I often say that I am in the business of change because my work as a yoga teacher and therapist involves transformative processes. As we navigate our lives, it may be hard for some people to not be caught up in the race to accumulate things and to not get caught in the web of measuring ourselves based on material success. But when we stay connected to what is of real value, and remain open to even the small subtle every day things that present opportunities to grow, we enhance our self-awareness and demonstrate a willingness to change. Consciously paying attention to theses hidden opportunities for change each day, we journey towards transformation and awaken our wellness. Something different unfolds even within the sameness.
For seven months I have begun my day in precisely the same way: I have recited the Mourner’s Kaddish for my father in synagogue. This is a part of the mourning rituals in Judaism that shows that despite the loss, the mourner still praises God and this proclamation is believed to increase God’s light into the world. Each day the service begins at the exact same time. On specific days of the week or the month, additional prayers are included but otherwise we sit, we stand, we read silently, and we chant as a group following the exact same sequence day-by-day. Yet I find it fascinating that in spite of the consistency and repetition of the same service, each day I observe that inwardly I may be in a totally different place and small changes are continually occurring for me. One morning my focus may be strong as I remain alert, grounded and connected, or I may be completely distracted, tired, and perhaps even disengaged from the process. And the process itself also helps to facilitate change. I have discovered that grieving is a challenging and meandering journey comprised of frequent hills and valleys and changes.
Each time I unfold my yoga mat and practice the same asanas or postures, a similar realization occurs for even though the posture may be the exact same one I have practiced literally thousands of times, my experience of each execution or repetition of it is totally different from the previous one. Something shifts. It might be an awakening in a muscle or joint, it might be a change in the texture of my skin or breath or in the breathing pattern or on the cellular level. I may be putting my body into the asana or posture but my mind may not be in the present moment. Regardless, the change process is naturally occurring and it is my choice to welcome and accept the change or not.
When our children were young, we encouraged them to change things up in their rooms as often as they liked, rearranging furniture, redecorating their walls and even repainting them a different colour. However, for many people there is a pull and a tendency to remain within one’s inner walls of familiarity rather than consciously choosing to embrace change even when confronted with changes that are beyond our control. For change can be scary, tiring and frustrating and there may also be many obstacles that hinder change including both conscious and unconscious habits, baggage, emotions and defenses.
Change may also mean something different for each individual. For some, change is a positive thing and actively pursued by developing self-awareness, spending time in self-reflection, engaging in new thoughts and behaviors and moving towards personal growth. Igniting even a tiny flame of light to spread over the darkness and to illuminate one’s blind spots is desirable on the path towards wholeness and wellness. A simple spark may actually change one’s world. And interestingly, oftentimes the very things that we don’t want to change nor can change end up changing us.
When we practice yoga, we create tension in our bodies which also creates extension which then also creates change. When we meditate daily, whether it is a mindfulness practice or daily prayers or some other practice, we also create chemical changes in our brains. Thus, when we are engaged in mind body practices, our yoga and meditation becomes an awareness practice and transforms our moment-to-moment experience of life (and death). When we choose to remain open to observing the subtle daily changes both on and off the mat, and to embrace the change process, we cultivate a relationship with ourselves and explore our feelings and thoughts. With curiosity and receptivity, we can then experience the many fascinating differences inherent within the sameness. Recognizing the potential for change and its multitude of benefits, perhaps we might then choose to embrace it.
“Don’t be carried away by others’ words. Be carried away by your own experiences. I’m not doing the asana for some purpose like being physically fit and mentally poised, I’m doing the asana to see myself.” – B.K.S. Iyengar