|Death Becomes Us
I was amazed to hear a Japanese woman say, just days after the devastating earthquake and tsunami hit her part of the country, that here was an opportunity for re-creation. The comment not only showed incredible resolve and bravery, but a profound acceptance of destruction as a necessary part of rebirth.
Sometimes we expect of yoga practice that just by showing up and getting quiet, it will provide us with endless augmentation of our mind and body. For everything gained on the mat, something had to fall away. While it's obvious that we're trying to let go of our reaction to the guy that cut us off on the 405, we also need to shed things we regard as more fundamental—such as our ego, personality, and limited sense of self.
Neither life nor yoga is an endless cycle of accumulation. Addition cannot come without an equal measure of subtraction. Our planet bears this out. For all the abundance we have in the U.S., there is an equal amount of lack in the Third World. And if everyone lived like an American, American Public Media reports that we’d need five planets to meet our needs.
What are we really doing when we let go? We are surrendering control, which allows for the movement of energy. Most of us fear that movement, because it leads into the unknown. So we do the opposite: we cling to eroding structures—whether they’re emotional or physical—believing that anything unfamiliar (or greater than ourselves) is a potential harbinger of doom. Paradoxically, in trying to avert destruction and death, the very manifestation of life, growth, is suppressed. Once we fully let go of our fabricated identity, true change becomes possible.
So it’s important to recognize when things are in a dissolving cycle and simply allow them to go. Then, when we turn our focus to what is—instead of what should be, what we wish it was, or what it always has been—we pave the way for energy to travel where it wants to go.
In yoga, we continually experience the cycle of dissolution and growth when we breathe. Each exhalation is a chance to let go. Every inhalation is an opportunity to allow a "new" self to emerge. And it’s vital at this point to pay attention to what comes. Yoga proposes the dual approach of passively letting go and actively practicing mindfulness.
We end our practice with Corpse pose to emphasize the necessity of disentangling ourselves from the vines of transient entrapment. And we allow the limiting, self-sabotaging aspects of our being to die. In the moment of death, we are also born. There is no difference between life and death, and the fear-based structure collapses, allowing us to truly live.
I'll be out of town June 21-27.
June 24-26: Iyengar Intensive
Plantet Yoga, Montreal, Canada
July 1-4: Ojai Retreat
August 14: Neck and Shoulders
Center for Yoga, Los Angeles
October: Brazil retreat
I will have details soon. I promise
. In the meantime, think Arraial d'Ajuda...
Self is made out of everything. A certain inflection in a sentence—is this another me trying to appear? If the YES is mine is the NO another me? ... There is not one self. There are not ten selves. ME is only a position in equilibrium. (One among a thousand others, continually possible and always at the ready.)
Whether you live on the east side or hang by the ocean, I've got a class for you. Check out my schedule.