"For we have not come to take prisoners or to confine our wondrous spirits, but to experience ever and ever more deeply our divine courage, freedom, and light!"
(Hafiz-The Great Sufi Master)
I am often baffled by our ability as modern humans to live our lives as if there were a great war being waged against us. So many of us often seem defensive and out to protect what's ours (our beliefs, ideas, possessions, our politics). Perhaps most perplexing of all, we often treat ourselves or our bodies as if they were the enemy-something to be punished. We punish ourselves for the weekend's overindulgence, for not being tall enough, thin enough, for our past mistakes or current insecurities, or _______(fill in the blank). We may become obsessive over our style/method of yoga, have "killer" workouts or "punishing classes" all in an attempt to desperately sweat away our problems or our demons. We may walk away from such grueling pursuits or obsessions with a sense of "high and mightiness"; stunning arm balances, kick ass abs, or buns of steel. But are we happy? Are we at peace?
I have spent more years than I care to recall at war with myself via my body. In reality I was punishing my body for the lack of clarity in my mind. In hindsight, I believed that if I could trick my mind into focusing on something completely innocent, it would forget what the REAL issue was and perhaps that issue would magically go away if I ignored it long enough. The result was usually an unhealthy and unsustainable way of life and a mind that was weary from trying to outrun itself.
Enter: the practice of yoga! As our yoga and meditation practice matures and deepens it leads us away from the combative and competitive notions that mislead us. It opens us to approach not only our practice, ourselves, and the world, but life in general from a place of peace, compassion, and acceptance. Breath by breath we begin to sort through the muck and mire of the psyche and the reasons for our inner combat become clearer and clearer. We begin to see WHY we're punishing ourselves with "killer" classes that leave us wobbly, running or walking obsessively, eating too many Cheetos, drinking too much wine, smoking too many cigarettes, _____(fill in the blank). Once the "why" becomes clear, the unraveling can begin and a truce can be called. The inner skirmish is resolved and peace presides (at least until the next battle cry is heard).
It is not our purpose to punish, beat-up or belittle ourselves or others, but rather to experience our time with courage, light and freedom.
The next time you come to your mat, take a few moments before you begin to investigate what you've brought with you to your practice. Take a seat or lie on your back, settle into the rhythm of your breath and the sensations in your body. Sit with what is present without labeling it as "good" or "bad". Get quietly centered on the breath. Listen. Then set an intention to practice-to move and breathe with mindful awareness of what your body, your heart, and your soul needs. Practice from a place of clarity, stability, and mindfulness, rather than with the intent to fuel the ego or slavishly burn calories to punish yourself over the fact that you ate an extra donut in the break room this morning.
We Have Not Come To Take Prisoners
We have not come here to take prisoners,
But to surrender ever more deeply
To freedom and joy.
We have not come into this exquisite world
To hold ourselves hostage from love.
Run my dear,
That may not strengthen your wings.
Run like hell my dear,
From anyone likely
To put a sharp knife
Into the sacred, tender vision
Of your beautiful heart.
We have a duty to befriend
Those aspects of obedience
That stand outside of our house
And shout to our reason
"O please, O please,
Come out and play."
For we have not come here to take prisoners
Or to confine our wondrous spirits,
But to experience ever and ever more deeply
Our divine courage, freedom, and