I can relate.. having “knock-knees” myself, I spent 2/3 of my life hating my legs. I still have a memory of my high-school “self-appointed” arc-nemesis, shouting down the hallway at me that I was fat and knock-kneed. Then years later, in my 20’s, going though an advanced teacher training, we landed in the therapeutics module on knees. The teacher used me as a demo to show how to activate the inner legs and re-align them. I stood in front of everyone’s curious and inquisitive eyes as she pointed and cued… they watched me work with one of my most hated parts of my body. The work in re-alignment translated through my brain as judgments of my body image, value, and being good enough. I wanted to run and hide and never be seen by any of them ever again. I no longer felt like I could stand or walk around any of them as myself, without their minds looking at my inadequacies, my “improper” legs.
Some Better Experience:
It’s interesting how we have these ideas about some other life, some different body, different partner, different house, different state, different food, different love life, different friends, different pain, different legs… that some different experience would be better than this experience. That there is this inherent assumption that something other than this experience, right here, right now, would be better. This alternate world of thought and fantasy can completely suck the life out of our life. This is possibly one of the most draining and exhausting chain of thoughts that exists.
COMPARISON DRAINS ENERGY
EXERPT FROM KRISHNAMURTI
If you put the question to yourself, “How am I to be free from conflict?’, you are creating another problem and hence you are increasing conflict, whereas if you just see it as a fact—see it as you would see some concrete object—clearly, directly—then you will understand essentially the truth of a life in which three is no conflict at all.
Let us put it another way. We are always comparing what we are with what we should be. The should-be is a projection of what we think we ought to be. Contradiction exists when there is a comparison, not only with something or somebody, but with what you were yesterday, and hence there is a conflict between what has been and what is. There is what is only when there is no comparison at all, and to live with what is, is to be peaceful. Then you can give your whole attention without any distraction to what is with yourself —whether it be despair, ugliness, brutality, fear, anxiety, loneliness—and live with it completely; then there is no contradiction and hence no conflict.
But all the time we are comparing ourselves—with those who are richer or more brilliant, more intellectual, more affectionate, more famous, more this and more that, the ‘more’ plays an extraordinarily important part in our lives; this measuring ourselves all the time against something or someone is one of the primary causes of conflict.
Now why is there any comparison at all? Why do you compare yourself to another? This comparison has been taught from childhood. In every school A is compared with B, and A destroys himself in order to be like B. When you do not compare at all, when there is no ideal, no opposite, no factor of duality, when you no longer struggle to be different from what you are–what has happened to your mind? Your mind has ceased to create the opposite and has become highly intelligent, highly sensitive, capable of immense passion, because effort is a dissipation of passion—passion which is vital energy—and you cannot do anything without passion.
If you do not compare yourself with another you will be what you are. Through comparison you hope to evolve, to grow, to become more intelligent, more beautiful. But will you? The fact is what you are, and by comparing you are fragmenting the fact which is a waste of energy. To see what you actually are without any comparison gives you tremendous energy to look. When you can look at yourself without comparison you are beyond comparison, which does not mean that the mind is stagnant with contentment. So we see in essence how theming wastes energy which is iso necessary to understand the totality of life.”
FREEDOM FROM THE KNOWN
– Krishna in story of the Bhagavad Gita
Just the other night I was watching a new series on Netflix that draws a strong parallel to the Bhagavad Gita in which Arjuna is facing his destiny, a battle that he must fight in which his closest friends and dearest family members will die…. at seeing what he is about to do, he is torn and feels responsible for all of the pain that is about to ensue. However, Krishna is there standing with him and acting as his charioteer, guiding him in facing his dharma as Arjuna goes through doubt, wanting to run away, wanting to just lay down and die… he finally rises up to fight the battle and becomes one of the most well-known heroes in all of the stories from India.
In this Netflix story, it is a woman and she has been “chosen” to save the entire human race from a bunch of nasty, plotting demons. She receives visions from a tree and sees a future that her mind interprets as her fault… that she is somehow responsible for what is yet to come. She blames herself and runs away. Along the path, a Druid comes to get her, because, of course, the world is in her hands and she is needed… she expresses how she feels that everything that is about to happen is because of her and that she should stay away from the ones she loves because something about her, inherent “bad-ness” will bring and cause them pain; that all the pain that is yet to come is her fault.
The Druid tells her, “Your life isn’t happening because of you, it’s happening to you.”
STEPPING INTO OUR DHARMA:
DOUBT AND INSECURITY AS A RITE OF PASSAGE
Doubt is one of the obstacles to freedom / liberation in both the buddhist and yogic philosophies. Liberation is defined by “google” as:
- The act of setting someone free from imprisonment, slavery, or oppression; release.
- Freedom from limits on thought or behavior.
In this philosophy, liberation is defined as being set free from the imprisonment, slavery, and oppression of limiting thoughts and beliefs. Doubt can feel like a state of imprisonment where one is caught behind the bars of insecurity and entangled in limiting thoughts and beliefs. To be liberated is to be in a state of non-resistance to the life that we have – our dharma.
