Lately I’ve been practicing more seriously and longer—for as much as four or five hours per day. Before I wouldn’t have allowed myself this freedom. I would have felt like a thief stealing time, like I’m shirking my duty to the world or my work, and decadently indulging in a great luxury that most people cannot afford. But I’ve decided that these contrary voices are naysayers, boogey monsters and obstacles that I must overcome. I recoil to think that I might go through my whole life without ever really giving myself all the space I want or need to use yoga to discover whatever there is to be found within my own skin. I need to do this now while I am fully able. It feels like a choice that I must make at this time or risk failing to exercise my full potential to use the techniques that I love. I will not be this strong, able, awake, and eager forever. This wanting to withdraw inward has been a looming secret, not fully articulated yearning that I have danced around since I began doing yoga by myself on the beach way back when.
It seems like every tiny part of me is crying to me, wanting me to listen, to be in attendance upon, to feel, to know, to care about what I am going through or who I am now. Partly the crying is coming from my own personal, individual pain that I largely avoid. But it also feels like the crying is coming from a collective pain that belongs to us all and that we are in varying stages trying to somehow cope with.
My personal pain is made up of sadness, grief, anger and fear over all the mistakes that I’ve made and people (including myself) that I’ve hurt along the way. There are so many misunderstandings that I’ve glossed over, misperceptions that I’ve failed to detect, so many opportunities that I’ve missed because I was afraid or unable to acknowledge my power or not ready to know that much bliss. And then when I go inward I encounter an equivalent collective pain—crying that is coming from everyone as they attempt to sort through, deal with, or manage their own pain while also interacting with each other. The outer pain is somehow perfectly reflected with my own personal, internal pain.
The fact that the two streams of pain are oddly equivalent or coming from the same universal source helps me understand why it feels right to take a deeper inward journey even though the outer world seems to need more attention and help than ever. My pain and the pain of the world are synonymous. We all need to equally and simultaneously address our own and the world's suffering. Power and healing will come when we have the discipline to see what is happening within and around us from an inner and outer perspective.
I’ve increased my tapas because I have one dream and one dream only, and that is to do whatever I can to help the world move towards peace instead of heading towards destruction through engaging in uncompromising, fruitless, imperiling conflict. I want to use hatha yoga to penetrate to self-discovery and to provide an example to others that they too can know self-discovery. I want to walk the talk not merely talk the talk because I know that becoming skilled in applying the techniques of hatha yoga can play a significant role in generating human peace, no matter how distant or remote it may seem. Somehow it has taken me until 57 to finally stop allowing other priorities to come first. I invite you to join me in upping your tapas in order to empower yourself and be a greater force for good in the world.
-Photo by Amberlie Johnson