The Path To Bodhichitta

You start where you are, the practice will meet you there.

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Location: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Monday, March 23, 2009

Art Mirrors Life

Three young people were shortlisted for the position of a scriptwriter on our team. They came in for their second interview in nervous excitement, one of them breathlessly confessing that it was the most stressful day of her life. So strong was their need to pursue their dream.

Their first assignment was to write three scenes - an angry one, a romantic one and a comedic one. The work was barely passable but we decided to reserve judgement until the second assignment was completed. In this one, they were given four pictures and asked to select one, and then create a story around it. They then had to pitch their story to us, as if they were pitching to a real producer. And this was when their true selves shone through...unfortunately though, not in the best light.

The first crafted a story around a young girl whose thirst for freedom sucked her into the dark world of prostitution and destroyed her dreams. The story began well enough but the characters lacked depth and motivation. When we pushed her to define them further, she struggled and kept running in circles around her little plot line. Dungeon Master finally said, "Just be in one of them!" And the little lass replied, "I am in one of them!" Aha.

The second candidate's story revolved around an overweight girl who was repeatedly molested by her father which crushed her self-esteem. Again, the story began well but the heroine was flimsy. Dungeon Master asked, "Do you know your heroine? If I ask you what music she enjoys, can you tell me?" Without hesitation, the storyteller said, "Norah Jones" I asked, "What's her favourite food?" "Pasta, tomato-based," came the instant reply. Then we asked her personal questions about her heroine - what does she want in life, is her weigth or her father's abuse the bigger issue, what is she doing to overcome her obstacles in life? Like the first candidate, this one faltered as well, almost to the point of incapacity to speak. Aha.

The third candidate plucked her story straight from the world news and didn't bother adding a new punch or twist. She pitched the story with great passion and the more engaged she grew, the more annoyed I became. When asked why she didn't bother coming up with an orginal piece, she said she was planning to add her own ingredients but didn't have the time. Aha.

Write what you know. And they sure did. They cast themselves in their own stories. And they couldn't write those stories, because they couldn't face the issues they would have had to face and resolve. I can bet my last dollar that those stories will haunt them until they get written, and until then, none of their other stories - nomatter how brilliantly written - will ever be good enough. Either that or their writing will be one dimensional. Every story they write will be subconsciously wrtten for that secret story in their heart, and their writing will not evolve. And neither will they until they confront their beasts.

I thought about it on the drive home and realised that it's the same with a yoga practice. One of the reasons we are continuously attracted to and detest the same pose is because we need it to heal but at the same time, we have to face the imperfections that it reveals within us. Aha.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Moving To A Position Of Power

I have always wondered why the lightbulb moment that occurs in the life and practice of most yogis have always eluded me. In books and conversations, I hear how yoga has transformed, healed, liberated, empowered, etc someone. Everyone, it seems, except me. Why, I asked slightly resentful, did this lifting-of-the-mist moment keep skating by me?

Then I had brunch with The Anusara Yogi today and she handed me the answer on a silver platter. Or rather, on a spoonful of pea and ham soup.

Work and life had gotten in the way as usual and it had been three months since we last caught up. The conversation glided from work to yoga and before I knew it, I found myself telling her about a battle in which I am embroiled. She listened carefully, without judgement and then told me bluntly how appalled she is that I am allowing someone to treat me in that way.

"You're so beautiful, intelligent and could you let someone bully you like this?" she said in disbelief.

"I have a bosom buddy named Guilt," I replied dryly.

We talked more and she asked me what my next step was. I told her, my voice trailing off when she held up a hand and shook her head vehemently.

"You are still being submissive and giving the other person the upper hand. You are giving in. You need to move into a position of power."

We talked even more and with each ticking minute I gained a greater sense of clarity. Then the conversation swung back to yoga and I bemoaned the fact that my practice has never once seemed to help me in my personal crisises. The Anusara Yogi leaned forward and said very seriously;

"How you achieve alignment on the mat is how you handle issues in life. Anusara Yoga is very precise. You have to be aware of every small part of your body affects your overall alignmen in a pose. I've noticed that there are some students in my class who struggle with the same pose for years, not because of physical limitations, but a lack of body awareness. Lack of awareness on the mat reflects a lack of awareness in life and reluctance to progress on the mat reflects their struggle to move ahead in their personal lives as well."

I found this remarkably intriguing! And then the lightbulb moment came. I, too, have struggled with the same poses for years. My practice always consists of the safe familiar poses so I don't have to face my longtime fear of being upside down. Looking at my life, I tend to do the same. Flirt at the boundaries, but dare not cross them in case I lose my balance and fall.

From tomorrow (it's always tomorrow isn't it!) I will make the necessary changes to my practice and see how it plays out in my personal life.