How accepting life as it is will allow you to experience it more fully

Not all that you experience in life will seem positive. How you deal with it, how you think about it afterwards, how you encode your experiences will determine how positively you feel about them. One definition of suffering is expecting your experience to be different from what it is. Everything occurs in the present moment. There is no past or future, only now, and everything that is possible to exist exists right now. It is only possible for you to experience right now, so whatever is happening, it is important to start by accepting it all for what it is. Failing to accept the present, or actively trying to avoid it, can cause suffering. This is true whether you experience something that is out of your direct control, or just think harshly of yourself, like that you are not living up to your own expectations.

My yoga practice has taught me a lot about this. The other week I went through this process and it was both interesting and transformational for me personally so I thought I would share it here in case you case you can find a way to let it help you redefine your experience of the present into a more positive one.

The reason yoga can be really transformational in this way is that when we connect with our breath and practice yoga positions with awareness we are practicing being present. This sometimes brings down defenses that we may have set up to help us avoid the present moment. If you have ever had this experience in yoga, you possibly didn’t want to practice that day. This is why a regular consistent practice, however often you personally can mange it is so important. Sometimes it’s the days when you think you don’t want to practice that you stand to gain the most benefit from it.

As I practiced, I noticed I was feeling a bit fed up. I breathed and observed this feeling, and realized that I was frustrated that I was not living up to my own expectations in one specific area of my life. I realized that although I may be able to change the future this is how things stood right now. I learned to accept this real version of myself instead of the one I thought it should be.

I find that as I practice acceptance and move through my practice there is a shift in the feeling. As I accept it, it loses it’s power over me and I become more present and experience it for what it is – and it really isn’t that bad after all.

My next step in this case was to discover how I could work on this aspect of myself. It led to some really positive changes for me. Sometimes you can’t change a problem so accepting it is all that is necessary. As you learn to accept life as it is, you experience each moment more fully and realize how amazing life really is.

Much of this can be simplified in the following Buddhist quote

“If something can be remedied
Why be unhappy about it?
And if there is no remedy for it,
There is still no point in being unhappy.”
Shatideva

How has yoga helped you to accept yourself, just as you are?

Measure your progress in yoga not by the yoga positions you can do, but by the person you become.

Modern society thrives on progress. It seems like we are always being pressurised to achieve more, earn more and buy more. This rarely leads to lasting happiness because there is always more you can have and do. With social media images of bendy yogis bombarding your newsfeed, and with pressures to achieve coming from all directions, it’s easy to bring this mindset to your yoga practice. This is such a shame because if you are always striving to achieve more, you will never surrender and accept this moment, just as it is, enjoying the real fruit of yoga.

People practice yoga for all sorts of reasons and I understand that you may want to become more flexible. You may be really tight and need to get more flexible in order to enjoy normal healthy movement and posture. If you practice regularly this will happen, whether you strive for it or not. If you have been practicing yoga for many years, as I have, you may be very capable of doing all sorts of positions that you never dreamed were possible, and yet you still may seek progress in what you can do. I do. I love to challenge myself to do more, but the main benefit of this is what it brings to my life. It helps me to stay calm in challenging and new situations. It helps me to be more present for my friends and family, it helps me to believe that anything is possible, and hopefully it helps me to be a better person. Very few people really care, or even know, what yoga positions 18 years of yoga has made it possible for me to do. But they do care about what kind of person I am.

If you practice yoga regularly you will become more flexible. There is no need to worry about that. Practice, surrender, and use your practice to become more present. Sometimes it will be wonderful. Sometimes it will be challenging to really be here. Practice, practice and practice some more. Then bring your practice into your life.

Sometimes as a teacher, I notice that the people that seem to understand it the most, are actually the tightest. They have had to tune into their breath. They have realised that it is going to take a while. And they have surrendered. I am not saying this to be harsh to the bendy people. I happen to be one myself, but I think sometimes within the yoga community, we forget this and we think the bendy people are the great yogis. This is not always the case. They may not have even done that much yoga. They might be a gymnast or a dancer. They might really struggle with other aspects of the practice too. We are all different, but the real journey is an inward one, and that’s where the real peace lies.

Do you ever put pressure on yourself to be better at yoga? How has yoga had an impact on your life and or who you are?

The Beauty of Imperfection From the Yoga Mat to Life

For me my yoga practice is like a microcosm of my life in general and who I am in the Helen siting in a meditation pose, world is reflected in who I am on the mat. Sometimes images of yogis or meditators looking at peace, lead people to believe that they will be at peace as soon as they step onto a yoga mat. Whilst yoga will certainly help you to be calmer and more at one with yourself and others this may not always be what you find when you step on the mat.  I hear this particularly from people who meditate for the first time but I think it happens in yoga too.  I think sometimes people think everyone else just gets it and they are the only one who is distracted.

 

This is to me part of our current culture at this particular time in our history, we feel we have to be good at everything or at least I do 😉  That is until I notice and tell myself to get real!  Anyone who has practiced yoga for a few years will realise that there is always more to learn.  Some people don’t believe me when I tell them that I still have things to work on with my standing positions despite having practiced yoga for 15 years.  In reality however, I am always noticing more and aligning my body better in subtle yet important ways.  This asana refinement is never ending and yet that is not what yoga is about.  The refinement is a useful tool for realigning the body and perhaps more importantly the  mind. It helps us to tune into what we are doing rather than do it without thinking. It enables us to bring our awareness back into our body and in the context of this post it helps us to realise we are not perfect and more importantly, that this is absolutely fine.

 

Chasing perfection is like chasing your own tail. It will always be somewhere in the future, meanwhile the real juice of life is right here waiting to be noticed. Hopefully yoga will help us to experience it more.

 

Sometimes this is easier said than done.  Life can throw challenges at us that can make it hard to focus on this moment even with the help of the practice.  I think it is important to realise that we all have days when the mind is distracted.  My practice was certainly like that today.  I had a thought flapping around in my mind that would not go away until it was acknowledged.  Mid practice it was so acknowledged that it was having it’s own party.  It was at that point that placing that thought in the context of the entire world helped me regain some sense of proportion and then returning to my breath helped me gradually get back to the actuallity of my practice.

 

I mention this because I feel that some people give themselves a hard time if they get adjusted or if their mind is cloudy or if they can’t relax.  They often think that they are the only one that feels like this and because of that the belief we fail to share what we view as our imperfections which means we don’t get to realise we all go through fairly similar things.  This is all very understandable and as we take our approach to life onto our mats we may find that some aspects don’t serve us as well as we thought they did.  The beauty is that the yoga mat is such a safe place to work this stuff out and we get to revisit it every time we step onto our mat.  So next time you feel everything isn’t quite how you thought it should be try and experience it for what it actually is and give yourself a break for making time to be on you mat at all.

 

One final note many people have said that they would love to comment on this blog but that they feel that their comments are not insightful or interesting enough. This saddens me. If you have something to say, I would love for you to share it on the blog. For one thing you might help the other people who also want to write on the blog find their courage. You will also find as I have that many people are actually thinking similar things and would benefit greatly from hearing your thoughts. We don’t have to wait for the perfect moment, to write the most interesting thing ever, what you have to say write now is perfect in it’s own way.

 

Do you ever find practice challenging?

Have you found that yoga has helped change your attitudes towards life in general?