What is Insecurity but a deep distrust of the ground that is underneath our feet? Who am I? Where is my center? Is my center trustable? Can I stand here, inside of myself? Is this “knowing” the right knowing?
I remember rock-climbing in Yosemite one year where there was a lot of rock-fall. The rock-fall was being caused by some minor movement under the ground. One night we were sleeping in the meadows underneath El Capitan and I had this strange feeling like something was watching us… like a grizzly or a wild cat… I felt all my hairs standing on end as though they were feelers for some disturbance nearby. Then the earth just turned to jello underneath us. Literally. the solid ground, felt like I was sitting on a bowl of Jello.
Doubt can create insecurity, where trusting our own experiences, our own center, our own earth, feels like trusting in jello rather than the solidarity of earth. But what else is there to trust?
A RITE OF PASSAGE:
There are two kinds of doubt that can come up as a sort of “rite of passage:”
- Doubt as a lack of clarity: This clarity comes from experience, the knowing that arrises after making mistakes and learning to do things…. not this, not that, YES! THIS!
- Doubt as Insecurity: Believing in two opposing things, our actual lived experience, this life, this place, this body, this “here” and simultaneously believing in some thought or belief that says there is a different or better experience to have… one that doesn’t even relate with our own actual experience in the world, some other experience that exists in fantasy land but is, nonetheless, more real or more valuable.
DHARMA, PLEASURE & DIETING
Our Dharma is related to what nourishes us and what we find pleasure in. It has to do with what our needs are and when we get those needs met it serves everyone. When we don’t get our particular needs met, not only does it exhaust us…it also pulls us away from being able to help the whole. That’s the beauty of it. Living our dharma not only serves us, it serves everyone around us.
“You are what your deep, driving desire is. As your desire is, so is your will. As your will is, so is your deed. As your deed is, so is your destiny.” – Brihadaranyaka Upanishad
“Better to alight in flames, if only for a moment, than to smolder forever in unfulfilled desires.” – MAHABHARATA
WHAT BRINGS YOU PLEASURE IS INTRINSICALLY LINKED TO DHARMA:
“So, if you are the kind of person who believes you can control your appetite and therefore lose weight by denying yourself pleasure, I suggest you re-evaluate completely. I have yet to meet one person who has successfully lost weight and kept it off by overcoming her or his natural, inborn drive to enjoy and celebrate food. Losing weight by limiting pleasure is like trying to stop smoking by not breathing. We can never increase the body’s metabolic capacity by limiting what is essential to life.” Mark David from his book called, The Slow Down Diet
I’d like to go further with this… and say.. we can never live, really live… with meaning and purpose, if we deny ourself what we need or love.
PLEASURE SEEKING ADDICTION OR FOLLOWING YOUR HEART?
ENTANGLING OR LIBERATING:
Relationship to Pain and Pleasure:
The question that I like to ask myself, which comes from Pascal Auclair who is one of my favorite meditation teachers is: Is this entangling or liberating? When it comes to pain in my practice especially, I try work with pain and pleasure in a way that will lead me to freedom… whether it is physical or a way of thinking or perceiving… how can I have a relationship with sensation that will lead me towards freedom and out of entanglement.
“Whatever may be the situation, if it is acceptable, it is pleasant. If it it not acceptable, it is painful. What makes it acceptable is not important; the cause may be physical, or psychological, or untraceable; acceptance is the decisive factor. Obversely, suffering is due to non-acceptance. Why shouldn’t pain be acceptable? Did you ever try? Do try and you will find in pain a joy which pleasure cannot yield, for the simple reason that acceptance of pain takes you much deeper than pleasure does. The more we are conscious, the deeper the joy. Acceptance of pain, non-resistance, courage and endurance – these open deep and perennial sources of real happiness, true bliss….Pain and pleasure go always together. Freedom from one means freedom from the both. If you do not care for pleasure, you will not be afraid of pain. But there is happiness, which is neither, which is completely beyond.” – Nisargadatta Maharaja
In following our hearts and getting our needs met, it is inevitable that we will disappoint ourselves or someone else.
Disappointment is the feeling of sadness or displeasure caused by the nonfulfillment of one’s hopes or expectations.
What does that mean? Break the word down and you get “dis” and “appointment.” To cancel an appointment… why do we cancel? More often than not it isn’t because we are failures or inadequate or that we don’t care about others… it’s because we look at our energy and decide whether we can fully show up or not. it is an examination of our resources and a making of a decision that honors the needs of both ourselves and others. It is the process of learning to say “yes” and “no.”
SAYING YES AND NO:
My shiatsu teacher recently shared a way of listening to myself. She said, either it’s a “Hell Yes!” or it’s a “No.” AND that “no,” is a complete sentence. No need for explanation or justification or details about our personal lives or inadequacies or self deprecation… or whatever!
