I look forward to driving out of my parking garage each day heading from the dark to the bright sunshine with eyes focused on this gorgeous tree that seems to greet my morning. I just love the way the branches and leaves move in the breeze. I get a great feeling from it. Just recently, however, I drove up out of the garage and noticed the tree was gone. I’m not sure what happened, but assume it was in the way of a construction project next door. I’m by no means an environmentalist, but the loss of the tree made me angry and sad, and started me thinking about the choices we make that come from the society we live in.
I own an iPad (and I love it), I have a Blackberry (and I love that too) and I have Wifi at home and watch all my videos with my Blu-Ray player (super cool). But even in this world of gadgets, what I have is nothing compared to what is out there in this age of technology. My brother recently showed me a YouTube video called “Project Natal.” Check it out as it will blow your mind about what is coming this Christmas. With no controller, this latest version of Xbox is able to acknowledge movements of your whole body, your actions, and even emotional reactions and then use this as information to respond to your commands and directions and even shifts of emotion in your voice. In other words, it recognizes YOU, including nuances that only you possess. Think how cool it would be to have an imaginary friend that helps you shop, that knows your likes and dislikes, has your body measurements stored in 3D mode — there you are with the dress on deciding if it’s the right look for you, and you can even spin around and check out what it looks like from behind. Simply tell your imaginary friend that you think it’s perfect and it’s at your door tomorrow. Technology is amazing.
I recently went to see the movie Grown Ups with Adam Sandler and his comic buddies. If you haven’t seen it yet, go. It is so hilarious, and gives you the kind of belly laughs that linger well after the movie is over. What’s brilliant too are the story lines weaved throughout the movie. One in particular has to do with Adam (or Lenny in the movie) and his family. They are wildly successful living in Beverly Hills and have two beautiful boys who are completely spoiled. There is a scene where one of the boys sends a text to the Nanny who is just down the hall,ordering her to get him something to drink. Oh dear, talk about using technology for instant gratification. In the yoga room I often get asked “why have I not seen results yet?”, or “how long before my postures improve?” or “can I get a private lesson as I think that I might be doing some of the postures wrong.” All of these questions are normal and in the times we live in, it is only natural to think that we can achieve those results instantly. We’ve learned to fire up Google on just about any subject we are inquisitive about, and within a second or two, have a list of answers to sift through. No need to contemplate, research or figure it out on your own. I’m not bashing the availability of information we have at our fingertips, Google is a valuable tool, builds my knowledge. I’ll keep my gadgets, especially when they allow me to be more productive and efficient. But as we practice on our mats, we get a chance to move away from the rapture of a quick, instant-results culture and return to our inner knowledge of who we are. And that is a process. I can give you all the corrections in the world about your pose, but you are going to have to make that interpretation yourself. You are going to have to work on making that mind body connection and it is not instantaneous. Luckily, it will happen over time. We usually need to peel away layers of other stuff and make other discoveries before the answer we’re looking for clicks.
There is a paradigm going on. We often say in class, what you do on your mat, your discipline, concentration etc., will translate into activities outside the yoga room. But it also applies in the reverse, what occurs in your world on a daily basis, will show up on your mat. Our modern world spoon feeds us standards of how we should be and how we should live. Those subconscious messages reveal themselves in the yoga room as our lack of patience in learning to do the pose correctly, or our frustration because we are not where we want to be, or judgment about our bodies and about others in the room. We lack discipline and focus because we are so good at multitasking all day long. Our inability to stick to something that is hard or uncomfortable and our lack of awareness in how we feel in our bodies- all this comes from the loud noise of pressure to be in a world highly influenced on ways to be and act. It has its place but comes with a consequence if we are not careful. We can be easily drawn away from acquiring our own personal ways of being and find ourselves struggling to feel any real sense of satisfaction.
Yoga is all encompassing. It will give you everything you want and much, much more. It’s often that I hear a member say that they have come for one reason but wind up staying because of so many other reasons. The surge of interest in yoga has a lot to do with our fast lifestyle cultivated today. I believe the more modern we get, the more yoga we crave. While it’s fun to live in these times, just don’t get lost in them. What is occurring in the world, more sophisticated growth globally from industry to medicine is remarkable, but cannot be at the expense of losing our “humanness.” We practice yoga and almost selfishly get the host of benefits we specifically need, but we also sharpen our skills of connectedness to ourselves and each other.
Meryl Streep gave a commencement speech to Columbia University female graduates this last month. It’s on YouTube, which is how I got to see it on my Ipad (thank you technology). She is strikingly smart, witty, super talented, and very inspiring on her remarks about “empathy.” It’s a strong word, a concept that differentiates us from other animals. Empathy is our ability to identify with and understand the feelings and motives of others; or in other cases the power and desire to enter into another person’s feelings. It’s what helps us truly relate to one another. We can feel it when we are getting it from others as well as when we’re giving it to ourselves. It is the very connection that strings our spirits together and the very component that gives us personal happiness. Meryl closed her commencement speech by saying that being a celebrity was a place she could hide and that her personal happiness comes from being alert and alive to the lives around her and in the wider world. She spoke of her other speeches she had given in prior years, but wanted to thank this group especially, as at age 60, this was really a gift to her to share what she felt was most useful.
Practice on your mat with all the intentions you’ve set for yourself and know you are also addressing those higher level attributes, like empathy, that keep you truly satisfied. Enjoy the fast paced life when it benefits you, but also let the important things be learned at their own pace as well. You’ll find yourself waking up to feelings of joy at the smallest of pleasures that have always been right in front of you – like watching leaves move with the breeze.