Monday, March 26, 2012

Do our self-definitions limit our growth?

Can defining yourself one way stop you from changing, growing and succeeding at times?
We always define ourselves one way or another; with our likes and dislikes; with things we are good at, and things we can’t do; and so on and so forth. At first it seems like all these definitions help us to have a stand, have a place on earth, and in society. However, if you look closely you may see that sometimes all these definitions just limit us.
            What if you have defined yourself as someone who doesn’t like theater, and one day you go to see one and you like it. Then what happens? Or you define yourself as someone who doesn’t like a certain kind of food, and one day you accidentally eat and like it. Then what? Do you embrace that change or do you call that experience as an exception to the rule and keep holding on to your predetermined definitions? Do you even deny that you like the theater you say and not even go to see another one in order to prevent yourself from experiencing anything that might contradict your self-definition?
            For a while I have been working on doing a tripod headstand (Mukta Hasta Sirsasana), where you put the top of your head and your two palms on the floor, forming a triangle shape, and lifting your legs all the way up from there. I have been doing Sirsasana (headstand) for while now, but for some reason tripod headstand hasn’t come so easy to me. I have been working on coming up from Bakasana (crow pose), and Prasarita Padottanasana D.  Even though I have been trying it for a while, I was only able to get my legs up only a few inches off of the floor. There was something missing; maybe core, maybe the connection between pressing my hands down and activating my core. I am not sure. I kept up with my daily practice, and just tried to come up to tripod headstand a few times a week. Last week, again I was trying to come up to tripod headstand and my legs felt light, and they just easily started coming up. I was surprised. My legs just kept going up. But all of a sudden I came down. I brought my legs down. What happened? Haven’t I been working for this for a while now? Why did I bring myself down?
            Apparently physically my body was ready. Whatever was missing before was present. However, when I was working on getting my body ready, I neglected one thing: I wasn’t ready mentally. I had conditioned myself to the fact that I cannot do this pose. So, even though I was trying and attempting to do the pose regularly, I was just accepting the fact that I won’t be able to come up all the way. When the day came, and my body was ready, due to all the practice, I wasn’t mentally ready yet, and had to bring myself out of the pose. I didn’t try to get in to tripod headstand again that day, or the day after. Only a few days later, I gave it another try, and I came up all the way. I was in the pose, and I was enjoying it.  I came down, and I went back up again a few more times. I was ready to accept the fact that I could do the pose. I was ready, mentally and physically.
Sometimes the way we define ourselves block us and prevent us from growing, and from experiencing different things. Even if you are working on something, you may just keep yourself away from actually reaching it, because you are so used to thinking that you will never get there, and you will only keep trying. Then, what’s stopping you from reaching and getting what you are working for is not the circumstances or external facts, but your own mind, and your own fear of actually getting it.
You may not be able to do a headstand today, but you are not a person who can’t do a headstand ever. You just can’t do it today. Everyday is a new day. Sometimes it is better not to define yourself in one way or another. Accept yourself the way you are today, but don’t let any kind of definition of yourself or definition of anyone else to get engraved in your mind. Allow the room for yourself and others to grow, and change. Don’t be the one to prevent yourself from growing by defining yourself one way or another. Sky is the limit, and even that is not.

Feeling vs knowing

Living with the knowledge of something versus living with the feeling of something.
This can be seen in many different places, and in many different forms. I experienced it in relationships, and in yoga recently.
            When I first started learning about yoga and yoga philosophies, I tried to read as much as I can, take notes, and learn the terms. I was learning with my mind. I was acquiring knowledge about yoga. However, as time passed I came to realize that it is not the same thing as feeling it from within… It is like the difference between something you hear that happened to someone, and something happening to you, you personally experiencing it. When you personally experience the mula bandha, when you personally experience the energy lifting you up, the lightness of your legs in sirsasana (headstand), then it is totally different than someone telling you how it feels.
            Yoga is like that… Until you experience it yourself, you are more skeptical about the written words in a book. You are more skeptical about what is being told to you. Don’t take anyone’s word for it. Go and live, and as you practice regularly, continuously, patiently and persistently, you will experience all those things yourself, one by one. When you see the changes and effects on yourself, and your body, you will see, and believe. That’s feeling from within… Knowing something can only take you so far. When you feel something it grasps you as a whole and feeds you more and more everyday. You never go hungry or thirsty. It gives you what you need. All you need to know reveals yourself in your practice, and it all comes from within. You believe in it, and it reveals more and more to you as you practice.
            They say that yoga is a divine knowledge and it is all within ourselves, and the things we read and hear just remind us what we already know, and wakes up the divine within us. I believe that in relationships we need that kind of a reminder as well. We may know that we are loved by someone, but don’t we need to feel it as well?
Some people are in a relationship knowing that they love the other person, and that the other person loves them. This knowledge is enough for them. However, for some they want to feel the love of the other person on a daily basis. Do you live with the feeling that you love the other person and do you feel that person’s love for you every day? Or do you live with the knowledge that you love that person and you are loved by him/ her? I am one of those who needs to feel that love. I need to feel it on a daily basis, with small gestures, kind words, with a look, a subtle touch, a smile. I want to experience anything that would transmit that love, warmth, or affection of that person to me. Knowing you are loved or that you love someone is not enough. Every relationship is alive. Once you surrender to the relationship, it doesn’t end there.  To keep a relationship, and a loving relationship alive, you need to practice regularly, continuously, patiently, and persistently. Just like the way you practice yoga… You want to and need to feel that love from within. Not just know it with your mind, but actually feel it, and live it by heart and soul.
If you approach things just from your mind, things become a habit; a habitual chain of actions and reactions. It becomes dull, and convenient.  I believe that what keeps things alive is treating every day as a new day. You need to treat every day as a new day, treat every downward facing dog as a new one, treat every opportunity to be with your loved one as a new one. Don’t start seeing things as habit. Realize the newness in everything. Realize the change in every single downward facing dog. Instead of making things a habit, have a fresh intent everytime. In every downward facing dog, pay attention to your hands, arms, your legs. Don’t just come in to the pose due to habit, and fall back to your habits. Instead pay attention, and that’s where your growth lies int. Also in relationships, when you are with a loved one, don’t take that person for granted. Don’t just assume they know you love them. Show them your love, make them feel it. Treat your time with them as a fresh new opportunity, as if you are looking into his/her eyes for the first time and seeing their beauty for the first time, their smile for the first time. And you will see the beauty within them, and you will appreciate them, and will be filled with love, and they feel it too.
Do you live with the knowledge of something and rely on it, or do you live with the feeling of it and experience it? And which one would you prefer?