Hi there beautiful yogis!
The school holidays are upon us and hopefully some sunny weather. Gardens are looking wonderful and Spring gives us the flavour of fresh, new life.
Like the freshness of Spring, our external environment can change our perspective. The only problem is that our external environment, the world around us, is always changing. Sometimes we don't like what we see in front of us. It's too cold, too hot, too hard, not enough ... the list goes on. We don't have control over our external environment. But we do have control over our internal environment: our thoughts, what we choose to focus on, and our internal stories. The practice of yoga and pranayama teaches us to sit quietly and observe. To watch our tendencies and our habits and the way we interact with the world. By practising yoga, pranayama and meditation (3 of the 8 limbs), we build the skills to be present. We learn to sit quietly with what goes on around us and, over time, we are less reactive. Our external environment no longer pulls us in so many different directions. We are less distracted, more steady, more able to 'see' with a calm and grounded perspective. The world will always be changing and fluctuating, but the question is how will you move through the world? How can you sit in your 'centre' or your 'Self' rather than being pulled away? This is a big question.
We are wired to move towards pleasure, or away from pain. If we go with this, it may work for a short time. There is a syndrome called 'shiny new objects'. Most of us love a bit of this. A new dress bought online, new tools for the shed, a better table for the kitchen, or even a new kitchen! All of this is fine, but it's never enough. A new dress or tools don't actually make us happy in the long term. A new car doesn't keep us fulfilled for years on end.
So what's the answer? We can only answer this question for ourselves. For me the answer lies in two areas. The first is to work on the inside - to cultivate a steady 'Self' so coping with the outside stuff is less overwhelming. LIfe will always throw stuff at us that we don't like, usually when you least expect it. The second is to keep learning and growing.
Both of these take a lot of effort and we live in a society where effort is not valued. The quick fix, the easy way, the most pleasant etc etc etc. I had a conversation last week with my teacher Alan Goode. He made the comment that practising Iyengar Yoga has become more at odds with the world. Iyengar Yoga asks that you get on the mat and practice. It's a practice-based form of learning. When you step onto the mat, you may not like what you see. It may be difficult emotionally, physically, and in all sorts of ways. There is no music, no bells and whistles. It's just you and the practice - asana, pranayama, meditation. But if you do your class and a little regular home practice, if you sit quietly for a few mins every day, you see things about yourself that you don't see reflected back to you in a new kitchen or a new dress. You learn things about yourself by showing up and observing. To show up is for most of us the hardest thing of all. To be consistent, to go against what the world values, is to tread the path of yoga in a very personal way. To be curious enough to learn; to do your class, whether you feel like it or not, to practise pranayama, when it makes you want to scream and run out of the room, to sit and watch yourself, without reacting, is often the hardest thing you will have to work on in life. The hint of spring, the ray of light that comes out of this consistency, is the opportunity to learn and progress and to be steady and content in yourself. To cultivate the internal landscape is such a challenge, but its rewards are immense. For me, the practice I have done over the years has taught me a lot about myself. I am still very much a beginner and I am still learning. Learning how to accept what is, learning to be grateful with what I have, letting go of what I thought would happen. This is why I practise Yoga.
If you wish to join me, and many other yoga practitioners, in this endeavour, jump on the mat and keep practising. The key is consistency - a little over a long period of time. I've never heard anyone say they regretted the time they spent on the mat.