The getting of wisdom


Saraswati-1One of the more challenging paradoxes in sharing Yoga & meditation, or any other healing art, is that before we can possess any genuine wisdom, we need to have made our fair share of mistakes. Often we need to have misunderstood, before we can truly understand. Despite all our prayers to progress swiftly along the path without a hitch, it’s the twists and turns that really humble us before the teachings, bring the words to life, and allow us then to share with others with empathy and genuine insight.

Still though, it’s tough sometimes to be ‘teaching’ Yoga while questioning a lot of what comes out of your mouth. I’ve been doing this lately. It’s something that happens periodically, and that I’ve come to recognise as an invaluable part of my evolution as both teacher and human being. The rug gets pulled out from what I thought I knew, or what had become comfortable, and I find myself questioning myself and everything else all over again.

I find myself asking, “what went wrong?”, “why isn’t it working like it used to?”. Be it a sequence or lecture, my own practice, or simply my way of being in the world. Everything keeps changing. All. The. Time.

We know this of course. But do we really?

Change always comes as such a surprise. Maybe that’s why we resist it so much. We want to grow, but would prefer it if we could choose when and how it happens. Instead the reality of impermanence is busy finding new and creative ways to freak us out.

It can be both shocking and uncomfortable when something that has until now worked so well for me, starts to fall flat. At first I take it very personally – it must be something that I did or didn’t do or say. I feel like a fake and a failure. I try for a while to figure it out until I surrender to the fact that I’m never going to get it back. The person that taught, thought, felt or acted that way no longer exists. Life has moved on. I’d best try to keep up.

And this is such a good thing!!!

Can you imagine if you went to see a band and they played the same old tunes, in the same old way, saying the same old things between numbers? It would be awful.

As the years go by and we keep on doing our practice, both internally and externally, the dogma gets discarded while the truth of experience remains. There is less and less to believe in, or should I say less and less need to believe. There is no disputing the flower you hold in your hand. There is no disputing the truth you have seen for yourself.

Abhyasa and vairagya are very impressive looking words on a white board. They sound equally good when spoken with a proper roll of the tongue. But what do they really mean? Abhyasa – constant inner practice, is more than just busting out an asana sequence each morning. Constant inner practice is remaining always alert to the stories we tell ourselves, the ways in which we keep trying to get more comfortable, and the ways that we try to hold on. Our external practices are nothing but the training ground for this constant inner practice of forgiveness and love.

Vairagya, or detachment, is exactly what we need to cushion the falls. It ensures that we not take ourselves too seriously as we move through the journey of life. That we might find gratitude for the downs as well as the ups, and recognise our suffering as indispensable for growth. Detachment invites us, in the words of Ram Dass, to “learn to watch our drama unfold while at the same time knowing we are more than our drama.”

By the grace and mercy of the Divine spark within each of us, all of our strategies eventually backfire. Thank God for this. She lets us rest from time to time, to catch our breath, and then once more we get kicked out of the nest. We are refused the boob for a while.

But, as human beings who aspire to guide other human beings on this path of Love, we should be grateful for these challenges. They are the ocean bed from where we will reap our own unique stories and pearls of wisdom. If we’re not entirely convinced that what we’ve been saying or doing is still true for us, then we can admit that. We can change. We can summon the courage to look deeper. Maybe even make friends with not knowing for a while. Who knows, we might actually be getting closer to the truth.

“Suffering is part of our training program for becoming wise.” ~ Ram Dass

Om Namo Narayani