So this one has been playing on my mind for a while. Its about feelings I have had over the last few months and the effects those sentiments have had on my body and mind.
I have to admit to feeling disappointment in my body. I have experienced a few things of late that have caused this disappointment: aching ankles, a hacking cough, a bout of cystitis and often headaches. Not all at once, I might add. However, it seemed to me that just I I got over one ailment, another cropped up to bite me and I have felt like I am constantly dealing with some symptom or another and trying to find solutions in aromatherapy, chiropractics, herbal medicine and energy work. Some of these experiences are ongoing and I have noticed myself complaining and feeling the weight of having to deal with things when this is not, in my mind, my normal state of being.
I have prided myself over the past 18 years or so of having a relatively healthy lifestyle with a constant yoga, pranayama and meditation practice. vegetarian and often vegan diet and minimal abuse on the body in the form of alcohol and any other substances for that matter. I reaped the rewards of early nights and keeping toxins and toxic people to a minimum and have been a pretty fit and healthy person. To a point that I have almost taken that for granted. In my yoga classes over the years and in different places teaching regular classes and retreats I have seen the walking wounded arrive and noted with some piety, the effects of lifestyle on many people's physicality and psyche. And in that time I could wholeheartedly advice and direct students to an alternative way of being through the path of yoga and all the accompaniments that run alongside this practice. I am not wrong. I know that yoga and "right living" can have such a positive effect on the individual. Not only do we feel better physically through realignment of body, re- discovery of breath and release of mind chatter, but we find that the our mindset becomes clearer and our intentions sharper and we discover we are able to attract to our lives all we wished for because we are striving to reach our highest potential. So no big surprise to anyone ready this, this yoga shit works.
What I hadn't banked on after such a long period of health, was the possibility of ill-health. What a surprise. I am not saying I have not experienced any ill-health in the last 20 years or so. But it feels to me, very little to be concerned with and very easily conquered. The niggling little things that have been working their ways into my psyche for the last few months or so have had such an effect on me that I admitted to Abi my (NSA) chiropractor "I am just so disappointed in my body!". I was admonished immediately for this confession and she proceeded to work on my energetic body to address the situation. Without going too deeply into this Abi works on a little know form of body work called Neuro Spinal Analysis which in my understanding works with the body physically but also with the spine in particular as a diagnosis tool for many ailments we may encounter.
It was almost a shock to hear myself admit to disappointment. I was actually disappointed in being disappointed if it could get any worse. But after the reaction of Abi I realised I needed to have a deeper look at this feeling and turned to yoga of course to give me answers. What have I let go of? What was I not looking at properly? What could I do to address my health concerns and also my reactions to them.
I looked towards the Yamas and Nyamas first. These are ethical disciplines in which to lead your life by - the Yamas being the "don't do's" of life and the Niyamas are more the "do this" side to things. They work alongside each other complementing each other. If you adhere to the Niyamas then the Yamas should be easier and vice versa. The very first Yama is Ahimsa which means "non-violence" and of course refers to many things like not harming others, not harming animals (hence vegetarianism is important in yoga) and also not harming yourself. So this is something I needed to look at. By being disappointed in my body and what has been ailing it, I was harming myself. We have one body. We are born with this amazing, incredible machine that runs and runs and works for us our whole lives until the clock stops eventually. It houses our soul and works 24/7. We owe it to ourselves to respect that devotion and in return devote some love and attention to it also. The more we look after it, the better it treats us. What a blessing. So when mine is not running as smoothly as I would like, I should not be unkind to it. But instead to show it more affection and gratitude for what it can do and find the best possible solutions to helping it be the best it can be. Lesson - be kind to my body.
The next Yama I looked at was Aparigraha - non-covetousness, non-greed or craving. Within this we cover attachment (to things or outcomes) and disappointment. With the practice of letting go of an expectation to something we remove at one stroke fear, attachment, disappointment, anxiety, jealousy, anger, lust and depression. I had expected that my body would perform perfectly for as long as I lived. I practice my yoga asanas, work on my breath and mind and therefore developed an expectation that this would sustain me always/. But because of this attachment I caused myself to be disappointed when the machine was not running as well as I would like. I hadn't factored in many aspects like age, work and responsibilities and the effects they might have on my body also. No matter how much you practice, sometimes life just happens and has to be dealt with. We have an amount of control over our life yes, but also so much we cannot foresee or direct. In this way the lesson to learn was not to expect anything and let go a little of what will be.
The final ethical code I needed to look at was the Niyama, Santosha - contentment. Tricky that one. To be content - easier said then done. But I think ultimately its the work towards this that is important and ongoing. Santosha cuts at the root of all desires. It bestows peace, one-pointedness of mind, serenity and satisfaction. It brings success in the practice of yamas. Contentment does not mean satisfaction, but willingness to accept things as they are and to make the best of them. So it works again very closely with Ahimsa and Aparigraha in helping to bring acceptance and drop expectation. We may not always like a situation but we can cause ourselves less harm by accepting it before moving to change it if necessary. Lesson - accept it is how it is.
This life and this yoga practice changes and develops over time. As soon as we become settled into our bodies and lives heading in one direction, we can guarantee the winds will change and our course changes with it. Its inevitable. Its unquestionable. What it most satisfying is the knowledge that these teachings have been studied and passed on over centuries. None of this stuff is new. What is rather wonderful to me is the understanding that no matter how long I have been learning, reading, studying and also passing on this information to those that are willing to listen, there is real value in going back to basics. Looking again at what I learnt and seeing how that applies to my life now. Looking again at those precious teachings and realising I am still a novice and that I will return again to the beginning from time to time and remind myself what is valuable and what is truth. Understanding that my body and my life changes over time and knowing that the words remain the same but the meaning might change with me. What a comfort and a blessing.