I read somewhere that “Yoga is the journey. Practice is the path.” So this begs the question(s) - what exactly is “Yoga”, where is this “journey” taking us and what is the “path” that we are following?
What if the journey was not just about opening your hamstrings, or getting out of back pain or learning to do some new mind-boggling yoga pose? What if the journey was about more than cultivating mental flexibility along with open hamstrings, or emotional resiliency along with a stronger core, or even a sense of equanimity to life’s ups and downs along with better balance skills?
What if, quite simply, yoga is a journey into love…..
It really doesn’t matter where or why your yoga journey started. Where ever we start from is perfect. But it is always important to be clear on the destination. Having that kind of clarity provides direction, it helps us map a course and avoid detours and distractions along the way that leave us lost, confused and wasting both time and energy.
So if the destination on this journey is love we need to look at what love is. You are born out of love – the love of your parents and on an even more fundamental level the love of the universe which is constantly transforming energy into matter in order to experience (love) itself! So love is energy - universal and divine in its very essence. Love is an energy that seeks to unite and express and experience. So you too, born out of that universal energy, are at your essence, love.
But I think that many of us still know very little about love. We are familiar with it – puppy love, first love, lustful love, lost love, a longing for love, conditional love. We love to receive love and may even know quite well how to offer it to another but how many of us are still searching for “real love”? And what exactly is “real love” anyway? And why do we struggle to find it and better still, keep it?
Perhaps we keep searching for it because we know deep down that it can never really be found in another, in our jobs, or friends or possessions. We know that the love found in and from these things is still a limited way of loving.
So what is “real love”? Real love is unconditional love and it can only occur when we accept the essence of something or someone. Real Love happens when we love without any desire to change ourselves or the other in order to “make love work”. Real love has no rules, no expectations and no agenda.
The universe teaches us about real love. It does not love a human more than a river, or a rock more than a butterfly. The universe loves all shapes, sizes and forms – it loves unconditionally and therefore it loves you – ALL of you. So why should you not love all of you?
So who is this “you”? This is the path of SELF KNOWLEDGE. Self knowledge facilitates the breaking apart and exploration of our separate parts, SELF ACCEPTANCE and SELF LOVE is how we put ourselves back together with a better understanding of how the whole is more than just the sum of its parts. This is where REAL LOVE begins.
Unfortunately many of us love ourselves conditionally – when we “look good” or “feel good” or “do good”. And we tend to love the things about ourselves that are by their very nature limited and transitory – our bodies, our appearance, our jobs, our partners, our possessions.
We spend a lot of time, money, effort and energy trying to “change” ourselves, to make ourselves “better” – fitter, stronger, more attractive, better qualified, in order to be “more likeable/lovable”.
Our commitment to “change ourselves for the better” is admirable but what if part of our work was to come to know that part of ourselves which does not change, nor needs to change. That part of us which is perfect, full and complete. Can we come to know and express THAT part of ourselves as much as our own beautifully unique individual appearance, talents, dreams and desires?
So the power of yoga is not in mere self improvement but moving towards self acceptance and self love. Self love being a fundamental acceptance and appreciation for all aspects of the human condition. True love, Self love, allows us to embrace our best qualities, the qualities of love, compassion, forgiveness, kindness, patience as equally as our less admirable qualities of fear, frustration, anger, judgment, greed and anger. Self love only wants what is best for us and for us to experience peace and joy.
Self Knowledge can take time but Self love can begin quickly and simply by including acts of SELF CARE in our daily lives. Yoga is a powerful practice of both self care and self knowledge. We can draw from our poses, meditation practices and moments of self reflection to access what lies at our center, what is our essence, and that is love. We can consciously move and breathe our way into our hearts and as we acknowledge what and how we are feeling in each moment we do what needs to be done to feel grounded, calm and at peace. Only when there is peace in our hearts can we express loving kindness to ourselves and others.
As you come to your mat today what if the most challenging, most complicated, most demanding, most advanced, most profound and most enlightening pose was the opening of your heart to love. How would your practice (life) look today? How would you “sequence” your poses (daily choices) and what would you need to release, to open up to, to move towards, in order to achieve that pose (opening to more love)?
For it is love that unites, binds, and connects. It is love that removes the veils of separation. And if Yoga means union then Yoga is fundamentally a journey into LOVE.
As we come to know that part of ourselves that is an expression of Divine Universal Love and we meet ourselves there, holding space to meet another who is likewise in that place, then in that moment we can become one.
Remember that your life is one of the greatest love stories being written. You are the writer, director and lead actor all rolled into one and your debut is happening NOW, out on the “big screen” you call “your life”. Don’t underestimate the power of love to (re)write your story, to change your world and to make the world a better place for all.
If you feel at any time that you are not enough, that you are less or incomplete or not worthy of love then you can recite this beautiful mantra as a gentle reminder of your own fullness and perfection.
pūrṇāt pūrṇa mudacyate
Oṃ śāntiḥ śāntiḥ śānti