Wednesday, September 01, 2010

This is my editor's note from the September issue of LA YOGA, that just hit the newsstands. I thought about it again tonight, after seeing the premiere of the film, Titans of Yoga, on the first day of Yoga Month, which featured some moments that made me smile, laugh and brought me to tears. And made me think, what's next? Although, it just occurred to me that more important than what's next is, really, what's now?

“What’s next?” one of my students asked after class recently. “I want more. I go to class regularly, but I can’t really spend more hours each day doing an asana practice.”
What’s next? It’s a good question and one that begs for an answer more thoughtful than “do more downward-facing dogs.”

Sometimes I ask myself another version of this same query, although mine is sometimes worded, “Have I done enough Yoga yet?” Have I sat through enough grueling hours of meditation, chasing thoughts and remembering mantras and fencing with distraction? Have I rolled out the mat enough times? Is there some cumulative effect from all those sun salutations, mornings churning my way through nauli, months of deciding that yes, I am going to be able to practice arm balances, no matter my particular body type. Have I read through enough texts, chanted the Mahamritunjaya Mantra with enough repetitions to matter? Is there some quality of “Just enough” that mirrors “What’s next?”

The answer is found in this moment, right here in this breath, in our wrestling match with despair, in our waltz with joy, in our playful duet with bliss in our exploration of the everyday that we repeat literally every day.

We can study philosophy, try to fit into just the right size jeans, we can query the nature of the universe. And all of these discourses, these mental and physical gymnastics merely lead us back to this moment and to considering the relationship we have with our body, mind, spirit, heart and our place in creation. The outer questions lead us to the inner question: Do we feel at home—in this life?

Yoga practice isn’t something that we can mark with notches carved into our headboard. There is never a next, neither is there enough. What is really next is to get over this idea of striving for more. After hours of practice, daily commitments, wondering what now, the answer is to stop, as Peter Russell suggests in the interview “Sitting Down With.” When we stop, the reasons for our practice are revealed. This very life is a relationship and each day we cultivate a more intimate connection with the divine and with our selves in all available forms.

So what’s next is not necessarily more practice, particularly since practice itself can sometimes be a trap, become a seduction. The reason we continue to practice, from our first breath until our last, is to cultivate the experience of being in relationship. We stop time when in the midst of our practice, when we are sweating our way through an intense vinyasa, turning our world upside down in an inversion or demonstrating our passion and compassion through a standing warrior pose.

To stop time, dive into the infinite space that is the cavernous expanse of your own heart. This is the treasure that is revealed to us. There is no map that takes us there; no X marks the spot, no matter how many teachers we may follow or books we may read.

While we can hope that we reach some milestone, threshold or place in our practice when we get to breathe a sigh of relief or call out with a loud shout celebrating that somehow we’ve made it somewhere, I doubt that’s how it happens. Even in the many stages of Samadhi before we enter the final absorption, there is an impermanence, a need to enter to doorway again and again.
This is practice, this is what’s next and this is why we’re never done.

So, I guess this means I’ll see you on the mat.

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