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The Selfless Self

Posted in: Blog by admin on December 2, 2011

Many people who practice yoga can relate to an experience I had this evening while participating in a beauitufl charity yoga event: I started to cry while in the midst of a pose. Now, this isn’t the first time this has happened to me, and it actually is common for many as we release so much tension, anxiety, anger and fear that may have been buried just below the surface. We feel relaxed. We feel peaceful. We feel safe. And, so, a couple tears may escape our eyes, sometimes surprising even us.

Yoga is about finding balance, quieting the mind and traveling towards self-awareness. The very nature of it lends one to believe that it is about our SELF. But, while we work on our breath, our calm, our peacefulness and our presence, we are, in actuality, practicing not simply for ourselves: We are practicing for our families. We are practicing for our friends. We are practicing for the world. For, when you are peaceful, when you exude kindness, the world reaps the benefits.

One of the three instructors who led tonight’s practice said, “one candle lights many.” She was reminding us of the potential impact of our giving. And tonight was a perfect example of how opening our hearts can influence so many: Everyone in the room tonight donated toys to Children’s Memorial Hospital as their “entrance fee” to the class. The hosts spoke of the meaning of the hospital and the children who will appreciate the toys this holiday season. And, then, we began our practice. Again, we were told to focus inward … to focus on our breath … to focus on letting go.

It was then, when I was in a state of pure relaxation and climbing towards that elusive state of self-awareness, that I felt so deeply for others. Normally, I am so conscious of my own body and mind and breath while practicing that I do not often think of others. It is this very reality that makes the practice so appealing, especially for a busy mom. However, the energy and giving spirit in the room made it challenging for me to focus on anything or anyone other than the children who were going to be the recipients of the truckload of gifts that was just outside.

Later, an instructor told us to think of a favorite childhood toy. Nothing immediately popped in my head, but within seconds, memories of warmth and laughter and images of my small self flooded my mind. I felt fortunate that those were the snapshots in my childhood memory book: family, health, laughter. There were no memories of hospitals or yearning or pain. The instructor then told us to think about how the children are going to feel when they get these unexpected gifts. With that, the floodgates were about to open! However, I had some awareness that I was not alone, and I tried to obstruct the tears. I could have sobbed, as my body was advising me to do. But, my mind got in the way. It failed at keeping some tears back, but I am not complaining. I am happy that I was able to feel so deeply.

Picturing children in hospital beds (some of whom do not ever even have a parent by their side) excitedly ripping open a holiday present was an image that I will not forget. It’s an image I will hold onto this holiday season. It’s an image I will hold onto next year. It’s an image I will hold onto always, as I am conscious of all the fortune I have experienced and all of the pain that so many others have had to endure. But, more than that, I will remember the important lesson I learned tonight. I thought yoga was about me. I believed it was my time to tune out the world, to let go of my responsibilities, to free my mind of all of its noise. Yet, in reality, in a beautiful way, it is really about everybody. It is about being aware and conscious and full of presence.

The presents. And the presence. They melded so beautifully and so symbolically with one another this evening. It was the giving of the presents that made us all feel so much more present in this world. It was the slowing down and the breathing that allowed us to feel more and give more.  I will now bring that awareness not just to my practice but to my every breath … to my every day. And, I will remind myself what we all know: There is no better gift we can give ourselves than having a mindful intention to give back to the world.

Kindness in words creates confidence. Kindness in thinking creates profoundness. Kindness in giving creates love.  — Lao Tzu 

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One Response to “The Selfless Self”

  1. telliott says:

    Another great and powerful writing. I have never done yoga, but I will say one can connect at most any given moment with practice. It is then we can be relieved of our bondage and think of others struggles and we are not alone. THanks for the reminder; life seems fuller when I can recall that it’s in self-forgetting that I can be a real joy to others.Keep up the great work AMY love it

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