Help wanted. Inquire within…
We’ve all seen the sign posted in store window or even on a spiritual enthusiast’s bumpersticker accompanied by a cute little buddha serenely seated. I’ll be honest, when I first began to see my personal yoga practice as an avenue to deepening my understanding of myself I truly believed that externally yoga-fying myself was going to improve my life. Go ahead, shake your head…either because you already know that is a ridiculous notion or nod in affirmation as you fully know what I’m talking about. And if you don’t know what external yoga-fication is, please indulge me as I elaborate.
Yes, I bought into needing the “right” clothes, the right accessories (Himalayan salt lamp anyone? Yup, got one!), props (I have 11 blocks BTW), the best mat (and by best I mean several because I really like more than one). Oh and I was also convinced at one point that this great handmade meditation cushion would somehow make me a better meditator. I also have more journals than I think I could fill in 2 lifetimes. Keep in mind many of them bought because I loved the way they looked and felt although they have 0 written in them…yes, that is 0, nil, nothing.
And then one day life sweetly, or not so sweetly, called bull shit on me…not once or twice, but….geez somewhere in there I lost count. Don’t get me wrong, I am not knocking the use of external resources or advocating for a renunciate’s path…I myself am anything but a renunciate. I love my life and yes, I am attached to it and I know in my heart that I can have my life and deeply know myself too.
What I learned from falling down the “yoga supply” rabbit hole countless times is that while much of the outside stuff that comprised my practice was/is helpful in many regards. But somewhere, someplace, sometime, I became reliant on it. And there’s the trap folks! To put it another way, I was looking to the “stuff” to do the work for me. Perhaps this came in the form of putting off my meditation practice until “THE” cushion of my dreams arrived. And boy did I meditate when it did…for like a day.
Picture this: I’m away on vacation, and somehow my travel mat didn’t get packed. (Maybe on purpose?) Mind: “Well, I have to have a mat to practice. I’ll just do it when I get home because improvising will only feel like half a practice.” To be honest I don’t even know what half a practice is or what it would look like, but apparently it is when you don’t have a mat?
Mind: “Wow, I’ve really been feeling disconnected from myself, oh here’s an online site that has daily classes…where do I enter my payment information?” Two weeks later I am struggling to complete lesson 2.
Okay, if you’re not putting the pieces together by reading though these examples above let me make it clearer: Seeking and collecting a bunch of stuff animate or inanimate doesn’t get you any closer to yourself. Again, I am not a renunciate and I admit, I do love my array of meditation cushions and yoga mats and the truth is that they make me feel happy when I look at them and better yet, when I USE them. My journals are impressive but what’s even more impressive is the content they hold when I actually take the time to DO some reflection (I do love to write by the way). I also appreciate the guidance of a teacher(s), and being able to “practice” and explore with someone online or in person. However, my hard lesson was learning that nothing outside of me was getting me any closer to myself when I was fixating my attention externally and allowing my head to hop from one thing to the next with little to no action of my own involved. My mind’s pattern of thinking: “Try this, no try that, ummm, this looks like it will be more effective…okay, this sucks, what’s next?” Well, what was my next?
It is me. I am my next thing! I have no issue saying that I have many of my external sources to credit for this personal realization, and for me, the external journey was part of my path to get back to myself. I have been walking this “know thyself” path for many years now and I have come to recognize that what I thought initially as the wrong direction (my relying on anything and everything external to improve my internal world) was not really the wrong direction after all. Instead, it was exactly what I needed to experience to find my way home; back to me. We all find ourselves in the way we are meant to, and it is unique to all of us. This just happens to be a bit of my road.
It’s funny, meeting someone for the first time isn’t it? Imagine, this time though, there is no awkward conversation about the weather or idle chit chat to pass the time. It was more of a love filled “Welcome home, I’ve been waiting for you. We have a lot to do together, and some of it ain’t gonna be easy, but I’m glad you’re here.” And sure, I still have plenty of days where I run off the reservation and play in my well accessorized world…who doesn’t love a great pair of yoga pants every now and then? But I know where home is now and I have made a commitment to pause before inquiring outside and I ask myself: “Will this assist me in inquiring within?” If not, I choose to skip it. Now, I see that my external world: the people I am blessed to know (even the not so fun ones) and the assets I have been fortunate to acquire, have begun to support the inward work as I am no longer of the understanding that these things do the work for me but they are there when I need them – perhaps with a lesson to teach, to lend support (physically and mentally), and most importantly to redirect me within whenever I find myself without.
PS: I have also begun the lifelong process of letting go of the “stuff” that no longer assists my immediate inward journey. I guess this is my universal recycling project of sorts that helps keep me true to the here and now. It’s been lovely that external things are no longer a distraction for my internal work, they actually support it now, they way they were meant to.
Now it’s your turn, is there anything that you are relying on externally to improve your inner picture? Is it necessary? Are you using it to truly support your inner work or are you keeping it around because it “looks good?” What of your external things can you put to use to do the work you are meant to in this lifetime? What can you pass along and recycle?
Happy Journeying and BlessUp!
A special thanks to David Wagner who opened my eyes to the concept he terms as “spiritual materialism.” I am forever grateful.