I spent most of January in a single room with thirty strangers. On the third floor of a building on Broadway in Soho, we practiced yoga postures for hours, even when we were tired. We meditated, even though it's nearly impossible to meditate on Broadway in Soho without hearing sirens at least once. And we opened up to each other: about where we were from (Colombia, the UK, Poland, Venezuela, China, the U.S., etc.), about what we did for work (many of us had quit our jobs), about what brought us to yoga in the first place (some physical reasons, some mental, some spiritual), about our lives.
And, this morning, when I woke up and didn't have to rush to catch the F train, I was hit by a wave of sadness. None of those people were strangers anymore. I knew if I were to walk by any one of them on the street, we'd enthusiastically embrace.
It's funny how much can change in a month. I am pocketing this January of 2019 experience of mine for later reference in my life. It's easy to get into ruts and to feel they are permanent. To buy into the belief that all the annoying things about life are just going to stick around for forever. But it's not true—and sometimes the belief that you are stuck, the belief that things will never change, is actually holding you back more than the circumstances themselves.
Change is possible.
And, furthermore, change is inevitable. Living is changing.
One of my favorites of The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali is sutra 2.5:
"Ignorance is regarding the impermanent as permanent, the impure as pure, the painful as pleasant and the non-Self as Self."
Regarding the impermanent as permanent is something my mind does constantly. My mind gets caught up in all the seemingly endless cycles of all the negative things: things that are bad, things that are hard, things that are wrong, and I find myself falling into the trap of believing those things are all things that are permanent.
When in truth, none of them are permanent. All of those things can and will change. Even BIG things, like societal or economic structures.
There was a time not too long ago—relatively speaking—when millions of people believed, "Well, we've always had a divine monarch ruling our lives so we always will." Now, of course, we can look back and laugh at those people as being wildly wrong—but what systems are we clinging to as permanent that are just waiting for us to stop clinging so that they can evolve into something better? What small things in are lives can we let go of in the name of our own personal spiritual evolution?
In yogic philosophy, ignorance is the mental obstacle that leads to all other mental obstacles (like egoism, fear, attachment, aversion). A large part of yogic practice is to remove the obstacles that are keeping you from seeing your true essence. That are blocking you from the Truth.
About a year ago, I fell madly in love with Rumi when a dear friend emailed me this quote:
"Your task is not to seek for love but merely to seek and to find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it."
It resonated deeply in my bones. If I had to condense the yoga sutras into a single quote, I'd choose this one.
I'd also add that your task is not to seek to change yourself—or seek to better yourself or to improve yourself—but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against changing. Remove the obstacles that are blocking you from growing, from living, from evolving.
And—as Rumi so adeptly points out with the little, but powerful phrase "that you have built against it"—part of this process involves taking total and complete personal accountability for your own life. For realizing that in the areas where change feels impossible, you need not look outward, you need to look inward.
It's not about blaming yourself (it's never about blaming anyone), it is about clarity. It's about removing the veil of ignorance, and seeing things clearly. Seeing the impermanent as impermanent. And, maybe, even glimpsing what is truly permanent.
Today, it's hard for me to imagine my life before Rumi came into it, but even two years ago, I had no idea who Rumi was. One year ago, sending a weekly email newsletter was not anything I had any concept of or hope of doing myself. And even seven months ago, Yoga Teacher Training wasn't remotely on my radar.
But I've found, through personal practice, that when you open to change, you open to life.
I'm going to go spend some time on my mat now. I might miss those thirty "strangers", but I'll know when I'm practicing alone in my living room, I am practicing with each one of them as well, and with millions of people around the world.
People who are committed to removing the obstacles, to clearing the field of ignorance, to changing their lives, and to spiritually evolving.
with Love and with Light,
p.s. If you're in NYC and would like to do a private yoga lesson together, please let me know. You can reply to this email. :) Would love to share what I've learned with you. If you aren't in NYC, I'd happily chat about yoga with you on the phone or FaceTime/Skype if you want me to watch your poses. Also, would love to chat with any of you about life at any time. Always. Namaste. xo.