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Teacher of February 2009 - Justin Lee

True Happiness

Everyone wants to be happy, but the reality and our expectations are often miles apart.

For a long time, my yoga practice was solely to satisfy my own vanity and the teacher's expectations. I tried to perfect every asana, constantly looked for more challenging ones to tackle, and always tried to fulfill the level that my teachers demanded, and sometimes even went farther beyond. Almost every teacher I had encouraged my efforts to accomplish more, to achieve harder poses. But, never was there one who had asked how I felt and worst of all, I didn't even bother to ask either.

Clearly, I knew this was not a yogic attitude and the joy I felt from the praises was not real happiness. It was just that I couldn't resist others' amazement and awe, and the sense of elation that came along with the admiration. That's why my yoga practice was not able to fill me with any inner peace, instead I just felt more hallow.

Pain - We accept it, block it, numb it away, and yet we are unwilling to understand how to change it.

Until one day I fell off of my bed and injured my right wrist. At first it was a minor pain and I didn't pay much attention to it. I just went on with my difficult practice, making my wrist injury worse, until it started to throb painfully, so painful that I couldn't sleep at night. I couldn’t even turn the key to open a door. At the end, I had to stop practicing completely.

The doctor told me there was no possibility for recovery when I finally went for medical treatment. For awhile, even raising my right hand to ask a question could cause me excruciating pain. What kind of poses could I even practice? Lotus? Corpse pose? And even resting in Corpse pose, the irritating pain persisted. I became depressed and felt hopeless, but self pity was really not in my nature. I began to proactively understand my wrist injury and made sure that the pain did not get any worse. At the same time, I tried to accept and adjust my practice. Perhaps I would never get back to my former glorious self; the yogi who performed all the high flying poses. However; it was with my wounded wrist, I started to get reacquainted with my body and to mend my broken soul.

Let go, and the world will be different.

As I put aside my ego, I started to just practice very easy poses and to feel that basic and yet extremely precise control. I immersed myself in this simple, unadorned, but very real and grounded sense of fulfillment. I learned to observe, but not to care about how people looked at me. After all, I was injured; I needed rest and I desperately needed to find myself. So after a year and eight months, my stubborn right wrist recovered.

Sometimes reality sneaks behind our backs to attack us. What we can do is to face it head on, and not to run away.

I no longer insist on practicing only the advance poses. Even if I achieved them, what was it all for? To me, discovering the reasons for unhappiness and then finding ways to transform works much better. If it is not possible through the process of practicing yoga to truly unlock the awareness of the body; through the practice of asana to focus our attention, to learn to control and guide our energy, in order to develop a deeper understanding of our true self, then what are we really practicing? Are we just meaninglessly torturing our bodies?

Eternal Happiness and Content

I'm deeply grateful to Kim Haegele for her teachings and guidance. After all these years, they still have deep impact on my life and my value. When I was down, feeling helpless and confused, they were the guiding lights I needed to sail through the troubled sea. I’m especially thankful to the practice of yoga for giving me the tremendous confidence and courage, allowing me to be strong enough to honestly face my inner weaknesses with honesty, to find ways to overcome them, and to make my broken spirit whole again. I hope yoga can bring you a life changing experience as well.


Namaste

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