Reconnecting with your inner wisdom
When we struggle with our problems, we like to believe that there is a turning point, after which everything will suddenly be fine and things will just fall into place. But all too often, we don’t realize that the real journey starts after that point.
On my 32nd birthday, back in New York, I gave myself a present. I quit my Wall Street career and got on a flight to Costa Rica for a week-long yoga retreat, finally giving myself the chance to figure out my life’s next destination. However, the joy of liberation was soon marred by a sense of confusion. Not only did I not know what my next stop on the journey would be: I didn’t even know how to take the next step – or any step. I knew one thing for sure: one week of yoga practice in the rainforest with hollering monkeys was not going to cut it.
Having just stepped out of the safe confinement of a successful career, I was not only lost; I was frozen. For the first time in my life no one was telling me what to do, and as a consequence, I didn’t know what to do. This took me completely by surprise. How did this happen to me? How did I become a robot that I can only act when there is an external command? What happened to my inner guidance, my inner wisdom that I always assumed would be there for me?
I found the answers by examining my samskara, the subconscious imprints left by past experiences that condition us to a certain habitual thinking and behavior patterns. I came to realize that growing up in the repressed, high-pressure educational environment of Taiwan, with a well intended but excessively disciplinary father who happened to be a school teacher as well, had set up imprints and patterns in my mind that inhibited my natural creativity and curiosity - attributes that normally allow us to connect to our inner wisdom.
Because of my samskara, my mind excelled when I was given a clear externally directed path, but otherwise I had great difficulties in reading my inner compass.
Searching for a way out of this paralysis, I decided to work on my own practice. Over time, I once again became sensitive to my inner self. Through svadhyaya (“self”-study), I listened to my inner voice. As I struggled to smooth out my samskara imprints, I learned to be gentle and compassionate towards myself for not knowing all the answers. I learned to accept my current situation and became familiar with the impermanence of it all. In Yoga, it is the process of seeking that matters. And through Yoga, I was discovering my own curiosity again.
This newly found curiosity led me to try literature and painting classes. There were explorations into being an economist or psychotherapist. There was, of course, the yoga teacher training, which I embarked upon to deepen my yoga, to further refine my skills in listening to my inner wisdom. All of this was part of my journey. Now, living in Taiwan, back in the culture and environment that first created the samskara disconnected me from my innate curiosity, I wanted to face these subliminal triggers head on. To truly liberate myself from them, I had to welcome them into my awareness as part of the practice of stilling my mind. As the renowned yoga teacher and scholar, Stephen Cope, stated “all wisdom tradition insist upon a healthy mistrust of other people’s answers…Yoga, at its truest, insists upon giving us not answers, but a way to find our own answers.”
How many of us grew up with others telling us what to do, what to think and what to feel? How many of us have robbed others of their connection to their inner wisdom? Let’s all break away from our samskara shackles. Not because we are outlaws or rebels, but because we are inherently good and wise and because our liberation will set others free.
So make your yoga practice your own. Don’t follow the teacher blindly, but find your inner guru. Make modifications to your asana, listen to your body, be curious and just experience the present moment for what it is. Listen to your inner wisdom and surrender to its unfailing guidance.