I've just returned from traveling for a few days, taking my monthly visit to check in with my elderly family members in another state. These trips are squeezed in between my teaching commitments, and packed with emotional, administrative, and unexpected events. This trip I found that I managed to check off all the to-do items, and stayed available and open for the relational parts of the visiting. Lately I've been finding it easier and easier to take things as they are, to see the excuses and simply not make them. This has felt really good. Accepting that I have made choices, rather than finding ways to explain to myself (or others) the why or why nots of all the resulting situations or conditions. Who knew that this would also save me a lot of energy, making me feel less weary and more available even when I am just as "busy?" It has also reduced the sense of pressure on me, results in much less of the emotional backlash behaviors like argumentativeness or over eating, and helps me keep myself rested and ready for what is there to be done or felt.
This new sense of freedom has evolved recently even more as I've been exploring the Niyama of Tapas (discipline and purification through inner heat), one of the principles of yoga (see recent blogs on this subject). I find that I can act upon my intentions, giving myself what I need, without making excuses or needing any rationales. I was able to simply include a short yoga practice in every day even with travel and many demands on my time. This helped me to be more rested, more receptive, and much less judgmental. It was as though I've been strengthening and developing my muscles of action rather than those qualities of judgmental mind that bring endless comparisons and projections. This seems to also liberate my ability to work within much more realistic time frames, and establish more achievable goals. I am amazed.
Openness to inner discipline also directly relates to all the other yogic principles of the Yamas and Niyamas (see recent blogs)... Saucha (purity) and Asteya (non-stealing), Satya (truth) and of course Santosha too (contentment). When we let ourselves be truthful rather than explaining, restrain from taking that which is not ours to take (like the attention of others to our point of view), clear out the clutter of misrepresentation and judgment (all the justifications and should, would, coulds) and allow contentment with what actually is (finding gratitude and joy), well, we no longer need to hide behind the excuses and rationales that explain the choices we make. We know that we are responsible for the choice and act, even if it is a correction of a prior act.
I could also title this thought "Trkonasana," since triangle pose embodies a combination of truth, discipline, nonjudgment and awareness. Like life itself, it is a balancing act, a serious stretch, opening on one side making new internal space, and by necessity yielding into the strength required. Finding triangle can begin in any moment, since it evolves out of a steady foundation, an elongated, integrated and soft spine, and a steady and unified sense of energy in the breath that moves between earth and sky. In any given day my body opens to Trkonasana to its own degree, the breath flows the length of me, my spine releases or clenches, my feet feel firm and easy on the earth or I may be shaky and off balance. I love discovering my true self in this way, never knowing what the moment will be until I am that moment. Triangle offers every possibility boiled down, what actually is so in that breath. And even the one inhale does not predict what might be possible in the next. I laugh at the joy of discovering revolved triangle emerging - twisted and reversed - or at literally falling to the mat out of triangle on one side as though the world was turning just a little too fast for me that day. Simply being makes self criticism unnecessary. Any asana can offer the same exploration; and endless understandings come through the practice.
Discipline and honesty are a beautiful combination on the path to truth and contentment, but you can take the path from any direction. Exploring contentment will take you perhaps by different turns and twists, to clarity and ease of judgment. I've learned to be curious rather than afraid of these big concepts. They are just what you discover in them. And the more I explore, the more I discover. I don't spend time worrying about what I don't know, because the vastness of that would paralyze me. I simply keep wondering "what is this?" and investigate, finding that the inquiry itself is liberating me to see more and more "just as it is."