One of my yoga teachers read the following passage to us during savasana in a class I took over a week ago.
“Feel as grateful to existence as possible-for small things, not only for great things … just for sheer breathing. We don’t have any claim on existence, so whatever is given is a gift.
Grow more and more in gratitude and thankfulness; let it become your very style. Be grateful to everybody. If one understands gratitude, then one is grateful for things that have been done positively. And one even feels grateful for things that could have been done but were not done. You feel grateful that somebody helped you-this is just the beginning. Then you start feeling grateful that somebody has not harmed you-he could have; it was kind of him not to.
Once you understand the feeling of gratitude and allow it to sink deeply within you, you will start feeling grateful for everything. And the more grateful you are, the less complaining, grumbling. Once complaining disappears, misery disappears. It exists with complaints.
It is hooked with complaints and with the complaining mind. Misery is impossible with gratefulness. This is one of the most important secrets to learn.”
While she was reading it, I was thinking how lucky she is to have practiced and taught yoga so much that this is how she always thinks. I felt a little guilty for knowing these things, but not always feeling this way. (“Okay, I will remember to feel grateful, again”, I thought).
Then, just before she closed the class, while we sat facing her, palms in prayer, she said, “The reason why I wanted to read that today was that I found myself complaining a lot this past week. I was like ‘Meh’…”. In that instant, I suddenly felt so much more grateful to her for us telling us that than for reading the passage, itself!
I remember one day after the long, seemingly never-ending winter that we had this past year, at the start of class, she commented about the sun finally appearing for a moment before it quickly disappeared back behind the clouds. “I’m still mad at it, though.” she said, as she glared out the window. That made me smile. A lot of times, it seems as if many yoga teachers don’t struggle with the weather- the cold and dark and snow, or the heat and humidity- like I do and I wonder why I can’t be more like them. It’s so easy to think of your yoga teacher as the embodiment of love and peace- people who seem to live without the struggles that we do- but the truth is that they need this practice just as much as anyone else. They go through the same struggles that we all do- painful breakups, miscarriages, flooded houses, difficult family members, strangers who yell at them, seasonal depression, stress, etc. The reason that they teach is that they have found the practice to be of tremendous use in bringing back more of a balanced perspective and connection to the peace that always resides inside of us, but which is easy to sway away from. This practice helps return us to our center.
Several weeks ago, I told the group that I was teaching that this would be a different kind of class and that the inspiration for it came from my need to ground myself the night before. I had just given my second talk that night- 2 months after my first talk- and I did not know a single person there. I felt more and more nervous as I started to speak, and as my energy got higher in my body, my brain was having a hard time remembering the introductory speech that I had memorized. The audience was incredibly sweet and supportive, but I still felt the nervous, out of body feeling when I got home that night and knew that I needed to do a grounding yoga practice to help settle me down. Luckily, I had learned that holding postures longer helps with sending your energy down into the earth. It’s not something that I had learned from one of my live classes, so I thought it would be helpful to introduce the idea to my students in case they ever needed it, as well. The class was strong and solid and I was so proud of them for holding poses such as ardha navasana for one minute long (not an easy thing to do)! I think that practice brought out strength that they hadn’t known they possessed before!
More and more, I am hearing admissions from my yoga teachers about times in which they have struggled. This openness and honesty allows us to see them as fellow human beings who are in this life together with all of us. It is for this unity that I am most grateful.