely, you will have complete peace.”
It’s now February, the time when many of our best-intentioned goals and plans start to wobble. The excitement of starting a new project or routine has now faded and the heavy lifting of showing up and growing is where our work now lies. We are here at Jai Rhythm to help you stay inspired in your life and in working towards your dreams.
To support you, we have developed an accessible and donation-based meditation program that launched last week. Please join us for this incredibly simple and effective practice at the times listed below. By sitting quietly, we can all develop a deeper connection to the kind of faith we need to continue dreaming big and being open to all of life. I hope to see you at the studio soon!
Founder, Jai Rhythm Yoga