|May you practice with peace, love, and joy|
I don’t love yoga. I like practicing yoga, but yoga itself is not something to love.
Love is a feeling that I have. Love is something I can try my best to generate within myself and spread to others.
So I practice yoga and do it with loving intentions.
When I teach yoga, I try my best to teach with love. Whether I am teaching myself (we are all our own teachers) or teaching to students in front of me is irrelevant; I make my best efforts to ensure it is all done with love.
When I practice/teach I try my best to impart feelings of happiness without any strings attached. Without thought for what others may do for me.
That is a not such a bad way to live life.
One of the barriers that can block the flow of love arises because it can be hard to let go of some of the strings—some of the expectations—we have when we do something. This is especially so for some of the more subtle or hidden expectations we have when we practice.
Like the expectation that the yoga will do something for me. That the pose will do something for me. That the breath will do something for me. Or, as a student, that the teacher will do something for me (or, in life, that another person will do something for me).
So, I try to remember the pose is a guide. The practice is a guide. The teacher is a guide. But I, I am the one that does something for me.
To help us on our way to a loving practice and loving interactions we can do something. Perhaps start by practicing the art of listening and looking deeply? That can help us understand what we do (and do not) need to do.
Deep listening and deep looking don’t just happen, although we sometimes do get flashes of insight. Deep listening and deep looking need to be practiced.
I try my best. But people do sometimes walk away from me feeling unhappy so I need to practice more. I sometimes walk away from my yoga practice feeling a bit ‘off’ so I need to practice more.
A piece of practical advice I was once given was to try to practice the art of letting go.
The person who gave me this advice was an ordinary though exceptional person. In fact he did not tell me to practice letting go as such, instead he said to me, “everyone has expectations but when you become attached to those expectations, especially when they are not met, this is where the difficulty and suffering arises” (he was a Buddhist and brought up surrounded by Buddhist teachings).
Those words were like seeds planted in my brain. They hung around for a while until I started to nurture them a little.
By practicing deep listening and looking I could see how many of my unhelpful or unhappy thoughts and feelings arose at times when I had expected something to happen but it did not.
By practicing deep looking and listening I could then go a step further and see that the true source of my unhappiness was that I was still attached to the expected outcome.
It could be something as mundane as expecting a handstand in a sequence that never came. And then feeling a little out of sorts for the rest of the class because it was not there.
It could be something like a person dying when you expected them to be alive. It was only 20 years later that I realized that a lot of my suffering after the death of my mother when I was a girl was because I was clinging to the expectation that she should still be alive.
The more I practice the more I sense that the most lovely (and loving) practices and interactions I have—the ones where I feel the most peace, love, and joy—are also the ones where I have expectations but where I am not attached to them.
Of course I can (and generally do) expect that this pose, this breathing, this teacher, this person might do something. It is hard for me not to have expectations (and the reality is the practice of yoga does do something—but not always what you expect).
But the more I practice deep looking and deep listening I realize that, among other things, attachment to those expectations, when they are unmet, blocks the feelings of love, of joy, of peace I feel (in life and in yoga).
And the more I realize this, the easier it is to let go.
One of the best ways I have found to enhance the feelings of love, of joy, of peace, in my own practice (of yoga and of life) is when I come expecting something (even if I cannot articulate what it is) but open to the possibility of almost anything.
The important thing, for me, seems to be that I just come. That I am present. That I am there. That I am open to what may (or may not) happen. And that when I come—open and present—it is with an attitude of love. Towards myself and towards others.
May your practice, in yoga and in life, be peaceful, loving, and happy.