Monday, December 9, 2013

Yoga and the Art of Parking

NOTE: Lorien will be on vacation Dec 9-25, but regularly scheduled classes will continue with subs.

On Thanksgiving morning I practiced at the yoga studio, left in a state of gratitude and bliss, and then was witness to some interesting behavior in the parking lot:

I paused while backing out of my parking space to allow pedestrians to cross behind me and I noticed a white car, whose driver we'll call Patient Driver (PD), slowed to allow the pedestrians to pass as well. Behind PD, a new car appeared, driven by someone who we'll call Impatient Driver (ID). ID was driving very fast and had to stop suddenly behind PD. ID then honked the horn and whipped around PD to park into the spot that PD was waiting for.

At this point, I finished backing up and was ready to leave the parking lot, but I noticed in my rearview mirror that PD had parked her car in the middle of the lot and walked - slowly and deliberately - towards the car driven by ID.

In that moment, two things became very obvious to me: 1) Contrasting personalities are about to collide. 2) Both drivers are heading into the studio to take the same yoga class (the studio was the only business open that day, and only offering one class), it's likely their mats will be near each other, so whatever is discussed in the parking lot will carry over to the class as well.

As I drove away, I thought to myself that the conversation between these two people could go either way. It could be a moment for PD to practice compassion; it could be an "aha" moment of clarity for ID. Or, it could become destructive...

The cynic in me played the entire conversation out in my head - all of it negative, which made me question why we practice yoga. Why behave one way in the parking lot, then another inside the studio?

If I'm going to treat my fellow humans as things - obstacles or vehicles to get what I want, or as invisible things that I can ignore, then what does it matter if I can wrap my leg behind my head?

We approach yoga in the west from the physical perspective, occasionally gaining the glimpse of ease during moments of relaxation and release, but that is just one layer of the lens. You know how the eye doctor asks you to look through the lenses and asks you to determine which one is clearer? That is precisely what the complete practice of yoga is meant to do - offer you a sharper, more complete lens through which to see the world.

There is the lens of the physical world, which explains to you how to feed your body and move through the physical world with more effective responsiveness.

There is the lens of the energetic world, which asks you to trust in a world you cannot see and, instead, feel beneath the surface of things.

There is the lens of the mental and emotional world, which becomes clearer and clearer as you clean off the residue of karma.

There is the lens of the intuitive world, which provides a sharp focus to our decisions.

And there is the lens of bliss, of spirit, of egoless being, and the experience of this binds all the other lenses together in one big "aha" view of clarity.

Returning to the parking lot story, if ID is only seeing the world through the first or second lens, then I can imagine that the conversation only added fuel to a negative bonfire. But...

If ID is starting to experience life through the other lenses, he or she may see this situation as an opportunity to grow.

Which do you think it was? Please remember this story as you find yourself in either driver's shoes.