I’ve been thinking a lot about how to apply yogic philosophy to practical living. As I’ve mentioned in previous writings, the physical practice of yoga helps to develop discipline and focus. The goal of living as a yogi is to be able to apply the discipline and focus you hone on the mat to daily living. But unlike what we may find on the mat, life often throws us curve balls.
Real yoga isn’t about the poses on the mat, the expensive clothes, or however many words you can say in Sanskrit. True yoga is about finding the silence within you. With all the information, or rather noise, we’re continuously exposed to, via our organs of perception, finding silence can seem nearly impossible. We’re bombarded with stimuli: visions, tastes, sounds, smells, a chill in the air, unbearable heat, constantly flooding through the windows of our sensory organs, and we’re all helpless to stop it.
It’s a miracle we’re able to function through life on a daily basis devoid of self-combustion. Imagine walking down the street one day, and whoops, there goes Charlie: system failed in result of data overload: too many colors, exotic prints and intense drum and base techno. His head has exploded; brains splattered on the sidewalk. Though it’s fortunate living beings don’t experience technical malfunctions as exemplified in Charlie’s circumstance, we all can relate to feeling overwhelmed, which often manifests in a multitude of ways: stress, anxiety, depression, migraines, physical tension, illness, and the list goes on.
There’s a lot we cannot control, as mere human beings: the external world, our vulnerability to the external world, or our exposition to the external world. We cannot close our gates; they are to remain open until the day we leave our bodies, which you may or may not consider to be the bane of your existence. We can, however, control what we choose to surround ourselves with and how we respond to our surroundings. This is where the yoga comes in. The purpose of finding that silence within is meant to assist in living a life free of agitation.
When we silence the mind, we experience a stillness, a form of meditation; there is no doing, there just is; peace. We surrender our ego, and transcend all that is corporeal. The burn, the sweat, the heat, the discomfort: none of it matters, not when you’ve found your silence; not when your mind is still. This is yoga.
The most significant yoga doesn’t happen on the mat; it’s how one lives one’s life off the mat. It’s our nature to rise with the highs and fall with the lows, but what if we were able to coast; glide by with a clear mind, governed by our intellect, rather than emotion? In the face of extreme circumstance, can you find your silence?
I’ve lived in my neighborhood for nearly 5 years. It’s a quaint little nook in Hollywood, with a couple of coffee shops, restaurants, boutiques and bookstores, where it is more common than strange to run into a familiar face on foot. For the first few years, I loved it. Of the eight years I’ve resided in the City of Angels, this is the first place I’ve lived where I’ve actually been able to know my neighbors by name. Yet somewhere along the way, that warm fuzzy feeling I associated with familiarity morphed into angst, and that smile that would often find the corners of my mouth at the sight of a recognizable face has become a cringe accompanied by an internalized, “Oh, shit!”
Once upon a time, I welcomed these people into my life with open arms. I hung out with them, drank with them, befriended them on Facebook, swapped tales with them; these were my friends, with whom I could relate. That was yesteryear, during my days of wild child self-proclamation. I’m different now; at least that’s what I tell myself. I’m a yogi. I no longer drink. I’m vegan. I’ve calmed down quite a bit. I don’t miss those crazy times. I’ve matured. I’m a “better” person.
That’s all well and good, yet as I proceed to pat myself on the back, I wonder, “What am I so afraid of?” It’s against my nature to run away from the familiar. I’d venture to say it’s against anyone’s nature to run away from that of which we know. To run is to fear. Most people fear the opposite of what is familiar, which is the unknown. If I know these people, my neighbors, what do I have to fear?
Well not only do I know my neighbors, I know my old self in the company of my neighbors. I have the memories of the choices I made, which I don’t care to ever make again; that’s where the cringe comes in. Though I know my neighbors, perhaps I don’t know myself as well as I’d like to think. Perhaps what I have to fear is the threat of going back to the person I once was.
Please don’t misunderstand me. In no way am I claiming to be better than anyone or holier than thou. Everyone has the right to live the life they want to live however they see fit, as long as they aren’t hurting anyone. Nor do I have any regrets of how I’ve lived my life. I was in my early 20s, with a newly found freedom, eager to explore the world and all of its hidden mysteries. That was and is my right, as it is the right of all living creatures.
My point: that experience has lead me to where I stand now, with all of my scrapes, bruises, scars, warrior paint and stripes in their glory. I couldn’t be who I am today had I not been who I was yesterday, and who I am today will lead me to who I will be tomorrow. When one knows oneself, s/he has nothing to fear, for no one and nothing can hurt you. You’re the slave of your past and the master of your future, so chose your decisions wisely.
I’ve spent a lot of time living in the past. Incessantly replaying past events in my mind: either relishing in glory or cringing at mistakes. I think of what could have been; what I should have done differently. I struggle with how I could have made better choices, what choices should not have been made in the first place, what I could have said, should have said, actually wanted to say. My mind looses control, and before I know it, I’m preventing myself from moving forward, without even realizing what I’ve done because my mind is too preoccupied with the past to see what’s presently in front of me. Why do I do this? Why does anyone?
Last week, a photographer friend and I took a trip to El Matador beach for some fun in the sun. I got to spend the day doing yoga on the beach while being photographed. If you haven't had the chance to check out El Matador, do yourself a favor and take the drive up the PCH. It's so worth it! El Matador is one of the most beautiful, picturesque, peaceful beaches I've ever seen in the United States. So clean; so quiet; so still. The crash of the waves was music to my ears. The scent of the sea filled my olfactory sense with pleasurable satisfaction. The sun beamed down on my body, breathing life into my spirit. Check out these photos from that amazing day.
I'm a vegan, humanitarian, artist, seeker, lover of life, and yoga instructor. I found yoga during a challenging time in my life. It helped my find peace. I hope to pass that along. In my blog, I'll discuss, yoga, health, wellness, and things I think about.