It was ten o’clock on a Saturday night. After being in classes all day, I was still wrestling with how to give instructions of poses in English when I got home. As I looked at a table full of various editions of Bhagavad Gita, all I wanted was to hurry up and finish this week’s essay also, so I could get a good night’s rest. I was hoping to sleep through till six in the morning and not waking up every hour worrying about oversleeping, because waiting for me the next day was assisting in class using the English that I have studied so hard for the day before.
Even though this all seemed like a dream to me now, but it was the scene that played over and over again each week back when I was training in New York. The training lasted about six months. It may not be seem that long, but it wasn’t short either. My teacher, Lady Ruth, said to me the first day of training: “There are always certain periods in life that is most difficult.” I thought as much. The first month I was there I was so nervous that I couldn’t sleep well, and I ended up crying in the office. Later when I was teaching in a class filled with about 50 students, who were not used to my accent and my pace of speech, they started doing their own things. At that time, I so wanted everything to be just over right then and there!
I knew that all of this was just a process and it was a path of my own choosing. But, how did all of this get started?
In the past I had relished the thrill of challenging my body to the extreme in my yoga practice. With my dancing background that begun since I was little and four years of experience as a fitness instructor, I would try to conquer all the so called advanced poses. At times during the final relaxation or meditation towards the end of the class, I would be so amazed of how the mind can be expanded just like the body. But, there were also other times I would be held hostage by my own ego, feeling pleased with myself and even hoping the teacher and other students had seen me performing these terrific asanas.
However, all I saw were “Yoga is life”, “Yoga is an art of living”, “transform your life through yoga” when I opened up different yoga magazines or books. And I wondered what do all of these beautiful words really meant? What do they had to do with my asana practice? And where was my practice leading me?
Now years later, I realized all these beautiful and hard-to-understand words were all a beacon, like the finger pointing to the moon in Zen Buddhism, pointing the way. However, just knowing where the way is was not enough, one has to go on the path to get a peek at the moon light or even get a little closer to the moon.
Asana practice is a tool, just like the airplane that got me to New York. The airplane may be beautifully built with a luxurious interior, but it must fly towards its destination to be of use. My teachers have told me that the purpose of yoga is to become enlightened, to attain a freedom that is unrestricted by the conflicting duality. So asana is a tool to examine our inner selves, to let go of hate and attachment, and face our inner fears. When I practice challenging asanas, I’m also challenging my mind’s habitual patterns. As such, daily eating becomes a tool. Traveling can also be a tool. Even my training in New York was just a tool. These tools are to help us clearly see that no matter the illusory thoughts were about ourselves or about things we hate, they will all pass. It may take years for them to dissolve or it may only take minutes. Consequently, yoga becomes life, leading you into a deep transformation. Perhaps one day the “Non-self” really can appear.
I’m grateful to all the teachers in my life, helping me let my flight take off.
Has your flight taken off yet?