After fully submerging myself in Ashtanga yoga practice at a workshop this weekend, I stand inspired.
Forced into vulnerability in a matter of moments, my strengths and weaknesses were clearly shown. Intense burning sensations were encouraged by a constant reminder from Kino, the instructor: "It is over when it is over; you do not choose when life begins and ends." She would continually quote her instructor from India:
5% teaching, 95% practice. You in da West; you make no sense of this. You think intellect all. No; not so. The mind is much bigger (Guriji).
Anyone who has ever done any number of things with your body (be it getting in shape, attempting to do the splits, recovering from an injury, or simply walking up stairs) knows that it does not always do what you want it to on command. We talk about self-control as something the intellect may do; we assume, "If I consciously think about this, my actions follow suit." But, as most have experienced, this is not so. Why, might we ask?
Much greater than intellect alone, the mind was understood well by the Hebrews. We translate the Hebrew leb as "heart" in Old Testament texts, but the closer translation is "mind." While certainly including intellect, leb was understood to be the seat of emotions, memory, desire, and courage as well; "the totality of a person." While many of us "know" that, what implications does that have for the practics of life?
To "will" something (such as to do the splits) is not a simple desire for something to be so, but requires you to "let go" of bondage that holds you back. What's beautiful about this "will" that allows us to break through fears is that it is very different from "will" as that which we do. For we must depend on what is outside ourselves for it to take place at all.
You must trust not only that you can do a challenging pose, but that the ground will support you and the people around you will not hurt you or push you over in your vulnerable moments. Long suppressed challenges are confronted in every ounce of connective tissue that prevent us from moving forward. Fears prevent us from courage, which is the demonstration of the mind at its best.
It is common in the yoga practice to experience tears out of nowhere. This may seem strange, but makes perfect sense when we recognize that there is no dichotomy between body and spirit. Even movement is demonstrative of much more than what is physical.
"Flexible no jus' happen; so dis is life"