“If your mind is empty, it is always ready for anything. It is open to everything. In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities; in the expert’s mind there are few.” – Shunryu Suzuki-roshi
Lately we’ve become obsessed with labels – with degrees, certifications, levels, diets, and the [insert the latest poison]-free trend. It’s getting to the point where we need these to reassure ourselves that we are qualified, advanced, nutritious and righteous. Just because you are vegan, just because you are a yoga instructor, and hold an advanced degree, does really it make you a more valid human being?
The “you” I’m referring to, I’m afraid, is me. And the answer, I’ve come to realize, is no. Maybe you can relate. As you can see, I too have fallen victim to this obsession, with yoga and other things. I had always wanted to achieve, advance and exceed the next pose and the next level, thinking that things would be better, feel better, and maybe even get easier. Well, actually, it’s gotten harder, now having to manage my own and other’s expectations. It’s difficult not to feel bad about myself because I’m not there yet. But where exactly am I trying to get to? The all-too-illusive, unattainable land of perfection?
I found myself in my first Basics class the other weekend, a class that I, for some reason, avoided because, I don’t know, I wanted to feel Strong? It was Sunday morning with Heidi Kristoffer (whose ceaseless enthusiasm convinces me that I am thoroughly enjoying everything that she is instructing, even after the third set of abs). I had run in ten minutes late, flustered and sweaty after sprinting from the West 4th Street stop after 20 minutes of train delays. Stumbling in, I smiled nervously, frantically plopped my mat down, and joined the class in down dog. My mind was fueled by my anxiety about my tardiness and other life-things, but Heidi didn’t seem annoyed. She just smiled and waved me in. I settled into the familiar movements, focusing on my breath not on what I looked like or what had happened earlier. Closing my eyes, I rooted my feet into the ground, and let my breath guide me through the movements, without thinking. The feeling was at once both invigorating and relaxing – to not think, to not judge, to let go.
The thing I discovered, with taking and teaching Basics, is that you don’t need a Strong class to make you feel strong. [Disclaimer: Basics is not by any means lacking in abdominal exercises, push-ups, and sweat.] Once in a while, we need to strip ourselves of these labels and empty our minds of our thoughts and expectations, in order to truly enjoy ourselves in the heat of it, wherever that may be on or off the mat. Maybe, that is strength. Maybe, it takes a Basics class to help us get there, which is nowhere really in a yoga-sense. Like reading a good book. High School English is so much less enjoyable than just sitting and reading for the sake of reading. We (I) need to stop analyzing. It’s okay that we aren’t there right now, just be here. Enjoy the process. (I hate cliches, but I really want to say it: get back to the basics.) Start there, wherever you are. Because sometimes it’s good to just get on the mat and move.
Shine on, people.