It is autumn and the leaves must fall for their tree to flourish next year and for the roots to be nourished. The days shorten and the air grows colder so this renewal can take place. We can find that we want to go back into our shelter, back to what we know, the familiar body, into our own house, to the Australia with a reliable weather pattern.
But it is not going to be so.
In the changing seasons, in the unknown, in changing bodies, we are pulled up. A mind set emerges that could have always lain there. But we discover this is a habit that is now dead, out of date, no longer useful. We are changing. We must let go.
Gandhi, when he moved from India to Britain to become a lawyer, wanted to look like an English gentleman. When he walked with his people across India as a way of empowering his brothers and sisters, demonstrating to the English that they must leave, he walked in a simple dhoti, woven from the cloth that he had spun. It was not costly fabric (in human life and dignity) that the poor of India, living in horrific poverty and degradation were killing themselves to weave for the English. He had changed, radically. His moral landscape was entirely different from the one he had started out with and he used a very different compass to that which the younger man navigated with.
We walk a tension as a learner on the yoga path.
We are beginners always in our yoga life, but when we start we are like Gandhi, wanting to make an impression, do well enough, use yoga for our benefit. But you can be taken by surprise, by what lies beneath our shiny, hopeful exterior; our “can do’ attitude may not be enough. We find a resistance, a current that is deeper, that has to be met. It is in no way shiny or hopeful, but fearful or angry, disturbed even. Something has to be faced.
This is the time when we start to work, when we step onto the path. We may be surprised by the joy of the habit of ‘yes’, this is what I do, the faith already there in the way of practice.
The rift may go deeper though, the commitment young and only beginning to take hold, the muscles not strong enough to hold. There is then slippage, and stories emerge about why not, why we should not practice. We can feel isolated, alone, and unable to shift. This is when the family of humans around us can give us courage to step back on the mat. There they are, still doing it. There is that teacher still turning up. We are all the same, we will suffer and work through similar periods of often great adjustments.
I read these words this week and they stayed with me. They are useful for any time of life. They are a practice of living. They are words to live by when any part of you is facing a death.
Don’t wait. [Step fully into life. Be present.]
Welcome everything, push away nothing. [Turn toward your suffering.]
Bring your whole self to the experience.
Find a place of rest in the middle of things. [For example, focus on your breath.]
Cultivate don’t know mind. [Practice a beginner’s openness, curiosity, and humility.]
Ralph Waldo Emerson said it best: “To leave the world a bit better, whether by healthy child, a garden patch, or redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you live—that is to have succeeded.”
Is that enough for you?