Is there somebody whispering in your ear?
I recently remembered a video about Ben Zander, a truly inspirational teacher. In the video (at 3:10)
he says that, generally, a musician on stage is not alone, that there are two people on the stage, one trying to perform a musical piece and somebody else who whispers in the musician’s ear: “you didn’t practice enough….do you know how many people play this piece better than you do?…….here comes the part that you messed up the last time…” and many other disruptive words.
When we practice Yoga on the mat, we may find disruptive voices emerging in our practice. For instance, we may hear our personal assistant who continually goes over a list of phone calls, appointments and pending tasks, or the cook absorbed in planning the meal we’ll have after practice, or the competitive coach urging us to outperform ourselves or the person next to us, or the image consultant striving to bring our attention to the style, color and appropriateness of other people’s attires.
This is the most important moment
In the video, Zander underscores the importance of being present when he says: “This is the moment, this is the most important moment, right now”. I wholeheartedly agree. Indeed, I feel that there are no other moments. We are here and now and we cannot be anywhere else.
Zander says that a total transformation takes place when we see that “we have been hiding, taking ourselves away, not taking risks by sitting in the back row of our lives”.
To me, the transformation Zander talks about is activated by being fully present. Immersing ourselves in the present moment makes us realize that all the voices that try to draw us away from this moment are keeping us from seeing clearly that every moment brings with it the knowledge and resources needed to respond in a life-affirming and most appropriate way to its specific questions and challenges. Thus, it is essential that we are attentive to this moment.
Befriend your body and mind
In my opinion, Yoga practice is an appointment we create with ourselves so that we can learn more about who we are. However, our minds and bodies, with ther inclination to follow habits, may sometimes be disruptive, bringing our attention away from the present moment. Although exerting control is one possible, but not very conducive, approach to focusing our attention, I prefer Vanda Scaravelli’s approach. Vanda Scaravelli wrote in Awakening the Spine, we must give our bodies: “clear directions dictated not by ambition, duties or reactions, but by precise and lucid perception of what we feel. If we are sensitive to the requests of the body, it will responde spontaneously in an unexpected, effortless way. We must create a relationship, make friends with our bodies as well as with our minds.”
Thus, instead of seeing our body and mind as potential obstacles that need to be controlled by force, we can choose to befriend our body and mind so that we can enlist their help to support our intention of learning and developing sensitivity. Paying full attention and being curious to learn is enough motivation to be fully present. As a result, our yoga practice helps us discover and integrate the myriad relationships between body, breath, mind and heart. When there is integration there is no room for distraction, there is only room for doing things for real. When this happens, even for just one second in one pose, the practice is transformative as we see the possibility of expanding this approach to everything we do. Consequently, everything we do becomes the best expression of who we are and, thereby, it will be unique, genuine, creative and innovative.
The next time you feel that there is a distracting presence sharing your mat, choose not to take a back seat in your practice and gently invite your mind and body to contribute that energy into the process of self-discovery. As we practice this more and more, we will become better at participating fully and actively in our Yoga practice and, perhaps, also in our lives.