Sunday, June 30, 2013

A whole different world right in front of my (our?) eyes

A few weeks back I was out of town visiting friends. I awoke before them and, although I’m a tea drinker in the morning, I wanted to make coffee for them so it would be ready when they got up. I looked in, what I believed to be, all the usual spots where people might store coffee: the cupboard above where the coffee maker sat, the cabinet underneath, the refrigerator and the freezer. Feeling perplexed I then, I thought, very systematically, looked in every kitchen orifice I could find searching for anything that resembled coffee. I wasn’t dramatic. I felt I was being present and thoughtful—both in the endeavor at hand and in my intention. I failed at the task at but decided to relax in the semi-confusion of it. I let it go. About an hour later when my dear friend awoke and I found her in the kitchen—making coffee, I told her that I had wanted to prepare it but failed to find where they stored the coffee. She just looked at me in the way she has since we were both 13 years old and I told her that the only way I was allowed to go out and watch the 8th grade basketball game (a very cool thing to do when you are in the 8th grade, by the way) is if my father attended with me. (Not so cool, in case you were wondering.) I guess the look is a combination of compassion, incredulousness and semi-shock. Then she responded to me that the coffee was stored directly next to the coffee maker, in a tall, white canister that is (clearly) marked with the word: COFFEE. Things like this happen to me more than I’d like to admit. I tend to be better at the challenging, not-so-right-in-front-of-my-eyes stuff than, well, the obvious. For years I’d beat myself, get immersed in the embarrassment and laugh it off with others, but deep inside actually feel shame sprinkled with some anger toward self, and humiliation too. The practice of ahimsa—Sanskrit for non-violence-is the part of my yoga practice that has provided me with the biggest shift, because it’s the biggest challenge. It starts with non-violence toward self. Just like trying to find the stash of coffee, being really kind to myself and having compassion around learning me—what makes me tic and currently do things as I do them—might be right in front of me but seemingly beyond my grasp. While I would immediately want to relieve the suffering of someone else, I would marinate in my own angst over something I did or didn’t do…for hours and days. Through my practice , I slowly learn there is room for all the feelings to process through and even some room left over to hone the gift of my own sense of humor, allowing me to laugh over me and what’s obviously right in front of my eyes…that sometimes I just can’t easily see. I learn my own true nature circumspectly, and that’s okay. Everyone has at least one story, just like mine. And I know from the work that I do that many are also not so kind to themselves as they maneuver through a situation. In the Yoga Sutras of Pantanjali, he writes in the second chapter, sutra 35: “In the presence of one firmly established in non-violence, all hostilities cease.” If each and every one of us started to be kinder and gentler with just ourselves right now, what might the world feel like a month, year and decade from now? Is a whole different world right in front of our eyes…there for the taking, with jut a little more humanity to and for ourselves? An extraordinary and non-rhetorical question to discuss with further practice.