Well, I spent a lot of yesterday with Mom and Dad at the doctor's office and then we went out to lunch which was really nice. I got caught up on some correspondences while I was in the waiting room and had time to practice and go on a walk before it got dark outside, which was really lovely.
COMMERCIAL REMINDER- We have a few spots left in the weekend with me and Amy Ippoliti so please sign up for that. I will be out of town for a month immediately following that workshop, so it would be great to see everyone before I go. I can't think of a better way to all be together.
My life is certainly in a phase of expansion these days, both internally and externally. It is a pretty exciting time of growth, change and unfolding to be sure. I have been reflecting on this a lot lately since I spend a fair amount of time on the computer making plans that stretch out into 2012 and answer emails from people all over the globe and ponder all kind of matters of the heart and spirit and give voice to them in my classes, workshops and in writing. It is really quite a life and if someone would have told me when I got started that it would look like this I would have laughed. When stepped foot on the path I could have easily won the vote for "least likely to become a yoga teacher." Seriously, I was a mess.
See, for me, I came to all of this "work" form a very practical standpoint. I guess that makes sense because at the end of the day, as esoteric as my interests run, as idealogical as my vision is, as grand as my aspirations may seem, I am, at essence, a very practical person. I got into spiritual life through the door of complete personal breakdown, not because I thought the Teaching was inspiring but because I was told in no uncertain terms that I would be dead without it.
And these advisors were right. I was 18 years old, suffering tremendously with depression, bulimia and all kinds of drug and alcohol abuse and I went to treatment for 18 months. While I was there I was introduced to the wilderness and to all kinds of experiential therapies and cathartic experiences but also to 12-step programs. One of the most brilliant things about the 12-step perspective on addiction, self-esteem and personal growth is their unwavering assertion that addiction is a spiritual crisis, not a crisis of personality, character, or morals. And, while issues need to be addressed on all those levels also, the heart of the matter is, well, The Spiritual Heart of the addict.
So, it wasn't so much that I had lofty visions of enlightenment when I got started. No, for me, I was hoping to make it through a day without binging and purging and I had a longing to crawl out the hole of despair I had been in for a while. They told me I needed a Higher Power for that and that my only long term solution would be living a spiritual life and so, well, I enrolled. It was necessity in my case that fueled the search, nothing else. (Well, maybe desperation also, truth be told.) And, honestly, it was brutal a lot of the time.
See- the thing is that I felt really weird along the way. (Weird might even be a generous way to describe it, actually.) I went through college weighing and measuring my food and abstaining from drugs and alcohol at a time when most people were doing the exact opposite thing with their lives. (I would look around with jealousy at my friends just happily munching away on pizza while I was learning how to eat 1 serving of a grain, 2 servings of vegetables, a protein and a fat. Seriously, I was learning how to eat again and not starve myself or binge and purge or just endlessly obsess about what to eat or not eat and I felt weird, different, bizarre, defective and alone.) I stayed home and went to meetings when people my age were going out to bars, parties and clubs. I was decidedly "not cool" because I was in a process of having my coping mechanism reorganized, re-scripted and re-worked and let me tell you it was like living with the rug pulled out from under me for many years. Weird does not begin to describe how I felt.
I think a lot of people feel that way when they are trying to shift patterns that are dysfunctional or to remove the buffers that block our vision and experiences of life as it is. None of this stuff we all talk about has been easy for me or come without hard work, tenacity and perseverance. So often people describe me as "intense" and I think that is true. Mom says that I came out of the womb that way, I certainly pursued my dysfunction that way and I have also pursued my recovery that way. I found intense teachers with high expectations and typically enjoy the company of those who are passionate, committed and dedicated over and above people who squeak by, take the easy way out and live aligned with the lowest common denominator of life.
I think that is why I like yogis so much. We are answering a very high calling and asking very intersting questions. Many folks on the path got there because ordinary life was not so satisfying and they were looking for a deeper meaning than work, vacations, diets, collecting stuff and maintaining social status. I mean, let's face it- if conventional values make you happy then you are generally not asking yourself about the meaning of life and how you might enter into the non-dual reality of bliss and ecstasy because you are too busy watching TV, believing everything you read and enjoying the endless distractions of modern life. Personally, I have very little to talk about with someone who isn't in some process of self-inquiry. But that's me.
I wrote a few days back about how eventually, if The Divine is interested in you, the Fire of Transformation will come to you if you do not come to it. In Jyotish astrology, they call this the force of Saturn. And the farther away from our path that we are, the more furious the knock Saturn will give us to get us back to where we are supposed to be. In yoga we sometimes say, "the karmas ripened." At any rate, the thing to know is that as we walk the path of these lofty visions, we have to deal directly with what stands in the way of said vision. If we want to live from our Light we are going to have to knock down the artifices that block its rays. And like I mentioned in a previous post, we rarely look good or feel good when that is going on. However, looking good is not the point and this Fire doesn't give a rats ass about our vanity. We have to keep in mind that when we forge new pathways within ourselves and when we open to new possibilities of encountering life, that Work is valuable- certainly for ourselves- but it is also valuable to others because it cultivates within us the offerings of compassion, empathy, insight and wisdom.
That is the really awesome thing about all of this as I look back on my life. I have had and continue to have lots of help, lots of support and for the most part I keep trudging along the path even when it gets bleak, awkward, dark and dreary. And now, I feel grateful I went through so many of those struggles so early in life because now I am freed up to be of service. All those days of feeling weird and different are of immediate relevance to the work I do and the help I can offer. Those feelings have been turned into and toward something else.
Don't get me wrong, there is still soul searching and the need to handle samskaras and outdated psychological strategies and so forth because life and its challenges keep marching onward asking us to grow, to change to respond optimally but my point is that I have a much bigger context now for my personal challenges than I did so long ago. And like Lee always said, "Context is Everything."