“When your intellect, that is confused by the conflicting opinions and the ritualistic doctrine of the Vedas, shall stay steady and firm with the Self, then you shall attain Self-realization.” ~ Bhagavad Gita 2.53
Have you noticed something?
Look around in your yoga class, at the yogi happy hour, at the chakra cleanse workshop and kirtan. Look at yourself. Look at everyone. Do you see us?
We are lost and confused.
Our individual entry into the land of yoga all look different, but maybe it resembles this:
We took a class and it hooked us like a coke line hooks overzealous partier. We were in. We bought the twenty class pack, even though our budget did not agree. We hoarded Lululemon wonder-unders in every color as a child does Skittles. Our thirst wasn’t quenched with just one coconut water, so we bought out the Zico stock at Whole Foods.
Two classes a week turned to five and then seven, with no day of rest. The yoga retreat to Tulum looked enticing, so we packed a bag along with two grand on our credit card and off we went to learn and discover what we sought after.
We met some cool chicks in flowy Saint Grace pants, mala beads secured to their wrists like handcuffs, so we suited up in yogini goddess wear and shackled ourselves with Bodhi beads too. We friended the yogi dudes who declared their attainment of Jnana (knowledge) with Sanskrit inked all over their skin. Swami in his freshly steamed robe and sage cloaked words guided us into the harbor of transcendence. All of these people knew something we didn’t, they could give us the answer.
Next thing we know, we are circling inside the corralled waiting room of Samadhi (“highest state of consciousness” (yes, I know there are as many levels of Samadhi as there are in Zelda, but for this article, let’s just boil it down to one “higher” level, ok?) like a bunch of mooing, overheated, hypnotized yoga cows thinking we’ve found the answer.
We are now heightened and enlightened.
I hate to burst your coconut water-filled udders, but we are a bunch of livestock stepping in our own sh*t, locked up in a holding cell of our own construction, following a fellow cow who is leading us on a carousel to nowhere.
We are utterly confused. We’ve defecated all over our own authenticity and brilliance with the feces of opinion and perspective. We believe we’ve found ourselves, but now we have become imprisoned and segregated from the purpose of yoga and the Universe.
We have separated ourselves from the pastures, the rolling hills, the other animals and our freedom and birth right to roam and get lost. The fellow cow we are following may have years of direct experience, understanding and wisdom, but it is his or her experience, understanding and wisdom. We can listen to his or her moos and eat from the same grass, but the way we hear and the way we digest is going to be different for each one of us.
We need to experience life for ourselves, to understand.
How do we do that? We saunter out of the corral and step onto the soil of yoga. Yoga is meant as unclaimed land for all to inhabit. The land of yoga knows no borders, religion, belief or method. Authenticity is the only prerequisite for citizenship, and experience is the only civic duty.
There was a time when we were not citizens of yoga. We found the land of yoga because we were looking for something, for a place to fill us with validation, confidence and understanding. We became devoted, a devotee to our search. We were determined to find what we were missing. We think yoga is where we will find it—we believe the answer is yoga.
Yoga is not the answer. Yoga is the key to our personal toolbox. Yoga is not the handyman nor is anyone else. We are.
We have to use the tools we already have, to fix ourselves. Our toolboxes are already full, we don’t have room for more tools. Buying more tools won’t remedy our brokenness, it will destroy us and transport us to the junkyard of confusion. Instead, we must use the key to unlock the box, grab the wrench we own, turn it ourselves and reassemble our parts that have disintegrated, loosened and caused us to stall.
We can practice seven days a week, attend workshop after workshop, retreat after retreat, sit in the presence of Swami and Guruji—but none of that will secure our wrench and tighten our bolts.
Yoga is not the answer, it is the question.
Yoga is the question that leads us to the answers within us buried under the loose nails and rust.
The asanas, the meditations, the teachers, the scriptures—they are not the answers. They are the hints to the questions we must compose and ask ourselves.
The only way to find an answer is to get lost in questioning. The answer that arrives however, is elusive, we can’t catch it. To quote a very smart lady, Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman, “That’s a slippery lil’ sucker.” The answer is always changing. Change propels the journey. The answer will never stay the same, it will transform, morph and evolve as we do, through our direct experience.
Experience is enlightenment.
The journey begins when we ask the first question and quit thinking we have the answer. When we know we don’t know, is the moment our fuse (of not knowing, of being lost) ignites the electricity of passion and adventure. It is the fuel that runs our engines. There is more power and voltage in the question than in the answer, it keeps the spark flickering.
We will always have use for yoga, because when something is used well, it will need to be lovingly cared for and maintained. Our job is to continue doing the handiwork by questioning. As we question, we tune up our engines so our mind, body and spirit can run efficiently and easily together.
In regards to the bovine to divine waiting room, I chose to leave the corral and roam the pastures. I was tired of stepping in everyone’s sh*t including my own. I still occasionally step in sh*t, but now I have the freedom to mosey over to any hill, any cow, any animal and learn from them, knowing I will continue on my own path and get lost again.
My years as a yoga citizen have gifted me with faith. The faith that if I keep up on my maintenance, I become steady for long enough to find the answer I need at that moment, before it sets below the horizon and I have the privilege of walking on and discovering another question to ask.