I taught my last in-person class on March 14, four and half months ago. It’s been a time of such upheaval. But it’s also been a time of soul searching, a call to dig in deep and find the stuff we are made of at our core. What better time to be a yogi?
Yoga tells us that one of the biggest causes of suffering that we forget our true nature.
There are loads of stories about what happens when we forget the truth of our being, like this one about the moon that I’ve been telling in my classes all week:
One day long ago when Moon shone full in the sky every night, he found himself feeling restless with the sameness of his situation. What was the point of staying in one place all the time? Why did he have to just the reflection of light? He imagined Sun had it way better, so radiant and brilliant, with everyone’s adoration. What a great job to give life to plants and to light up the day! So Moon decided to ascend to the height Sun and learn his secrets. It went badly. As soon as Moon got close, he started getting crispy. Plus the nocturnal animals and night travelers on Earth were confused by Moon’s absence and completely lost without him in the sky. Realizing the visit to Sun wasn’t all he thought it would be, Moon decided he’d gone the wrong way. Earth had it best. All of that change in the weather and among the people and animals on Earth? So new and exciting! And Moon wanted that kind of change. This trip went badly too. The ocean tides went out of whack and Earth began to wobble dangerously on its axis. Not to mention Earth was simply not big enough to accommodate Moon. Realizing Moon’s restlessness was becoming problematic, Sun, Earth, and The Constellations conferred and came up with a plan to keep Moon in the sky where he belonged. First they convinced him of the value of his true nature. He had honestly already considered this after his two disastrous visits to Sun and Earth. They all agreed that if Moon were to wax and wane, he could stay true to himself and also experience himself as changeable and adaptable. Ultimately, Moon found his place, satisfied with both the parts of himself that are eternal and the things that shift and change each night.
We can read this as an example of avidyā, one of the five kleśas in yoga philosophy. Kleśas, the so-called afflictions, are the obstacles that limit us.
While avidyā is often translated as ignorance, it might be more accurate to say it’s when we forgot or can’t see the value and truth of our true nature.
This story of the moon and the yoga concept of avidyā always makes me think of the Serenity Prayer that I learned when I was growing up. You know it, right?
Our yoga practice encourages us to do the same thing as the serenity prayer.
First, find the parts of ourselves and the world around us that are unchangeable. Then find and understand what we have the power to shift.
Sometimes to get to the wisdom of knowing the difference, as the Serenity Prayer says and as the moon in the story experienced, we have to go well out of our way beyond normal life.
Kind of like what’s been happening during this global pandemic, right?
Our active posture practice can lead us to more wisdom in how we engage with our bodies. We discover what’s adaptable – where we can gain strength, flexibility, and health in body.
And our deep resting in Restorative Yoga helps us cut through the noise and demands of doing into the quiet of our being.
Our work with the breath helps us see that we contain both consistence of inhale and exhale, but also the ability to adapt and change the breath to serve us when we need it most.
The work we do on our mat, moving, resting, breathing, meditating informs our relationships with ourselves, with others, and our interactions with the world around us.
I’m so grateful that so many of you have been joining me for online classes in the past nearly five months. While I hope we’ll get to see each other again in person, I’m so proud of you for committing to yourself and this practice. It helps us remember who we are at our essence and rallies us to move forward into the crazy world we are in.