Recently, I re-saw some footage from Ram Dass's documentary Fierce Grace. He was talking about the time that he first met his Guru, Neem Karoli Baba. At the time, Ram Dass had been taking hallucinogens as a means of experiencing spiritual ecstasy. His Guru asked to see the drugs, as he'd never taken any, and then he swallowed the bottle whole. Ram Dass watched as the drugs had no affect on him. For Ram Dass, the message his Guru was sending him was that spiritual ecstasy is within and so it was time for him to let go of his methods.
This thought struck me, as we humans love our well-worn methods to get what we want, usually based on what's worked in the past. It reminded me of an interview with Jeff Bridges as he talked about the trap he some times finds himself in whenever he acts a scene perfectly. After congratulating himself, he begins thinking – how can I do that again exactly as I just did it? And that's the trap. Thinking along those lines is like creating a photocopy of yourself, instead of living authentically and spontaneously.
To come to a place in which you admit that you don't know the best way, takes courage. It also takes mindfulness to see our methods, unload them and remain present.
Yoga gives us an opportunity to practice mindfulness in a structured manner so that we can more easily integrate the practice into our everyday lives. The process of watching the breath and feeling the affect of the poses allows us to drop down from our analyzing minds and into our bodies.
So start while you're in a yoga pose, like down-dog, and notice your method:
Pushing: “I need to be able to get my heels down on the floor - just try a little harder.”
Criticism: “Why is it that I cannot get my heels down on the floor? I'm not strong enough or limber enough to do this right.”
Checking-out: “What should we have for dinner tonight?”
Then unload it and move to mindfulness. Feel your body in the pose. Feel how the breath moves your body. No judging, just being. Allow the newness of each inhale remind you of the uniqueness of each moment.
As you practice presence/mindfulness in Yoga, you'll automatically use it in other situations off the mat. You'll notice things differently and with more fullness. And you will respond more appropriately to the uniqueness of each situation, instead of reacting to a previously run tape.
So start offering your authentic self and let Yoga's mindful approach ingrain the practice in your body. After all, a photocopy is always less vibrant and valued than the original.