I was in a yoga class the other day–a themed yoga class. The group had
been moving through Judith Lasater’s book “ Living Your Yoga : Finding the
Spiritual in Everyday Life”, chapter by chapter, each one evolving into
the theme of that particular week. It was my first time in that class and
to be honest, I have not read the book, but was immediately captivated
when the Instructor began a discussion about “perspective” and how it can
be a stumbling block to opening into a deeper practice. I was transported
right back into a previous and similar discussion I had years before in a
writer’s workshop. Sitting in a room encased by dusty books and looking
out the sixth story window, we debated the much celebrated poet Gertrude
Stein’s standout line “ Rose is a rose is a rose is a rose.” A very zen
concept, which was for me, utterly life changing. I understood this
brilliant idea to mean that a rose is simply that–a flower, complete
within itself and in existence without our understanding or experience of
/with it. In fact, it’s our classification of it that even makes it a
“flower”. It’s our perception that adds the symbolism, history, or
classification to that object. As a society, we tend to see that rose as
a romantic gesture, or a passionate promise– a symbol of love. We tack
on a deeper significance or story, when in fact– it’s really just a rose.
So, how does that relate to yoga ? Well, what if the next time you came
into your most challenging, or favorite asana and the instructor said,
“Hanumanasana is Hanumanasana is Hanumanasana”? Period. In truth, the
pose existed well before you were aware of it and will continue to exist
despite your feelings about it. The relationship that you have developed
with that pose exists only in your head. It doesn’t matter that you are
only able to move into it with props, or if you can move into the full
extension of the pose– it’s just a pose. It’s our perspective that adds
the color, or the story, to what we are presently experiencing. It’s our
perspective that fuels the self talk of “oh, I hate that pose”, because
it has been a previous struggle, or “ I am a hanumanasana rock star !”
because it’s easy to move into.
If perspective is an accumulation of all of our past experiences, then
it’s no wonder we have trouble engaging with the present moment. We’re
too busy looking through those attachments, symbols, classifications and
stories to allow what is unfolding in front of us to, very simply, unfold.
It’s also our perspective that elicits either a smile, or a groan when we
recognize it’s approach, or guides us to move into it the very same way
every time. It may be our perspective that prevents us from moving deeper
into our entire practice. Sounds grim, but the encouraging news
is–awareness is half the battle to finding freedom. And by freedom, I
mean being fully present.
So, the next time that you come onto your mat, instead of summoning an
intention, maybe picture a rose– exactly as it exists. Allow you mind to
release any stories, or feelings trying to attach to that rose. With your
first breath, let the thorns be thorns, not symbols of potential danger.
With your next full breath, let the petals be petals, without the sensory
experience of touch or smell. Then, let the color be the exact shade it
is, without naming it. And maybe, just maybe, you’ll be able to truly see
something unfold before you for the very first time.
~Megan Merchant, RYT-200, M.F.A.