From guest blogger Auriel Benker:
Yogas citta vrtti nirodhah – Yoga quiets the chatter of the mind
One thing that drew me to yoga was its close connection with meditation. My mind was constantly running and I was searching for a way to quiet my “monkey mind.”
Recently, I read a description of the Ashtanga practice as being very physical but not very meditative. I would have to disagree. Ashtanga relies on the tristana method, a three-pronged approach to focusing the mind – breath, posture, drishti (eye focus). Ashtanga master, K. Pattabhi Jois said this is where the inner peace of the Ashtanga practice is found – after many years of practice. I would love to say that I have arrived to this place. But all I can truly say is, my thoughts are slower, quieter and let go of more easily. Sometimes, I have a really great practice. I feel strong, focused, present. And then, just in case,the familiarity of the studio has lulled me into thinking I have mastered my ego and mind, I’m given an opportunity to see just how much chatter is still possible!
A few weeks ago, I went out of town. One thing I love about a memorized practice is that you can take it anywhere! So I decided to practice in the hotel fitness area in the early morning. I was alone, which was nice, so I could turn off the TV and practice in silence. Also, there were two large mirrors across the room from each other. I don’t usually practice with mirrors but have often thought it would be nice for alignment purposes. And I was able to really get a feel for what it looks like to keep my hips squared in revolved triangle. However, I quickly found out why I would never want to practice with mirrors. First of all, my gaze was constantly being pulled to my reflection instead of my drishti. And then I would find myself realizing that I look a lot cuter doing yoga in my head than in person. Finally, I was (somewhat) able to ignore the mirror by keeping my gaze at the appropriate eye focus for each pose and counting each full breath.
Of course, then someone came in room to use a treadmill. It’s one thing to practice with other yogis, but having a “spectator” really got my ego going. Now the thoughts that were popping up were loud, arrogant, and persistent. It’s embarrassing to admit how much I wanted to be noticed by a complete stranger for my yoga practice. But I believe that is why yoga is so powerful. It makes me aware of the thoughts that, at one time, I wouldn’t have even had the mindfulness to notice. And being aware of them, I can examine them, and it becomes possible to let them go. I was relieved when I was alone again. As I took my final resting pose, I attempted to let the whole experience settle in and then go, letting my body and mind sink into the earth, though I was 30 floors up in a high-rise hotel in Chicago.
In that practice, I had become keenly aware of my ego and attachments. And I set my intention to let go of my desire to compare, seek attention, and strive out of pride. I wasn’t really sure how to do this other than continue to practice. A few days later, it came back to me during a discussion in teacher training. I was reminded by a story where a woman was shown how she was tying her self-worth to her business success. When would she have “enough” clients? When would she “be enough?”
So I made my mantra, “I am enough.”
“This moment is enough.”
“This moment is perfect as it is.”
“I am perfect in this moment.”
“I am always enough.”
We all come to yoga just where we are. It is beneficial to let go of the desire to be “better than.” The most progress is made by accepting the present and moving forward in a steady and comfortable way. It is the ego that uses fear and intimidation to keep us from getting on the mat in the first place. This is how the practice transforms. We have begun to make a change once we step foot out of our comfort zone and into a practice. Wherever we are, we are enough. It is enough that we made it to the mat that day. Yoga will always meet us where we are.