Truth and authenticity – Concerns of a contemporary yogi

Nearly 20 years ago, in a midst of an emotional breakdown, I decided to see myself in all honesty for the first time.
Shedding light on my emotional states, intentions, engraved patterns, ghosts of the pasts, and hundred and one different voices I had inside, was something like a process of digging in, and “coming out” at the same time. This process took a great deal of time, but it felt like strong inner purification that opened up certain space inside me, to the extent that it spontaneously led me to meditation, and then eventually, to yoga and meditation combined.

I try to never forget that THIS is how I embarked on the path. By reconciling the different parts. By taking an honest look at myself. Especially when the tendency to “negate the negativity” and repress anything that is not full of “light and love” arises, I try to remember the roots of my practice.

When we have seen the bliss and the truth of spirit, through the practice of yoga, we sometimes tend to forget the usefulness and the necessity of the parts of ourselves that we reject and make into an enemy. But how can we be the seekers of the spiritual truth, the highest truth there is, if we are denying the truth of the emotional states? How can we call any emotional state a “set-back” on the spiritual path? Isn’t that just another illusory separation, just like the one we claim to be escaping from?
I find it greatly important to occasionally ask ourselves these difficult questions.

When feeling “down”, do we ever sit, sink into it, allow ourselves to feel the storm, cry ourselves to sleep if needed, or do we push it all aside thinking “I just need a more intense asana practice”. Or a more regular one. Or one of a different style. As a consequence, have we started to shop around bits and pieces from the broad range of products on the spiritual supermarket, running from one style of yoga to the next, from one workshop to another, in hope that just this next one is going to permanently release us from our fears, our shadows, sadness, envy, grief or anger? Doing anything to keep ourselves busy enough to NEVER have to sit with our feelings? After all, the excitement around a newly discovered technique, and a hope that THAT will be THE ONE, can always help us hold back our tears..... albeit temporarily.

My favorite theme for exploration these days is - how do we make that shift on our spiritual growth - from denial of such an important part of ourselves, towards a more inclusive state of being, the one that will integrate, explore and appreciate all of our layers and all of our states? The one that will allow the authentic expression to emerge? How do “negative feelings” stop being such an outcast in the spiritual work of both individuals and in yogic communities?
In our yogic communities, this shift could open a whole new world of being there for each other. It would pave the way for more honest relationships to emerge. And maybe that would lift the veil of Maiya mala and reduce the sense of separation, perhaps even more than a strong flow class could. It is not surprising that whenever I bring this subject into a yoga class, there are tears in the room.

Some days ago a student shared with me a deeply painful story from her childhood. No asana practice side-by-side could have ever made me feel so profoundly connected to her, like this intimate sharing did.

Honesty with our feelings leads not only to the authentic expression of each of our wonderful beings, but also to the arising of natural empathy towards others, thus creating a community.

Empathy that creates community expresses itself much less in explaining everything in terms of the divine laws and natural forces of the universe, advising one another to be a positive, graceful and grateful yogi. Empathy means being present, knowing and feeling the other right there at that moment. Saying simple things like “I hear your pain and I’m here if you need me”, “Can I sit with you while you cry?” or “You have all the right to feel this way”. These are the true connections. This IS yoga. It is an action arising from deep connections.

My point is, if you have been doing yoga for years, it means that you have had, at the least, some glances of the Self. You have seen the light. Why not use this light to see all of your ghosts and shadows, because you can only deepen your journey to the truth once you decide to bring ALL of yourself on board. And because it is not always easy to do this alone, community can play such an important role.

I have been pondering upon this so much that I intend to start to create more space for conversation in yoga workshops and classes. Our worldly relationships are suffering. There is so much potential in the yogic communities to practice healing our relationships. But this potential goes to waste when after Savasana we immediately rush off to the next thing our life demands. I wonder what would happen if we took the time to just sit in pairs, face to face, for 5 minutes after each class, to share our insights, our sensitivities, our resistances, or even just simple eye contact. Not trying to fix anyone or anything but to simply let our soul hold the space for the soul of a stranger to be what it needs to find it's own authentic way.