"Practice and all is coming"
Said by Sri K Pattabhi Jois -- and passed along as if a promise. A promise of what I wonder?
So many of us want this "all" to be good things. And often times it is.
You'll hear this message, this promise, in all forms of yoga. Practice and get stronger. Practice and get more flexibility. Practice and get a better butt. Practice and get bliss. Practice and get that pose. Practice and get what you desire....The list of what you are promised to "get" goes on.
While yoga definitely has the potential to offer us all these possibilities and more, there is no guarantee.
I've found through time and practice that these things are not sent to us in neat little packages. Instead, we get the "all" of practice in a messy, tangle of knots. Knots that it takes much careful time and attention to untangle. Knots that might keep us stuck in a particular pattern for quite some time.
We receive waves of practice. Waves of insight and inspiration so great we think it'll never stop. Waves of discouragement and difficulty so great we consider giving up.
We receive through practice many gifts, but also much heartache, pain, discomfort, etc. In my experience this is one jewel of the "all" that Jois was referring to. Through the practice of yoga (practice = all aspects of yoga and mindfulness, not just asana and physical postures) we receive joy & sorrow, pain & pleasure, clarity & delusion, suffering & transcending, peace & turmoil, dark & light. By experiencing these things all mixed up and mashed up we may come to realize that the world of duality is an illusion, and yet it is an illusion that shapes the "real" world we live in.
Carl Jung refers to this darkness, the parts of our self that we hide, as our shadow self. He says we cannot escape our shadow self just as we cannot escape our physical shadow.
If we come to yoga and try to escape, we may just find our self facing that which we are trying to run away from. The honeymoon phase is over. It is often at this point in our yoga practice that we walk away. It gets too hard.
If we come to yoga and only want to feel good, we will be sorely disappointed. Many aspects of yoga and meditation are VERY uncomfortable. As a new student, when we come to realize this we often stop coming.
In my opinion, it's just when it gets hard and uncomfortable that we are most ready and needing to commit more fully. We are starting to see our shadow and understand its darkness. And yes, it is terrifying.
Do I understand this? No. Have I figured it out? No. Can I explain it in words? No.
Have others come before me and tried? Yes. I look to their wisdom and insight to open my own understanding.
What can I offer to you?
I can offer my commitment to stand by you as a teacher and as a student. I can hold space for what may happen while you're on your mat.
I can commit to getting on my mat and working on the knots in my body. I can sit on my cushion and work on the knots in my mind and emotions. I can acknowledge that the knots are particularly plentiful in my relationships and my work off my mat, and it's just as important to untangle them there.
I commit to being a student and seeing my teacher as often as I can. I commit to meeting new teachers and trying new approaches, remembering that there is no one way.
I commit to build a supportive community of teachers that honor practice and acknowledge that they too don't have all the answers.
I honor your perspective as different then mine, and no more or less valid than mine.
I promise to listen to myself and to my breath. And to be gentle with myself when I realize that I haven't been listening.
I acknowledge that our path together may be smooth at times and quite rough at others. Our path together may be long, or it may be short.
I know that ALL is not something I can predict or plan for myself, or for you.
I can promise you that ALL comes to us in different ways and different times and it's messy. I can promise you that ALL is coming if you practice. And I can promise that you will not be the same tomorrow if you practice today.
So please, practice today and everyday.
p.s. when I speak of practice, it is not limited to asana practice on a mat, but is much more inclusive of the eight-limbs of yoga and mindfulness practices of any tradition.