However, getting prepared for day three of Off the Mat – Into the World training, I’m getting an entire new resonance with those words. I’ve written before about the challenge of being present and how we use the asana practice to craft our ability to hone attention in order to stay present. And, as we stay present and gain focus, we might find clarity.
That’s the surface and the depth of our practice – to remain present to what is, not to create projections and not to languish in reflection but rather to explore inspection and introspection. Much easier written about or talked about than done!
I’ve also written about how often we elect to ‘time-travel’ as I like to call it; in the heat of an argument, in a confrontation, how we can be swept right back into emotional states that have nothing to do with what is at hand – except perhaps a personal history lesson.
What I mean by this is that we often are not reacting to the stimulus, or the person or the issue in front of us. Rather, we are acting on the emotional state or the prior unresolved conflicts that we have re-integrated back into not only our psyches, but into our physical bodies. Are we actually involved in the moment or in our own internal history and how we have chosen to process, or more honestly, not process, the emotional experiences, the physical experiences and the very real traumas that we have been exposed to?
Modern humans, and especially in the Western world, have really excellent coping skills, which aren’t about coping at all; rather, I can speak for myself, we do a really good job compartmentalizing, justifying, keeping secrets secret and making sure we ‘curate’ the experience so that we don’t get triggered, and then when it happens, and if I can be present to it, being really awed how much unresolved emotion flavors the present.
The issues can be broad, and nebulous, but the history of it is very real. And, very largely, unresolved. So, as we’ve forgotten (or chosen to not remember and process appropriately) our pasts, our traumas, assaults upon us - physical, emotional, spiritual – we may be condemned to repeat them.
A litany of negative relationships that all shared characteristics (I can fix this; if I can make this one work, I’ll show I’m loveable, etc); all of those other repetitive behaviors and negative personal mantras (I’m not good enough, whatever I do is not enough, no one will ever love me, bad things don’t happen to people like me, etc); and for many of us, I’m sure myself included, the delusion that we’re ok, it’s fine, things happen, I’ve forgiven them or forgiveness is not mine to give – or maybe as we might agree to call it, the spiritual bypass.
So, that’s what I’m working with – we are working on becoming Spiritual Activists, something I believe I’m already doing in the space of the classroom. The commitment that is required is simple; in order to heal, we must be healing ourselves; in order to create safe space for these very real issues to surface and resolve, we must be surfacing and resolving our very real issues. It’s the height of hubris for a Teacher to walk into the room and claim to heal; however, providing the asana practice creates a healing, self-care space. Our role is to treat that space as safe and holy, to honor what comes up, but most importantly, not to bring our shite into the conversation. Not to be triggered, not to be reactive, not to try to be proactive and fix it, but to bear witness and be present.
To be honest, it’s a lot easier to forget the past, to actually condemn the past. However, if we were each to be true to ourselves and really become observer and knower, rather than participant and actor, then I think we would each see what drama our trauma we continue to play out subconsciously, what we chose to consciously act on or avoid, and how we all need to be able to confront the past so we can live in the present, fully, while charting our bright course into a future of possibilities, not limitations.
By the way, it’s great work and it sucks, but the work is in me, so that means I have both greatness and things that are really of the shadows and shades - there’s a lot of the past I would choose not to remember, but there is too much at stake to stay asleep and in my patterns.
Give thanks and praise, and shed a tear while smiling…