Posts Tagged With: patience

Paying for patience.

If patience were for sale, would you stand in line to buy some? How much would you want? How do you think they would be selling it, by the hour? Personally I have found my patience level is directly related to how much something is inconveniencing ME. Damn ASMITA – ego! My ego you can make me such a terrible person sometimes. I am usually forced into becoming patient after I have done something stupid while trying to out smart my impatience. Like the proverbial speeding ticket, as you’re speeding to get where you need to be you end up getting pulled over. Naturally, you end up getting where you needed to be, but later. Or how about how your impatience makes you push aggressively against every warning sign your body is giving you, and you injure yourself trying to get one more yoga asana in the “I can do that pose” pile. Which then sets you back weeks from actually being able to do that pose. Do you recognize any of these scenarios? If so, then fall in line behind me for your fare share of patience. It’s marked down to $9.99 a hour! Would you pay that? Either way, you’re going to pay. If you don’t find a little more patience in your life.

I have stuck with Ashtanga yoga for 13 years. The number of poses that haven’t come easy for me out weigh the ones that have. My husband says I’m a diesel. What he means is, I am good at long and slow distances when it comes to running. What I think he really means to say is I am willing to suffer as long as necessary to get something that I really want. What I have come to realize is that I like rubbing myself up against discomfort to find out just how much of it I can really handle. This personality trait works really well with Ashtanga yoga, because there are poses that seem strategically placed to weed out people who can’t handle the discomfort. For all the poses that could scare me off I usually just dig in even harder. I find I am incredibly patient when things are difficult, but terribly impatient in the most mundane moments of my life, like walking my dog.

I think I have the Ganesha spirit inside of me. Ganesha is all about overcoming obstacles. When yoga throws a pose at me that seems illogical to my body, I just trumpet out “Oh yeah, watch me!” then I take another deep breath and carry on. In my practice I have come up against Marichyasana D, Baddha Konasana, pashasana, kapotasana, dwi pada sirsasana and a few others. Here’s what I can tell you about these asanas. Don’t give up, and don’t think they will come quickly. Marichyasana D took me 3 years to bind. Baddha Konasana took me 10 years to get my forehead to the floor and knees down. Pashasana has taken me 13 years on my left and is still a tad elusive on my right. Kapotasana took me 7 years just to touch my toes, and dwi pada sirsasana only happens for me as Yoginidrasana, because of a herniated L5/S1. Even with a consistent 6-day-a-week practice these poses have taken a long time to come around. So why should we do yoga for ten years just to get our forehead down to the ground? What’s the point?

Baddha Konasa. Years of running made this pose a practice of patience.

Baddha Konasa. Years of running made this pose a practice of patience.

The point is, if I don’t walk away from challenges in yoga then it’s likely I won’t walk away from other challenges life throws my way. The point is, I now have a sense of pride every time I execute those postures. No one but me made them happen. But put these things aside and ask a different question. Why would I walk away when I have no ability to predict when I will be able to do these postures? If I would have put a time limit on my yoga practice; that, if these things don’t happen for me in a year then I’m walking away. Who’s to say that the day after I walk away it wouldn’t be the day my hands clasp, or my head touches the floor. I feel there is a greater risk in walking away than there is in seeing it through. Walking away will always leave me with regrets, but seeing it through is like turning the door knob of opportunity. Walking away is like never even ringing the doorbell of opportunity. Sure I have regrets from things I didn’t walk away from sooner, but they are always overshadowed by all that I am proud of myself for NOT walking away from.

Why not walk away from Ashtanga yoga when the going gets tough? When I did bind in marichyasan D no-one dropped party streamers and brought me a cake. No-one read about it in People Magazine. The interest rate on my visa card didn’t drop, the bills in my mail box didn’t go away, the dog I wish would live forever didn’t suddenly defy nature and survive her cancer, and my boss didn’t call me into her office and say “I hear you bound Marichyasana D last night. Congratulations, here’s your new office and a $5,000 raise.” So what is all the hard work for if it didn’t get me any of those things? But keep in mind what I did get…pride. How much is pride worth and would you stand in line to buy some? Do you think buying pride would feel the same as earning it? If two lines were forming one selling pride, and another selling patience which line would you stand in?

Pride is like food for our spine. It pulls your shoulders back, and you seem to stand a little taller. Especially if it came from sweat and hard work. The pride I gain from overcoming one difficult asana gives me fuel to over come the next, and the next after that. I think pride is what gives our eyes that little twinkle. Look into an ashtangi’s eyes after their practice, you’ll see that twinkle. I think pride settles our heart, and it strengthens our convictions. It is limitless in all that it gives. The beauty of pride is it best earned with patience. Patience is the real hero. Its sort of like how your body makes a shadow; patience shines a light on areas that are weak. As you work through those areas you get stronger and then can do more. Pride is just the after effect of your patience.

