There are some things I can only understand if I get there myself. When I look back at my life I can see that in so many moments when I wish I had chosen differently, I chose the way I did because that is where I had to go to learn who I am. Usually pain was the result. I see that now as something that I also chose because I was still learning all about what being might involve. My personal yoga practice comes largely from this same source of choices and inner direction. That is what takes me into shoulder stand without my hands, a core body discovering herself no matter which way gravity is going. The results of this inner inquiry are much more joyful nowadays.
Then there are some things I would never discover at all unless I learn to see or feel what someone else is sharing with me. This could be the way the tree limbs move in the wind, the way a young man gently holds his girlfriend's hand as she removes a stone from her sandal, or the way a yoga teacher encourages me to breathe into a forward bend over a one-sided lotus foot as my ankle bone digs into my thigh muscle and my hip begins speaking to me in our own private language. My personal practice grows from this source of understandings too. In fact, each of these examples has saturated my practice lately and brought me joy.
It is not unusual for me to be surprised by what is actually happening in my yoga practice, and in the classes I teach, for that matter. There was a time in my life when I thought I was supposed to know everything before it happened or at least have a plan that would have fixed outcomes. Wow, has that ever changed! The surprise is part of the open space where the two strands meet: what I have discovered from within my own experience and that which I can absorb from outside my own little operating system. It is where my best teaching comes from, and my most expansive sessions on my own mat, or in the kitchen or anywhere else for that matter. I accept surprise with gratitude. I am learning that even when I don't "think" I am prepared for the outcomes that actually appear, really being present is enough. In fact that is all there is.
The larger operating system is so vast and inclusive that I can only pick up little bits at a time, except for those moments when I can no longer find a separate self and seem to be using that vast operating system as my own. An example of this might be losing the separation between bodies when sharing my breath with a student, or those moments in playing quartets when there is no need to think at all about the making of the music, our breathing and heartbeats seem to take care of it. It can happen even when hanging the laundry out on the line.
Yoga is helping me; allowing me to integrate these two strands, or ways of exploring the world of my own experience. Letting others bring their ideas into my explorations is a little like taking the shades out of the windows. The windows are there, but of little use to me until I clear away the blinds, the blockages (resistance, fear, craving, attachment, anger, story, fill-in-the-blank!). Sometimes I will pull those shades and cover a particular window, choosing to imagine the wall without it. Pain is usually the result of that kind of choice, and I suppose I will continue to make those choices until I learn enough to either open the shade myself, or make the space for some other energy to pull that shade. So my yoga practice develops both strands, and makes each of them more accessible to me. It sure has made it easier to look back at those painful choices and stop judging so.
I'm reading (slowly) a book called The Love Of Impermanent Things: A Threshold Ecology by Mary Rose O'Reilley, an author I savor. I recommend her earlier book, The Barn at the End of the World too. Early on in the first chapter she writes, "To grow in compassion for one's own life is the great task of the middle years, and it requires that, first, one must embrace with love and pity a whole reception line of relatives, then move on to the politicians. It helps to have a comic vision." Maybe that helps explain why it is so much easier for me to laugh these days.