“Yoga doesn’t want to change you. It wants to free you.” Bryan Kest
How often do we believe this? If you were to examine your physical body right now, just as you are, how many parts do you believe could be improved upon? I didn’t step onto the yoga mat for the first time thinking I needed to change but once I was there I certainly thought yoga was the “cure”. It was the magic pill that would heal and strengthen my weak and tense body. The remedy for a scattered and unfocused mind, the quick fix that would rid me of all my pains and suffering, make my broken self whole again.
I recently spent a weekend back home with my family which was simultaneously amazing, comforting, beautiful, fun and incredibly challenging, sad and painful. The joke is “if you think you are enlightened go back home for a weekend”. As hard as I try to maintain my evolution I rarely go back to Chicago as a 41 year old yoga instructor who has her shit together. I go back as a 12 year old older sister with two younger brothers and annoying parents. Convinced I have all the answers and yet vulnerable enough to allow all the old wounds to open backup, the things I wish I could have said, the things I wish I hadn’t of said, the pain of separation, the fear of losing touch. The three day vacation filled with laughter and comfort food that I long for when I’m in 2000 miles away becomes 72 hours of high intensity emotions and reactions.
While I was home Soul Cycling, eating, shopping, loving the Windy City, discussing books, movies and YouTube videos to watch with my most favorite people in the world, “The life-changing magic of tidying up” was mentioned. It was toted as a “must do” so I put it in my notes and went back to loving my family. As the weekend neared its end the all around pain of leaving set in and the goodbyes were tearful. There’s never enough time and too much has gone unsaid. On the way to the airport I remembered the suggestion of tidying. “Yes”, I thought. Give it to me, I wanted to cleanse, purge, get rid of, go to the core and scrape it all out, unearth all the issues that surrounded my past and put them out on the curb for Friday’s garbage pick-up never to be seen again. Tidying suddenly was the new “magic pill, the remedy, the quick fix I believed yoga had once been and I needed it yesterday. I scoured two airports for the book and finally found it in the last terminal that I could look. I opened the book immediately. I read the testimonials of how it had changed so many lives and with great anticipation thought of all the ways in which it would surely change mine. “What would I purge? How many bags of junk could I get rid of, who would I become once I was done?”
On the plane to my new destiny I read about how we have been taught to organize backwards. Marie Kondo explained that we have been instructed to get rid of, purge, throw out what no longer serves us. “Yeah, exactly why I bought the book, how do I start?”. I stopped and closed the book when I read the sentence “We should be choosing what we want to keep, not what we want to get rid of.” O.M.G. I learned this on the mat, I talk about it in class, I meditate to it, but yet, there is still a part of me that believes I need to be fixed, that I am broken and there is a cure out there. I realized all the ways in which I show up to life like this. I recently went to my naturopath and asked for a food allergy panel, 'tell me what foods I need to get rid of'. I do juice cleanses to purge my body of toxins. Twists on the mat to release old junk in my intestines. Energetic clearings, meditate away the unwanted thoughts, clear out my email in-box of junk mail, purge, purge, purge. And once the magic pill is taken I will be renewed, fixed, my broken self will be made whole again.
“Yoga doesn’t want to change you. It wants to free you.” Bryan Kest
“Freedom is not about the size of your cage or power of your wings or non-attachment to a person or thing. Freedom is about being so truly, madly and deeply attached to your own soul that you can not bear ----- if only for one moment ----- a life that does not honor it.” ~ Andrea Balt
The premise of yoga begins with the notion that we are “of God”, a spark of the divine, complete, whole, loved, free. And the practice of yoga and meditation are tools we have been given to remember this, to connect to this part of ourselves, to live from this place. Our imperfections (our human bodies) are, as Brene Brown said “not inadequacies, but reminders that we are all in this together”. When practicing yoga, not just the physical asana, but when living our yoga, we are thinking and acting from this place of wholeness. And any belief otherwise goes against the aims of yoga. Years ago I criticized myself in front of dear friend and mentor of mine and he snapped at me “you are a child of God, how dare you question or chastise her work”.
