When I’m in a bad mood, the bad-mood feelings boil down to these two ideas:
Last week I was feeling this big-time. And it wasn’t just last week. When things aren’t going my way “not enough” and “hard” color my experiences and make everything feel that way. This is nothing new. I’ve been dealing with this combination of feelings and behaviors for a long time. Parenting…I don’t do enough and need to try harder. Teaching…housekeeping…bookkeeping…personal developing…it all gets seen through these lenses. But last week, I noticed something I hadn’t noticed before. EVEN YOGA gets whirled up in my bad mood. My yoga practice goes from being something that helps me to find plentiful ease and love and patience to something I’m not doing well enough or practicing hard enough. I start to misuse the tools of yoga to be all type-A with myself…my asana practice gets more rigid (I had this knot in my shoulder muscle that was like a cantaloupe, seriously) and my mediation practice becomes about the discipline that is required to sit on the mat… forget about curiosity, openness and revelation.
The cool thing is that last week, even though I was a little embarrassed, I was giving you the honest truth of what was going on. I whined and complained and then so many friends and readers responded. There were all of these personal stories, words of encouragement and reflections, (read the comments… they are awesome), but even more than the particulars, the thing I loved the most was the feeling that I was left with. I had a soft feeling. I had an open feeling. I started to remember that “not enough” and “hard” isn’t the only option. It isn’t who I am and it isn’t how I usually engage with the world. This is temporary and I don’t have to hold on to it. Thanks, you guys. I mean it.
Kriyā yoga does involve work and discipline, self-reflection and something else. It’s there in the Sutra II.1. It’s central to Patañjali’s second chapter and to the practice of yoga. What is the something else? What is the īśvara-praṇidhānā? I’m discovering that it is a feeling. It’s a perspective and a way of being. It’s hard to put a finger on or to define precisely, but there are all of these qualities that go along with it. It’s nurturing, forgiving, and I think it means that we have a sense of humor when things don’t go smoothly. Īśvara-praṇidhānā is that thing that happens when you are with your best friend who loves you for all that you are, even the weird, stress-balls side of yourself, and s/he helps you to remember how good you are just for being you. There’s love in there, for sure. There’s some surrender. There’s some ease. Īśvara-praṇidhānā reveals new dimensions of itself all the time and I’m so glad. Even if I don’t fully embody it just yet, I’ve got something to work toward. And when I mean work, I mean it in the nicest, most loving and open way possible.