I’ve mentioned before on this blog that I have a little competitive streak. Well, I’m not sure it’s competition exactly, because it would be ok with me if everyone was the best at everything. I just want to be really good at anything I do. Since I’ve also grown up in a culture that believes in a consistent “self” at the center of being (even though I’ve been teaching about the absence of this center for 20+ years now), this has led me to reject – wholesale – activities that I’m not “good at,” in an assumption that I will never be so. Sports is (are?) an example.
In school, I was really awful at sports, with the exception of individual things like archery and bowling. Anything that involved speed or hand/eye coordination was a big no. I always felt conspicuous and things like picking teams made me want to fade into the floor. After high school was over, I tucked sports into the “things I don’t do” category. The only exceptions made where for individual activities that I felt like I had a shot at doing well in. I biked, because what I lacked in speed I could make up in determination. I lifted, because my upper body isn’t so strong, but my leg muscles like nothing better than to bulk up into huge knots (little did I know that this would be to my later sadness in yoga). I avoided any sort of team sport or casual sport like it was a plague. This was “me.”
And then yoga came along. At first, it was about feeling better from RA pain. And then it was about seeing what my body could do. And then it was about calm and peace. And eventually, it was about yoga. I’m not saying that there aren’t still days when I get annoyed at myself because I can’t do a pose or feel envious that someone else can, but I don’t see those things as “me.” I just see them as the moment. Yoga does that for me, because on any one day, I’m a different me than I was the day before in a class, and I’ll be different again tomorrow. My mind has a different texture, a different process, a different sense of the world. In one class, I find it easy to be on my mat (mentally) and keep my focus in the present. In the next session, I can’t stop worrying about work, or the curtains I’m sewing for the family room. My breath will happily stay in ujjayi for a whole practice on Wednesday, and then on Friday I cannot maintain it for 2 breaths in a row. My body can do a pose one day and then refuse to do it completely the next day (in fact, last Friday, it did a move 3 times in one hour, and then the following hour couldn’t even approach it). It will shock me completely by going into a complicated arm balance on one side, and then refuse to even consider vasishtasana on the other side.
I guess if I was really intent on maintaining the sense of a core self, this would bother me. But, I’m not. I’ve rejected (rationally, at least) that idea for many years, so this simply reaffirms for me an idea that the self is not at the center (though I do believe that the Self – in the sense of the connection to the greater or divine – is there, but that isn’t about personality traits or abilities). And it’s so freeing. I don’t know what my body, mind, breath will be like tomorrow, or even in 10 minutes – not much sense fretting about it. There is a certain peace in that. The world of possibility is there. There is a certain excitement in that.
I love yoga. Have I mentioned that?