I love those moments where the Universe laughs at me for thinking I have control over all that’s around me. When the ego boast the “ME! ME! ME!” cry and all you’ll end up hearing is the Universe laughing. The ego may drive you to want more asanas, but sooner or later the ego becomes weak. What takes over when the ego walks away…the heart. Its inside the heart that patience lives. Don’t be afraid to let hard work pay off and to see things through. There will be no party, and probably no checks will be written, but there will be a sense of great pride. Pride like that can make you feel as strong as an elephant. Hopefully that elephant like feeling you experience is Ganesha pointing out to you that you are overcoming obstacles. So, put away your wallet because patience can not be bought. But I promise you, if you don’t find some you will end up paying for it.

Patiently moving into Kapotasana.

Patiently moving into Kapotasana.

Categories: For the beginner, My viewpoint | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Unsaid

I recently inherited a parrot from my husband’s family. They have had this bird for over 40 years.  I have been working on bonding with him. During this process, what I have really been working on is communication without words. He does speak, but he probably doesn’t comprehend the use of his words, as he will often say “Hello” as I am leaving. But he has mastered the appropriate greeting for my return. He joins our dogs in barking to announce my arrival. I guess he figured since they do it, so should he. It’s very funny seeing your parrot bark. But than again I see people mis-use language all the time. I also see people mis-use inflection and mannerism with their words. So why is it we are so dependent on words instead of what they evoke? We use words to mask so much of what we really mean. This is why I love the stripped down simplicity of a mysore yoga practice. There are no words, at least none spoken, but there is a language. It’s a beautiful language filled with support, encouragement and understanding.

We have become too dependent on words. There is a big difference between just speaking words and actually communicating. Communicating takes listening. You won’t always hear in words what the person actually means. Just like my parrot can’t always tell me what he wants. I have to become a very good listener via body language, and the use of his feet and beak to really understand what he wants. If not, then I usually end up being the recipient of a harsh bite. This same thing happens in yoga sometimes. If you aren’t being an active listener to the teacher, or the warnings from your body then you may get bitten by the hard truth of injury.

I have taken classes over the years where the teacher offers just words; no inflection in their voice, no adjustments through their hands and no darshan either (which is a loving glance). I have found through the years of study with my teacher, Tim Miller, that during his mysore classes, he often  uses darshan as a tool, for encouragement. His hands on adjustments also offer communication. I know that when my teacher touches me firmly and with confidence, it means he has confidence in me –  that I am capable of going where he is trying to take me. It says to me loud and clear “You can do this.”  So what about inflection? I can tell you that my parrot knows how to use it, when he’s not getting the attention he wants, he will get louder and louder until he is noticed. Just the same, I can calm him down with a softer voice and a gentle touch. There is nothing worse to me then a monotone teacher. It sounds to me like they are bored, which I do believe some teachers are. They have lost their “Joie de vivre” for teaching. Pitch and tone can go a long way in expressing the joy there should be in a good practice.

I recently taught a class that seemed like they were all visual learners. It was as if 70% of the class had no ears, only eyes to guide them. Imagine how complicated life must be if they can only understand conversations by what they see and not by what they hear. Where has the art of listening gone? When did we become so dependent on sight. The problem with sight is it is filtered through our preconceived mind (samskaras). This is why  people  recount a story differently even though they all witnessed the same scene unfold. Sight is not reliable, but it is helpful. Even sound is not terribly reliable, because you can read between the lines. But your sense’s are reliable. In order to understand my pets and my pets to understand me, we have to sense each others needs. I have a house full of animals and none of them speak english, but they all speak patience, thank goodness. Because we humans are sometimes selfish in our interpretations of our animals needs. They are so patient with my ignorance of their world and their communication. They however comply to everything I ask, in english. They are good listeners.

Mysore yoga gives us a chance to become better listeners. We have the opportunity to listen to our breathing, thoughts, sensations and our dreams. The quiet of the practice allows room for patience. When in a classroom environment where the teacher is barking commands there is little room for patience. People often feel rushed in a led class, but not mysore. It’s a beautiful practice that has movement as it’s language. Not facial expression, not words, not inflection – just movement. It’s like a liquid conversation. I’d say it’s like a painter painting. The paint is going on the canvas, but it’s blending with other colors. During a mysore practice, our movement blends, each of our movements is like a brush stroke, each person a color. There’s a group effort in mysore style yoga even though no one is doing the same thing at any one time. It probably looks like chaos to an outsider. But for those of us practicing together it’s like a symphony. We each move a different way and experience different struggles. One instrument playing alone can make beautiful music but a symphony leaves an impression.

We need to bring the simplicity of a mysore practice into all of our practices. We need to be less dependent on what we hear and see, and more receptive to what we are feeling. A great musician feels what they are playing. The music that moves you the most did so because you felt it instead of just hearing it. It touched something inside of you. It’s no coincidence that the 4th chakra/the heart chakra is called “the unstruck sound”. This is a sound that you don’t hear with your ears. You feel this sound with your heart. That’s what we’re getting in touch with every time we do a mysore practice. The brain uses language, but the heart uses feelings.