The work we do on the mat, as I mentioned, is a reflection of life off the mat. We get challenged on the mat as we do in life. We struggle on the mat as we do every day. We fatigue and get bored and distracted. We also find our power, become inspired, and eventually discover the truth of who we are. As I continued reading Kondo’s book she said that if we were to examine our intention behind wanting to tidy up we would realize at the root that we want to be happy. “Therefore, the best criterion for choosing what to keep and what to discard is whether keeping it will make you happy, whether it will bring you joy.”
We begin our yoga practice with an intention. “Why are you here? What got you out of bed and onto the mat today? What do you want to embody in your life?” I believe too that if we were to examine the root of any intention, be it tidying or showing up on the mat, we would realize that we all simply want to be happy. So the challenge on the mat or the meditation cushion is to uncover or awaken to all the ways in which we’ve built up walls, kept ourselves small, told ourselves stories that limit us. Once realized we can make a decision from a place of present moment awareness whether these thoughts, habits, patterns or tendencies are making us happy, bringing us joy. Then we can act from a place of present moment awareness. If they are, then tend to them, love them, nurture them and watch them grow. And if they aren’t, give gratitude for what it was they once gave you and Let. Them. Go.
She could never go back and make some of the details pretty, all she could do was move forward and make the whole beautiful. ~Terri St. Cloud
“When you room is clean and uncluttered, you have no choice but to examine your inner state.” ~Marie Kondo
The process of tidying is done by using your intuition rather than logic. You feel the item, touch it, sense it, hold it close to your heart and either happily keep it or let it go. This becomes easier with time. I found myself in a tidying rhythm, moving right along, it was fun, uncovering what I truly loved to possess. On the mat the idea is the same. As Rolf Gates says “we are moving from thinking to feeling”. Rather than “what should I be doing? Is this right? Perfect?” Using intuition it becomes “Is this moving me closer to my intention or farther away? Am on on auto pilot with my body pulling the breath or have I surrendered to the breath, to my inner knowing?”
This process allows us to go deeper into who we are and what we truly cherish. But as you dig deeper the more you find. Both on the mat and with tidying. Rather than go room by room to tidy your home Kondo’s system is to go category by category. Clothes, books, papers, miscellaneous then sentimental items. Just like on the mat, it’s easier to work with the body first then move to the more subtle aspects of our being that will inevitably be more challenging like our ego and emotions. Sure enough, as I went deeper, tidying got hard. There was a lot of stuff. The piles kept coming, the drawers I had forgotten possessions even lived in. The amount of papers, neatly stacked in desks, drawers, closets and bags tucked in the guest room. Tidying papers was quite a day. I jammed the paper shredder and my husband nearly divorced me. It was emotionally exhausting. Ever had one of the moments on the mat? You tell yourself an old story, and you realize the moment you think it, it’s a story that limits you. Or you set an intention and instantly list off all the reasons you will never have it? That’s what all that stuff represented to me. A dream left unattended to under a pile of crap, something that I procrastinated on maybe because I didn’t believe I was worthy of it or I scared of what might happen if I truly stepped into my power. I ate ice cream for dinner that night as I sat faced with a full recycling bin and the knowing that there was a part of me that still believed the “the story” that I wasn’t worthy. The sheer amount of clutter in my home was testament to the all the ways in which I keep myself small.
A few days of wallowing and a lot of apologies to my husband for dragging him into this and then the beauty hit me. The things that I loved, the dreams that I had, the project I procrastinated on were all still there. Not one thing ever got up and left my home because I didn’t use it or had forgotten about it. And herein lies the beauty of the practice. The beauty of who we are. Our true self never leaves us. Our intuition, our source, our power, our love, our light. It’s always there. Sure there might 700 unused sticky notes or hotel shampoo bottles sitting on top of it but it’s not going anywhere.
Our bodies hurt then they heal
Our minds distract than they become clear
Our emotions dip and twist and turn
Our ability to remember our worth waxes and wanes.
But the truth of who we are remains. It is there for us whenever we are ready. It’s not even going to ask any questions about where we’ve been or who we’ve been moonlighting with. It’s there, waiting. Kondo says “everything you own wants to be of use to you”. Your spirit, your creativity, your intuition wants to be of use to you.
“Believe what your heart tells you when you ask, ‘does this spark joy’” ~Marie Kondo