We are all looking for freedom. Freedom from wanting, freedom from the bondages that come along with the different challenges we enforce upon ourselves. The idea of Yoga, at least what it teaches, is to just base these challenges on the right premise. There will always be struggle, there will always be a battle, there will always be search for a balance. However it is the direction and the basis of these battles and struggles that is important. That we need to define. So Yoga does not give us answers, I don’t think it inherently changes us. We all stay the same. We are all unique and have our own calling. The idea that Yoga changes a person is wrong I think. It just guides us back to the origin, the true calling as some may say. So instead of fighting over the wrong things, we fight over the right things. Instead of sweating over and cribbing over the wrong things, we spend our energies over the right things, the ones which give us true happiness. No one can tell us what is wrong or what is right. We need to figure it out ourselves.
We get a direction, a framework, and then we decide to break it. Challenge it. As Vivekananada said- It is great to be born in a church , but it is sad to die in the same church. We may have been born in a great place of knowledge as a church, which gave us a lot of important knowledge and guidelines-useful, developed us, framed our thinking. But to die within the same guidelines, without having actually tested anything outside, without having challenged our ideas, our learnings to something new, is to die sadly. Our birth was not decided by us, we did not choose our parents. We did not choose even our face, our looks, our strengths, our weaknesses, whether we are born in pverty or not, whether we are born with an ailment or not, what race we are born in. These hence should not be significant. We need to challenge these undecided factors and experience the “other”. What have we decided for ourselves?
A school of thought says that even our conscious choice are nothing but results of the exposure we have to different thoughts. I think Yoga, by asking us to explore stillness, to actual bring everything to a stop, even our deepest layers of consciousness , then gives us a realisation that is beyond all controls that external factors have had on us.
Personally, I challenge myself to sometimes practice things as a woman, even the morning practise, how would i do it if I were a woman, or someone who is totally different from me. Maybe it’s a stupid approach, maybe it does not yield anything different, but the idea is to keep challenging. This way again, could be questioned, is being driven by my thoughts, hence by my past experiences, or as psychologists would say my ego. Hence, it is not so voluntary. But the ego is won over, only once we have fully struggled with it.
Again I believe language can be misleading. The word “struggle” for example has a very negative meaning to it, to oppose, to resist. I believe that when Yoga speaks of struggle, it almost means a sense of giving in, it does not mean struggle in the sense that we traditionally see struggle as. Anyways, the English language is a western language, I am sure the sanskrit words would be always much better to explain these ideas. But a stillness in the face of tough situations, not resisting them but accepting them and giving in to them. As the Gita says, stand in the midst of death and you will be reborn. Once we accept and recognise all that comprises us, can we fully understand and differentiate what we are and what externalities made us. How much of us is external and how much original. I am very sure again that my “external” words and language are only doing a disservice to my thoughts- but I perceive myself in terms of how others perceive me and this web of perceptions is a continuous cycle that keeps us entangled in a web of images, so dense, so complex, so crowded that it becomes difficult to actually recognise who we are. And there comes a time, when this sustained delusion, makes us totally disconnected with our true identity. I think the only time we are pure or actually ourselves is when we are born. That moment is followed by so much information and so much external influence that the “I” is actually lost- the self is lost from the Self.
And the beauty of yoga, in its purest form is that it makes us realise, that it is only when everything is still, when everything else has been made to come to a standstill, that we can actually see ourselves- and we are all beautiful, we are all perfect, we are all the best thing that could have ever happened to this universe, or to ourselves.
This requires patience, training, guidance, a lot of discipline, and a will that in most cases is brought forward only when we are broken by the mirage of illusions surrounding us. Nothing wrong with that too. Every struggle gives us a liberation, every difficulty makes us a better human being. All challenges have to be welcomed. All difficulties have to be put on a pedestal and thanked for , for they are making us better selves of ourselves.
Stand in the midst of death, and you shall be reborn.