Tuesday, July 27, 2010
Everything has been so dire the past month, constant worries about my health, emotional state, doctors, emails, was I doing all I could do? If I didn't do something right at this very minute would there be consequences down the road? And suddenly this week, all is quiet, I feel like I'm on vacation. So this is my life? I forgot how easy and calm my world is and I like it. As dramatic as I can be, I like my daily life to be simple and sweet, filled with loved ones and peace. I smile as I clean the bathroom, make soup, ride my exercise bike, practice yoga, wander around my home. I savor fresh fruit, enjoy friends, curl up on the bed with my pets, and laugh. So rarely in life do we find contentment, and here it is handed to me quietly on a plate.
Most people aren't aware that yoga isn't only a physical workout or asana, but only a part of 8 steps towards self-realization called the 8 limbs of yoga. These were written by Patanjali who lived somewhere between 500 and 200 BC. He was a great sage and compiled an amazing amount of information, creating an instruction guide to the art and science of living and evolving. He wrote in a clear and concise way, his writings are known as the sutras. There are many, many translations and interpretations, I own several. Sanskrit is a language filled with immense levels and meanings, our language cannot even begin to translate the depth of it, often English translations seem brusque and somewhat pedantic because our language is not built on the power of sound. In Sanskrit, they are beautiful, both to read and to hear.
The 8 limbs of yoga are:
1. Yama - the practice of universal moral principles
2. Niyama - the practice of personal disciplines
3. Asana - the practice of physical postures
4. Pranayama - the practice of breath control
5. Pratyahara - the practice of withdrawal of the senses
6. Dharana - the practice of focused attention
7. Dhyana - the practice of meditation
8. Samadhi - self-realization. Enlightenment.
One of the Niyamas is Santosha - contentment. What is contentment? We all seem to want for things, people, situations, our society is not content at all. In fact, it is ruled by discontent. We are surrounded by metro riders, by people driving their cars on the beltway, by people in line in the grocery store, even members of our own families - no one is content, people venting their exasperation and annoyance, and that is an accepted way of communicating. I used to watch this all the time when I managed the front desk of the Embassy Suites Hotel in DC, many customers were never satisfied with anything and I heard about it - whether their laundry hadn't been delivered, they had to have another towel, they didn't like their room rate, they didn't like their room, the elevator wasn't fast enough, they didn't like the bellman, they didn't like the parking garage, I could go on and on here - I was innundated with it every night I worked. I realized that people like to complain, it validates who they believe they are, their desperate need to be right and for others to be wrong. What is at play here? Why are people so discontent? Why did people have a need to make me feel badly? I became a master of resolving these issues quickly and kindly, and the complainers didn't like that, they didn't want resolution, they wanted to keep complaining. That fascinated me. They'd actually made a choice to be unhappy. They didn't know how or want to change. Whoa. I made a vow to myself right there and then: I didn't want to live my life like that. I didn't want to be living the same broken record in my 70s, stuck in an unhappy personal place.
Life is always changing and we have to change with it. It isn't easy - certainly the last month has been one of the most difficult times in my life - but you ride the ride with all the grace you can muster and pass along some kinds words to those who are nearby.