Friday, October 21, 2011

What's Not Wrong?

"We should learn to ask, "What's not wrong?" and be in touch with that.  There are many elements in the world and within our bodies, feelings, perceptions, and consciousness that are wholesome, refreshing, and healing.  If we block ourselves, if we stay in the prison of our sorrow, we will not be in touch with these healing elements."
-Thich Nhat Hanh-Peace Is Every Step

Last Saturday I led a "Working With The Bones" workshop which was designed to illustrate how there are eight major joints of the body (wrists, elbows, shoulders, neck, lumbar spine, pelvis/femur, knees, ankles), as well as muscle tension that can effect our range of motion.  We had tons of fun finding out how different each body in the room was.  

One of the points I stressed was that although we may encounter limited range of motion in some poses, that doesn't mean there's anything wrong with us.  We live in a strange culture that pushes an image of perfection at us and looking at the glossy pages of Yoga Journal magazine - replete with airbrushed fitness models - one might get a bit discouraged at what their body can't do in comparison to the "yogi" on the cover.

Sadly, we often get so conditioned to focus on what's "wrong" with us or our lives, all of the things that are missing, that we forget to note all of the many wonderful things that are present.  If you took a moment to write down the things that you think are "wrong" or missing from your life (not enough money, can't get into side crow pose no matter how hard I try, not tall enough, etc), but also jotted down the things that are NOT wrong (healthy body, strong legs, roof over my head, steady work, food!), I guarantee you that the list of what's NOT wrong will be much, much longer than what is wrong.

In terms of our yoga practice, once we know how to align our bodies and establish solid postures, we then begin to focus on the deeper and much more fulfilling practice, which is to open our hearts to compassion, tenderness, presence and understanding.  We stop focusing on "good" or "bad", "right" or "wrong" and become open to the joy available in what "is".  We don't change the world by perfecting a binding side angle pose (Utthita Parsvakonasana).  The world doesn't necessarily benefit from our ability or inability to rock a handstand in the middle of the room.  We change the world by looking deeply at ourselves, our strengths and weaknesses with compassion, and by using our awareness to transform our suffering.  We change the world by opening the door of our heart and living from a place of peaceful abiding.  Sure, we can help ourselves to do this through a devoted asana practice, but ultimately our practice deepens by recognizing all of the things the aren't wrong with ourselves, our lives, and our world.

Try it today.  Make a list of the things in your life that are "wrong" (not enough money, can't do lotus position, cranky co-worker, etc).  On another sheet of paper, take some time to think of all the things that aren't wrong (the presence of food on the table, clothing on your back, can do triangle, have a secure job, etc).  Take a look at the two lists side by side… I guarantee that the list of things that aren't wrong is much, much longer than all of the things that are.

Until next time…

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