Marred Perfection

The slow passage of time
as I wait for you to appear to me. Deeper into the night I go
Searching… Searching
For your face o my Beloved.
Then slowly, too slowly for time
Your shadow emerges.
First, a glimpse,
Then clearer and clearer in the darkness.

Oh all this waiting was worth it,
For your flawed perfection.

For the knowledge,
That you were with me all along.
Though it took complete darkness
To know that you were there

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The Cure to Life

The other day, someone asked me, “how come your hips are still tight even with all the yoga your practice?”  It is an interesting question that can be answered in many different ways. On a physical level, sitting down for long periods as well as activities like cycling and running can affect the hips that way.  On an energetic and emotional level, tight hips can sometimes signify a certain degree of resistance, or emotions being held, trust or any number of reasons, depending on where the individual is in life.  In my case, mine were feeling a bit tight because of a combination of physical and emotional reasons which I won’t go into.

What interested me about the question is the idea behind it that a chosen activity or spiritual path can be a cure to life.  Yoga, prayer, whatever path we choose, we sometimes think that it will protect us from life.

When I was a child, I believed so strongly in prayer. I still do.  But as a child I would pray for a specific thing, mostly for my father to come home, and when he didn’t I got angry. What I wanted, really, was to not feel the pain of it all, but of course, that never happened.  And then, I thought that God had a personal vendetta against me because of it.  As I got older, I learned of another way to deal with pain – disconnection.  Alcohol was a great tool for this method, along with a life of partying, and then sleeping it off.  It worked for a little while, and then it got old.

Then, in the great old age of 30, yoga made an appearance.  Not the gym yoga I had done before, but the kind of yoga that gave you space to be with yourself.  I looked at all the happy, healthy people and thought, that this might be it, the cure to all pain and suffering. Asana practice led to meditation and stillness, and prayer.  Slowly, I worked through my physical injuries, and then the emotional injuries, but guess what?  There are days when the hips are still tight, or the shoulder is out of whack.  Sometimes I still spend half of class crying into my mat.

Why?

Because life doesn’t end and as long as we live in the world, shit will happen.  When people claim to not feel pain or sadness anymore, I wonder if they have let the parts of themselves that can feel all that die. And yes, it is safe when you’ve learn to shut the world out, living a solitary existence, but is that really living?

The only cure to life is death.

All the yoga, prayer and meditation did not stop my father from passing away. It doesn’t stop my shoulders from being sore sometimes, and it sure as hell doesn’t stop sadness or anger from making an appearance in my life.  Instead it has taught me to stop and take some time exploring these injuries and emotions.

This is the path of surrender without giving up, knowing when to back away instead of walking away.  It is taking the labels of “good” and “bad” out of emotions and just feeling them.  Crying when you need to cry.  Being angry when you need to do that.  Taking time alone when you need that.  Or simply walking up to a friend and giving them a hug because that’s what you need.  Have you ever felt like crying but ended up laughing hysterically instead?  Well, that is the energy moving.

Sometimes the energy just needs an outlet.

A friend at work asked me how I could still breathe and hold my space even when I am angry. The answer is simple.  I have since stopped trying to push my anger down and sit on it.  If I need to, I will get up and go for a walk.  Sometimes I get into an inversion just so I can see the world in another light.  And of course, breathing techniques help.  The way I manage my anger though, might not be the same way you manage yours, and it is your journey to find your tools.

Yoga, prayer or meditation – shit will happen.

It is how you deal with it that will change.  Surrender and acceptance doesn’t stop sadness, but it allows you to feel with a certain degree of peace.  Self exploration in the silence allows you to find safe ways of letting emotions flow through you in a compassionate way.  And perhaps, you had these skills all along, but as you read more books of people telling you how it should be, you forgot your own intuition, the higher Self that guides you through the smooth and rough.  This Self which is made of equal parts shadow and light, and knows things that your brain might not.

So explore. Learn. Feel.

There is no cure to grief apart from grieving.

