Today marks the end of the brick wall era — no longer will my yoga photos feature that crumbling (literally) facade, because this week we’re moving into a new house. No more renting for us; this new home has our names on it.
It continues to baffle me that I will have a tiny plot of the Earth to call my own. How is it mine? Of course, because we paid for it. But if you look beyond the money… how is it mine? How is it that I can call anything “mine?”
We’re possessive people — in every sense of the world. We have possessions in the form of animals, objects, homes, people. We get possessive when others tread on the hearts of those we love. We often possess strength or fragility, stamina or fatigue. In our minds, some of these possessions might become obsessions, to the point where we fail to see the connectedness of all things. We put “my” and “mine” first.
I’m not saying this isn’t natural. This is the ego at work — the voice somewhere inside your mind that helps you make sense of the need to survive. To look out for one’s own interests is at times incredibly essential, yet when tipped too far is detrimental. It turns into arrogance and greed and power and misplaced authority.
It turns into seeing oneself as separate from the whole. Apart from the rest of the world’s experience, this type of possessiveness can get lonely.
I did not give myself brown hair, misophonia, or a disposition toward intense contemplation of the world. But it’s a comfort to know that others have brown hair, misophonia, dispositions toward contemplation. That I am not alone. That you are not alone.
The true reality of things
We are all illusionists. The illusion of feeling separate and disconnected from all things is a major concept in yoga. It is the yoga practice that seeks to erase the “my” and “mine” and instead discover the “we” and “ours.” This concept is often referred to as maya which translates roughly as “illusion,” though the word can take on many meanings in different contexts. In the spiritual realm, it’s the knowledge that we are not separate from the Divine.
One of my favorite translations of maya is “magic.” I used to be fascinated by magic when I was younger. David Copperfield was all the rage, and at his prime I saw him disappear from a stage and reappear in the audience in the middle of the room. The floor beneath us was concrete; I was stumped.
But the older I get, the more I cringe at magic shows because I am anticipating a mistake that will give away the illusion. As an adult, I know it’s not real. When I was young, I accepted magic at face value. I believed it until someone told me otherwise. Like Santa Claus or that if you eat a watermelon seed, a watermelon grows in your tummy.
Sometimes, I still want to believe these things in order to relive an infantile nature in which the whole world is purposeful and orderly.
There is a part of each of us that knows the true reality of things. None of us know how long we have on this earth. None of us know what happens after we die. So we own things and missions and, if we practice, feelings and instincts that will propel us beyond the everyday sorrows.
Once you know about the illusion — that you are not separate from another or from your very own Divine nature — you could do two things. The first is to do your best to forget about it. Go about life as usual. Wake, work, learn, consume, sleep. Possess until it fills you up from thinking about What Comes Next.
For many of us — and I’m going to guess you — this isn’t an option.
So the second is to use the illusion as fuel for your path. Meet it head on: Yes, I will die. No, I will not stop trying or helping or loving or giving despite this reality. And yes, I will be choosy about what I possess and for how long because it is my environment and my ego that continually shape me.
Nothing in life is wasted, though believe me, at times it sure feels like it. You might bend over backward for someone who doesn’t reciprocate. You might be deep into the darkest times of your life and feel disconnected from everything. Or, you might be in the happiest, most joyous moments of your life and feel as though you don’t deserve them.
In each scenario, you might feel a boundary between you and a person or event. This is when you need yoga and meditation more than ever.
It’s through the practice that you realize the true boundary is the one you place upon yourself.
Practice: Reverse Triangle, Viparita Trikonasana
I cannot tell you about the magic of yoga. You must experience it. Might I suggest these meditations to get you started? And this pose. There are many lineages that teach Triangle Pose and its variations differently. Here’s my take on what makes this posture “reverse” itself, thereby making it an excellent self-study on the illusions you might have about your body and the shapes that it makes.
- Facing the long edge of your mat, step the feet wide and raise the arms parallel to the floor. Place your feet underneath your wrists. Now, drop your arms to hips. Keep your right foot planted and turn your left toes to the short edge of your mat.
- Lift your kneecaps, maintaining a soft bend in each knee to stabilize the legs. Shift your hips forward, toward your left foot. The idea is to send the hips in the opposite direction of Triangle Pose — hence, they move forward as you lean back.
- Inhale the arms parallel to the ground. With your upper body still facing the long edge of the mat, drop your right arm to the right leg and raise your left arm straight up and back, bicep by your ear. Elongate through both of your side bodies as you reach through the left fingertips. Gaze up if it feels good.
- Stay for six breaths. Exhale and bring the hands back to hips. Shift the hips to center, step the legs together. Begin again with right foot forward.