I have been talking in class this week about the need to practice regularly…
We need to practice regularly. It is like brushing your teeth. It’s like scrubbing your mind. It’s not enough to just brush your teeth once a month.
When we are not practicing regularly we get agitated very quickly. Things annoy us. People annoy us. A person on the freeway cuts me off -- and I get angry. When I miss my practice a few days in a row -- the attachment to my ego and mind gets strong. I find myself getting agitated with other people, getting emotional, getting upset over small things. I can definitely feel it when I need to get on my mat. I can feel myself getting overwhelmed with all of the experiences coming to me through my senses.
We are constantly engaged with the outer world through our senses. Every experience we have gets stored in our unconscious mind. It’s like we have a closet that we keep filling up with stuff. Most of the time, without thinking, we just keep putting things into the closet.
When you practice regularly you start to clean out your closet and let go of some of the things you have put into the closet, since the last time you practiced. Sometimes you get to let go of even more than that.
The yogis would say your practice needs to be everyday. You need to get on your mat and clear things out from the previous day. If you don’t practice enough, and your life is a busy one, then you are putting more stuff into the closet than you are clearing out. Of course, your closet is going to become full, and, eventually, overloaded.
The mind and the senses are constantly looking outward and bringing you new experiences, more stuff, to be stored in the closet. You have to take a break. You have to stop this process. You have to turn inward. Stop putting things in the closet. Go into the closet and start to take things out and let them go. This is the work on your mat.
The body in your asana practice is like the door to the closet. Concentrate on your body and hold your focus where you feel sensation. If you hold your focus long enough the door to the closet opens. Things bubble to the surface. Old memories come up. Emotions move through you. Tension releases.
When you are practicing regularly you’ll notice this process gets easier. It’s easier to turn inward and look at your stuff, and easier to process and release those things that you are holding onto.
It takes a long time and a lot of practice to work through the things you have been putting into the closet for years. It took me about 8-10 yrs of daily work, going into the fire, sitting in the fire, letting old emotions come to the surface, looking at my stuff, before I started to experience more stillness. And with this stillness more peace and calm. It wasn’t until I had cleared out a whole lot of stuff that my meditation practice also became more interesting and I was able to go a little deeper there as well.
Sit in your fire. Look at your stuff. Clean out your closet!
Years ago, I remember reading this great passage from Swami Satyananda, from one of his many books on yoga, where he says something like, -- “…when you are feeling depressed, or angry, or sad, what gives you the right to think that you can share this energy with the world?"
What makes you think that it is up to other people to solve your problems and make you feel better? Get on your mat and do your practice. When you are doing the work on yourself regularly you are able to move through the world and be of service to the people around you. You can be a positive influence on people and in situations. When you are doing the work on yourself you are able to offer something and offer yourself to the world.
I remember reading the passage above and it really stuck with me. I think too often we look to the outside and seek help from others when we are feeling depressed, or angry, or sad. What if we all learned how to turn inward and process and release our stuff? What if we learned to take care of ourselves instead of looking to others to lift us up?
Get on your mat, yogis. Do your practice. And do your practice regularly. It is like brushing your teeth. Scrub your mind. Turn inward and clean out your closet. So you can be a positive force as you move through the world, and so you can share your light with those around you.