And there is no cure to life apart from living.

grief

From Light to Dark and Back Again – A Trip Through the Gunas

Over the weekend, I attended a talk by Swami Govindananda on the three Gunas. In Sanskrit, the word Guna can hold two meanings; the first being thread or string, and the second meaning quality.  Swami Ji, as he is known, was speaking to us on the second definition.  In the Hindu scriptures, these three qualities are satvic from the word satva (calm, peaceful, conscious, etc), rajasic from the word rajas (fiery, driven, selfish, etc) or tamasic from the word tamas (heavy, dark, angry, etc).  The thing is, all three of these qualities exist in every one of us. Within a matter of moments, one can go from being happily on that satvic cloud to being down in the dredges of tamas.

Most of us live in a state of rajas. Society in fact thinks very highly of the rajasic state. This is the state where one is driven, ballsy, a go getter, a doer, and this is the state where it’s all about the “I” – I am, I want, I will be.  It’s all well and good. You can sit in whichever Guna you want as long as you are aware of the consequences of being there. The only problem is that rajas is only a breath away from tamas. What is tamas? When you see people go crazy, getting into bar brawls, fighting, shouting, in acts of uncontrolled anger; that’s tamas.  People who live in satva, to put it simply include your Mother Theresas and Ghandhis of the world, and even then, it takes one incident to bring a person from a satvic state to a tamasic state, and of course, right after learning about it, the universe had to test me on it.

Participating in Yoga Aid on Sunday, coupled with all the big hugs, a lovely brunch with amazing people and a nice evening had left me feeling all mushy and gooey.  Then the tamas hit the fan. My credit card had been stolen, and used to an inch of its life on things like McDonalds, pizzas, art supplies and cigarettes (I know right?). To top it off, when I called the bank, although the customer service personnel were great, they did not have any information for me. Herein starts the descent into rajas.  Mind you, now my balance has gone into a negative number, and if I were to transfer funds to the account so that I could withdraw it, the bank would take it. In fact, I did, and it did. Side note: the Occupy movement is well justified to me at the moment.  This morning, I went to speak to a local bank manager, and again, not only was everything that I was told in the last couple of days repeated, the lady who was serving me proceeded to school me on checking my mailbox.  And there it was, Ms Rajas ripped out through her shackles and let loose.

Having this happen to me, I can see now how a person can change their mailbox number from the highlands of satva to the dredges of tamas in a matter of seconds. It only takes one instant of losing control, one action to change the story of your life. We would all like to think that we are “better than that,” but while we hold this mentality, we don’t hold ourself in check for the darkness that lurks somewhere in there.  The thing about knowing that the lightbulb can go out is that we can are prepared for when it happens. Everyday, there is something in the news about buildings being burnt, people murdered, fights and the like, and you wonder how they got that way. Sometimes, they themselves wonder how they got that way. All it takes is one moment of being unconscious, not present, unchecked. A friend once said to me in a pub where people were going crazy, “I understand why Muslims don’t allow drinking. You feel like you lose control of things.”  And although alcohol and drugs do limit your control over yourself, things can happen even without them. All it takes is one moment, one breath, one unchecked action or train of thought.

Yes, some situations upset you, and you have a right of speaking your mind, but today, I realized that I could easily have been one of the people who trashed the bank, threw out a laptop, or broke something.  It might not have been likely, but it was very possible.  When we see people in prison, in debt, homeless; sometimes we think “oh, that could never be me.”  The thing is, we don’t know their story.  Where the cycle of the world goes, we don’t know.  It takes a string of thoughts and actions, but if we don’t pay attention, we don’t know where in that string we are currently sitting.  So as Swami Ji said, always pay attention to your mind. Know where it is, feed it with your compassion, because where your string was yesterday is where you are today, and where your string is today determines where you will go tomorrow.

Swami Ji likened the three states to light. Satva is that state where you are in a room and everything is bright and clear, Rajas is that state where the light has dimmed and everything is red, and Tamas, well that my friends, is when the room is completely dark. And who controls this light? Well, you do.  It’s there, in the power centre of your mind.