Posts Tagged ‘essential self’

Do You Have a Yoga Butt?

I recently saw an ad for Old Navy.  The question was, “Do you have a yoga butt?”.  The answer – buy the pants and then you would.

If I take the ad as a reflection of what’s in, then I need to ask myself:  Do I have a yoga butt?  Do I want one?

Its no news to anyone that we are a culture obsessed with our appearance.  The ads that surround us testify to that fact.  Though having a yoga butt may not be my personal issue I am not immune to the wish to look good.

I can laugh at this ad but at the same time know I’m part of this culture that wants to stay youthful.  But the question arises: is that enough?  If it is, then buy the pants or do enough yoga to have the desired objective – a yoga butt.

Still the question persists and I ask: Am I missing something?  Is it enough to have an attractive body?  Is this why I practice yoga?  For me the answer is no, this is not enough.  This last week I read a short work from Rachel Naomi RemenEverything Has a Deep Dream.  You can read the full text at the end.

She says “There is a hidden seed of greater wholeness in everyone and everything.”  She encourages us to befriend life and to “uncover something that is already happening in us and around us and create conditions that enable it.

I like this reading.  She says in her few words truths that I hold dear. For me, she speaks to the deepest meaning of Yoga.

When I come to my yoga practice I am a friend to myself seeking this seed of greater wholeness.  I am coming with the intent to create the conditions for ‘what already is’ to unfold.  In moments of stillness,  I know deep in my bones that all is with me right now, there is nothing else to get.  I say this last statement not out of a hubris of self aggrandizement, but from a place I have touched occasionally that knows without thought that I am complete, fully realized, and that I could not be anything else.

Do I live in this state of awareness, enlightenment?  No.  The Tibetan Buddhist teachings tell me that complete enlightenment is my natural state, that I am already enlightened.  The fact that I don’t experience this are the veils that cloud my vision.  My “avidya”, ignorance and misperception, that fool me into thinking I’m separate, a part of the whole, not wholeness itself.  So I walk the gradual path.  I come to my yoga each day, I carry it with me, and I pick it up when I have dropped it and lost my way.

Do I want a yoga butt?  Do I want enlightenment? Absolutely, I want it all (I’m a baby boomer)!  The joke is, if I’m ever in the experience of enlightenment, there won’t be a Linda to know if she has a yoga butt.

Everything Has a Deep Dream


I’ve spent many years learning
how to fix life, only to discover
at the end of the day
that life is not broken.

There is a hidden seed of greater wholeness
in everyone and everything.
We serve life best
when we water it and befriend it.
When we listen before we act.

In befriending life,
we do not make things happen
according to our own design.
We uncover something that is already happening
in us and around us and
create conditions that enable it.

Everything is moving toward its place of wholeness,
always struggling against odds.

Everything has a deep dream of itself and its fulfillment.

Rachel Naomi Remen

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Keep Dancing

Heritage of Yoga

The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali:  2.5  Ignorance (avidya) is misperceiving permanence in transience, purity in impurity, pleasure (sukha) in suffering (dukkha), an essential self (atma) where there is no self.

What is the perfect pose, the perfect instruction, the perfect practice?  Where am I going with my yoga practice, what am I getting, who am I pleasing?  In my old age what will I have?   So easy to get lost, to forget the clarity of a moment, to fix an experience, become bored with routine.  Dukkha

A spiritual teacher of mine once told me that our happiest moments often hold the greatest suffering because we refuse to see their essential impermanence.  Avidya

It is wonderful to feel strong, be flexible, to have health and vitality, to move one’s body into extraordinary positions.  Sukha Yet the question arises like the song of Peggy Lee’s:

“Is that all there is, is that all there is? If that’s all there is my friends, then let’s keep dancing”.

The song has notes of despair but it is also possible to hold that idea as a way of working till I live in the direct experience of enlightenment.  Where I don’t see permanence in transience, purity in impurity, pleasure in suffering, an essential self  where there is no self.  So if I am not to fall hopelessly into the mire this sutra speaks of, what does it mean in the context of yoga to keep dancing?  Could I hold dancing as the gradual path?

I experience the joy of a yoga pose.  I love the feeling of my heart center in Trikonasana, the stretch over my back hip and the reach of my top collar bone and arm.  I like how grounded I feel in Downward Dog, the texture of the mat under my hands and feet.  There is power in the Warrior poses and sweet surrender in Uttanasana.  I can do Handstands until my arms will no longer hold me.  Head back, chest open in Ustrasana or snug as a bug in Child’s pose.  I like to hear and feel my spine adjust in Jathara Parivartanasana and sit in the quiet of Gomukhasan legs.

There are lots of poses I don’t care for.  The ones where my body flounders and my mind finds little rest.  But some I have come to like as we have become better acquainted.  Is this dancing?

I like the moments of connection, when insight connects disparate experiences into a whole as vast as space.  For a moment there is direct perception.  An instruction I thought I understood gains a depth I hadn’t experienced before and I think, “Oh, that’s what they meant?”  Or something I read revels a profound insight.  These moments of clarity are fleeting.  Soon I fix them with my thoughts and they evaporate into a memory.  Is this dancing?

I am never tired of my yoga practice.  It does not bore me or seem of little value.  I am always learning something.  If not about my own practice directly then something new about my students which in the end informs my own study.  It is so wonderful to see another’s body and communicate in such a way that they share the perception.  For a moment our eyes join and the veils of separation lift.  I experience love in these moments and hold such gratitude for my students.  Is this dancing?

Patanjali speaks of the pitfalls, the subtleties of ignorance.  When I think I’m clever, or my practice is about accomplishment, when I think I am teaching and feel separate from my students, I am in the state of ignorance.  The shades of this ignorance are vast.  Occasionally I wake for a moment, but in general, I work within ranges of distorted perception.  But in the moments of lucidity when the veils lift I experience the freedom Patanjali speaks of.  I believe it is these moments which inform my experience, let me know what is possible, and keep me dancing.