Which then I am left with the reality of saying no to someone!!! yikes! I feel absolutely great about saying “yes!!” but when it comes to saying no… oh boy!! That’s hard!! Yet… it can feel like how can I tell this person I don’t want this thing anymore.. and still have a relationship? How can I make sure there is no rejection in this communication? How do I keep my center with this person who is pushing my boundaries without just shoving them out of my life? She then shared… well, tell them what you are saying yes to and what you are saying no to… like for example, today I drank so much water before heading to one of my student’s houses for a lesson and she offered me water a whole bunch of times… but i just couldn’t fit any more water in me… so I tried it… Thank you for caring about me! Thank you for welcoming me! I am full of water completely. Yes to the care, yes to the welcome, no to the water.
Dharma Talk by Joseph Goldstein.
Learning to see how renunciation is the practice of non-addiction – the gateway to different levels of freedom.
ONE-NESS / NAMASTE
IN HONORING THE SELF WE HONOR OTHERS
“….to defeat the master, you must fight like him, think like him, move like him… only the student has hope of defeating the teacher.” – quote from super badass sword fighting chick
“I hold this to be the highest task
of a bond between two people:
That each should stand guard
over the solitude of the other.”
“To love does not mean to surrender, dissolve, and merge with another person. It is the noble opportunity for an individual to ripen, to become something in and of himself. To become a world in response to another is a great immodest challenge that has sought him out and called him forth.” – Rilke
“Two whole beings becoming more fully themselves.” – My Shiatsu Teacher
This practice of honoring ourselves can lead us to honoring something deeper than our “selves” but to the very essence that animates us and gives us life that is in all human beings. It’s not personal at all and doesn’t have anything to do with our story. When we honor this, we honor all. We open the door of opportunity for others to do the same. This is the difference between hierarchy, rules and authority and simply embodying. My biggest teachers have always helped me to find myself, to come back to my own center. They do this through honoring theirs and I get to see how that works. My mirroring neurons, or deepest self, or whatever you want to call it, just gets it and I find myself there too. It’s like permission. It’s like someone standing at a circle of friends holding their arm open to you, Yeh! Come on in! As fully yourself! Wahoooo!!! Only it’s your own heart.
“As we shall see, this process of finding our way home is a gradual process, happening in increments over the course of a lifetime. This does not mean we progress toward this place of belonging, for we cannot progress toward something we already are. It is through practice, however, that we come to realize the very nearness of our own liberation.” – Donna Farhi
COMING HOME: A SHIFT OF PERSPECTIVE
GOING BEYOND THE EMPTINESS OF A LIFE DESIGNED AROUND PURSUING TEMPORARY PLEASURE AND RUNNING FROM PAIN
THE OBJECT OF THE GAME:
The object is not to develop elaborate plans to run away from pain or make sure things never happen again….this is part of being entangled. The object is to free ourselves from limiting thoughts and beliefs, from resistance to what is happening, and use both pain and pleasure as a gateway into seeing ourselves more clearly.
In the end of the netflix story, the final obstacle she faces is her own mind. A pair of witchy looking floating ladies appear and begin to tell her that not only is she not good enough and that she should doubt herself, but also that her friends that have been with her are not trustworthy and are self-serving and lack honorable skills in life… they get inside her head and say all the things that cause insecurity and doubt… and fear to come up. The challenge is not for her to find a way to destroy her friends, protect herself from them, love them more, or to develop an elaborate plan of “self-improvement.” The challenge is to understand the mind and make a judicious choice in seeing all the things the mind presents. What of this is entangling? What of this is liberating? What of this changes when I see my relationship to these thoughts and sensations?
“If you want to understand the mind, sit down and observe it.” – Joseph Goldstein
Having legs like this has, of course, given me a lot of lessons. I’ve learned a lot about the pain of wanting to be something other than what I am. Of not trusting my shape, form, and body. I’ve learned of running away from what I am and trying all sorts of methods of going numb, to hyper focus, to diet, to exercise, to seeking affirmation….. and well, it’s taught me how to observe my mind. Somewhere along the way the suffering got great enough that I decided I couldn’t run away or work hard to be something that I’m not anymore. My focus shifted to my relationship with reality. It is in inquiring into the beliefs and thoughts that my relationship changed. My knees have taught me kindness and given me a lot of ability to help folks in class when emotions come out from whatever stretch or pose we are in. It has also given me skills to help a lot of folks with knee pain. Its taught me the ability to skillfully work with re-aligning the legs and as I physically work, be able to work with the hardest obstacle of all, the mind.
AND MAYBE IT’S NOT PERSONAL:
“By practicing yoga, we align ourselves with the yoga of Nature, the Earth’s yoga. Our embodiment is the Earth’s embodiment, and through us Her innate intelligence is set free to play and learn and transform the stuff of Her body. She touches Herself through our hands and loves Herself through our hearts and knows Herself through our minds. ” – Matthew Andrews (from Yoga Center Amherst)