I recently just finished reading a great book about the idea of what’s left unsaid.  Yoga isn’t about what’s said, it’s about what’s not said. Enough with language. Animals are hard to understand if you are expecting to hear words/language. Animals use movements to express moods and desires. My parrot drops his head when he wants petted, or he squats low and quickly flutters his wings when he wants me to come to him. My dog raises her bum but lowers her chest when she wants to play, my cat head butts me when she wants petted. When these things fail, then animals will use sound –  barks, squaks and meows, but first they trust their instincts and their instincts are to communicate with movement. Let’s try to not worry so much about what we are saying and more about what we are doing. There’s a great quote that keeps it simple “Actions speak louder than words.” Let’s take action, get on your mat and leave the words at the door. It’s just better to leave somethings unsaid.

Shhhhh, just listen. Ushtrasana, Camel pose.

Shhhhh, just listen.
Ushtrasana, Camel pose.

Categories: For the beginner, My viewpoint | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Ripe for the pickin’.

Do you remember your graduation from pre-school? Do you remember all the excitement about starting out the next year at a new school? Each year working your way up to the eventual end – graduation from college. Is it that there is an eventual end that keeps us on track? Is it knowing that at some point we will be given the reward of a title that allows us to keep our nose to the grindstone? What if there were no-end? If there were no diplomas, would you still work as hard as you do and for as long? Is it possible you would work even harder for less – less acknowledgement, less status, less pay? It seems as the human species goes, we do well with things that are going to end but we do terribly with things that have no end. If I told you that you only needed to do backbends 50 more times before you could spring right up out of it to standing, would you be willing to do 50 more? What if I told you it was going to take 100 more backbends, or 500 more? Would you still be as willing to do them? What if I told you all you were ever going to get out of yoga is a better night’s sleep? Would you do it, would you stick with it? I find the hardest part about yoga for some people is the endless effort that is needed without knowing what the results will be.

The most difficult sutra for a yogi says “Abhyasa vairagyabhyam tannirodhah” – Practice without attachment to a particular result. But if we are putting forth effort, aren’t we aiming for a particular result? Well, how do we practice with out attachment? We must practice patience. I do believe you will ultimately get any result you strive for with enough due diligence. In the same way that you eventually do get to enjoy a nice glass of wine. But keep in mind that wine was first a grape, or even further back a seedling. The process of making a good glass of wine takes a while. If you just consider alone the fact that it takes about 3 years to make a productive grape vine. Let’s not forget about all the TLC that is needed in that three year process to keep that vine healthy, pest free, frost free, drought tolerable, etc. Add to that how the soil had to be cultivated before the germinated seeds could be planted. Then of course, there is the harvesting, smashing, fermenting, bottling etc. It takes from 1 year to 5 years to make a bottle of wine, the extreme being 20 years with reds. If people were only willing to put that much time into their yoga practice. Just think of the limitless potential you could experience by allowing yourself time to mature into a yogi.

Patience. If you try Padmasana before it's time you might risk injury.

Patience. If you try Padmasana before it’s time you might risk injury.

A three year yoga practice could be like growing your deep roots and vines before you are ready to produce a mature fruit ripe for the picking. During that 3 year period processing what you’ve learned. Then you might be ready to be picked, pruned and overall cleansed of the fruit that might be weighing you down and that can be turned into something better. But even then, you might need to sit and contemplate your next phase of yoga, just like wine sits in the fermenting process. You must discard the waste before you can take on a new form – going from your solid state to a liquid state of being. In yoga, we are trying to become more fluid, to become sweeter, to become better with age. Each of us has the potential to add to this world something unique, something that comes from a good exploration process. If we walk away from yoga before the process has had time to really set in, we would be missing out on all the colorfulness that yoga brings to so many. With enough yoga we do become a lot like a red wine. Where it’s hard to get the stain of yoga out of our hearts, just like it is hard to get the stain of red wine out of carpet. Yoga leaves an impression, and a strong one at that, when practiced for years, not months.

Wine doesn’t make it to your lips without having a heritage. Most vineyards are centuries old. The craft being passed down from one generation to the next. The craft being refined with each year by experimentation. From when to pick the grapes, to what to add to the soil, to how the climate produced a specific result. When you are part of Ashtanga yoga, you become a part of that heritage. Yogis before you have experimented. They have refined the craft of Ashtanga yoga. You automatically get an umbilical cord to India. Just like wines have a particular flavor when they come from a particular region, you automatically step into a family tree with the great, great grandfather figures of Ashtanga yoga – Ramamohan Brahmachari, Krishnamacharya and Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, Tim Miller. As each year of your practice goes by, you are becoming a bigger limb on this old, amazing family tree we call Ashtanga yoga. You are fertilizing the soil for the next crop of yogis.

So give yourself time. Don’t be in such a hurry. Be still. Stand in the sun. Receive from the earth what it has to offer. Be gentle when you prune back what you no longer need. Squish out all the flavor that yoga is giving you, and be willing to share it with others. Don’t hold back and don’t be shy to have your own unique flavor. Yoga makes us ripe for the picking. You just never know when you will be picked in life and for what cause. You might get picked to be a mother, you might get picked to be a cancer survivor, or you could get picked to be a civil servant, or picked to write a great novel. Whatever it is you get picked for, yoga will make you humble, sweet, patient, generous and RIPE.

Categories: For the beginner, My viewpoint | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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