Many of us have heard the advice that, when making changes in our behavior, we should make a small change at first, establish it and see how it works for you. It got me thinking about how our yoga and meditation practices are ongoing. We make our way to the mat and see what happens. We sit in meditation and notice how active, agitated, or calm our minds are during the session. The more we engage in these practices, the more we can observe how dynamic a process it is. Things shift and change, often beyond anything we can control. Life shows up to challenge our best-laid intentions and, in doing so, we walk through the mud of transformation.
But are we actually transforming? Or are we simply trying to get back to the basic notion that what and who we are is inherently divine perfection?
In yoga, it is believed that we are born fully whole and nothing outside of us defines who we are. Yet as we age, layers begin to form around this inner light as we learn to cope and grow in the adventure of being human. We gather layers of identity and define ourselves by what we do, how we look, and the professions we undertake. And instead of them being flimsy layers, they can become armored and seemingly impenetrable. For example, I’m a yoga therapist, yoga teacher, and business owner. We latch onto these descriptors and, like being given a nickname in childhood, we might not be able to shake it throughout our life, so it sticks, and we believe everything connected to it.
If we’re lucky, conscious, and/or curious, we may come across a method or practice that helps us to begin peeling back these layers of identification and once again begin to glimpse who we truly are. Yoga offers us a way to peek into our inner landscape.
Curious? Explore this idea and try this exercise: First, make a list of who you are- name, occupation, interests, and descriptors. Next, imagine that you’ve taken this piece of paper, crumpled it into a ball and tossed it into a fire…completely obliterating your identity. If you are none of those things, then who are you? (a common question posed along many spiritual paths). When you drop away the external shell and turn to your internal self, what do you find?
This is particularly potent as it relates to aging consciously. As our body changes with the loss of muscle mass and agility and as our memory becomes sketchier, if we’re overly identified with those parts of ourselves, we begin to create our own suffering. We can find peace by letting go of that part of who we used to be and loving all that we are currently capable of being.
As Ram Dass so eloquently said, I am not this body. I am in this body, and this is part of my incarnation and I honor it but that isn’t who I am.”
Jayne Robertson is owner and instructor at Desert Yoga Therapy in Rancho Mirage. For more information, visit www.desertyogatherapy.com or call (760) 456.5160. [email protected]