Perfection, by its very definition was always elusive and would forever be beyond my reach. The practice of yoga was the ultimate reminder of this one salient fact. No matter how adept one became there was always more to reach for, more to achieve, even if it was only to hold a challenging posture for a single additional second. The pose wasn’t the point. The physical accomplishment or lack thereof only scratched the surface of the practice of yoga. Meaning was found in both the challenge of striving for perfection and the acceptance of its unattainability. Just because an ambition was unreachable didn’t make striving for it a meaningless endeavor. Life was lived between the start and finish lines, not at one end or the other.
In place of perfection, progress was enough. For me and my yoga practice each day was measured in inches, or fractions of inches. Some days the inches seemed to be moving in the wrong direction, but for perhaps the first time, I recognized what I regarded as failures in the past were all part of the process of growth. Life didn’t always proceed in a tidy straight line. There were side trips, back tracking, and even stops for breaks along the way, just like my yoga practice over the past few years. I forgave myself my lapses. I realized even my disappointments were all part of my journey. What mattered today, in this moment, was I was here. I was back on my mat, fighting to find my footing on the soggy surface while a distant rumble of thunder overhead threatened an approaching storm.
As I worked through my postures, I felt something new burrowing deep inside of me. New and maybe a little alien, but I pushed my initial fear aside, realizing this was what I was waiting for. This little moment was my first confirmation something was happening along the route of my thirty day test drive. The seeds of a new and improved version of me were taking root deep within my core. It was up to me to nourish them and bring them to blossom. How I was supposed to accomplish that, I wasn’t completely certain. The gardener in me knew it was one thing to appreciate a beautiful garden with flowers all but bursting with the radiance of life as I strolled by on my way to another destination, and quite another to be the one with the trowel in her hand trying to bring all that vivid color to life.
With some experience a novice gardener learned more wasn’t always better. Sometimes too many blossoms all flowering at the same time detracted from not only the whole picture but also stole a little attention from each individual bloom. The trick was to organize the plantings so they contributed to the whole effect while each individual bloom enjoyed its precious moment in the spotlight. That meant years of experimenting with blooming times, different soils, fertilizers and what light and water conditions each plant performed best in. It was also accepting the painful truth some plants, even beloved ones, just wouldn’t flower in some gardens. Maybe the soil conditions weren’t ideal. Maybe it was too cold, or too hot, or too wet, or too dry for them to flourish. In such cases it was kinder on both the plants and the gardener to let them go so they could thrive under the right conditions in someone else’s garden.
There was grief in the process of pruning, cutting back and up-rooting, but it was a necessary grief. I recognized I was one of those gardeners who didn’t like pruning. I cringed with each little clip of an over achieving branch filled with the evidence of abundant life and blossom. I was forced to remind myself that pruning was the same as giving a plant a hair-cut. It was a necessary sprucing up for the good of the whole. As for up-rooting, I was usually only able to bring myself to retrieve the shovel from the shed and dig up the roots if I was moving the shrub to another spot in the garden, hopefully one more to its liking.
If I had so much trouble with vegetation no wonder I found the pruning process so painful in my own life. But it was necessary for the good of the whole, I reminded myself. I didn’t want my life to resemble one of those overgrown, neglected gardens where the owner had so much going on he lost control of his vision, and eventually gave up and surrendered his pride and joy to the ever-encroaching weeds. I was conscious of the weeds lined up at the borders of my mind, just waiting for their opportunity to take over. A few moment’s inattention on my part was all they needed to cross the border and take root within me.
The trick was to stay ahead of them; to deal with the weeds as soon as they broke through the soil and made their first appearance. Once they established a firm base they were not easy to dispel. Sometimes even a desired plant became so enmeshed with weeds it was impossible to separate one from the other. In such cases the only way to eliminate the weeds was to dig up the entire mess and throw them both away.
I thought about my life. Some pieces were thriving exactly as they were. Some parts just needed a healthy pruning in order to blossom again, but others no longer fit in with my new vision of myself. They would have to go. It was painful to contemplate their loss. I knew it would be even more miserable to actually up-root them. “But it was for the good of the whole,” I whispered to myself. Some things would have to go in order to make room for the new and improved version of myself. That was life. That was growth. That was what this journey was all about.
…an excerpt from Yoga: Behind the Veil http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00AOUMG4O