by Tammy Limbach
There was a blog post I stumbled upon recently via the oracle of wisdom known as Facebook. The post was about seven questions one could ask oneself to aid in the discovery of one’s life purpose (http://markmanson.net/life-purpose). I liked the post quite a bit, so much so, I posted it on my Facebook page which often feels like the technical equivalent of a blood pact.
I love the idea of purpose in every size, life size purpose, or even its smaller siblings such as picking out music to suit your mood or having a gluten-free day. Think of holding on to the why of it all and letting go of the how. We ask this a lot in yoga. “Set an intention,” the teacher says. What the H does that mean? Create purpose for this hour or more of sweating, breathing, and coming face-to-face with your own success and frustration. Otherwise, what’s the freaking point?
When our actions lack purpose they lack breadth and depth. For example, when I first learned yoga alignment principles I learned them as a practitioner. It was those principles that drew me to alignment-based yoga. Something about the teacher’s cueing was inviting me deeper into my own “conversation” with the pose and the practice as a whole. It felt magical! My body started to open up and I become more in touch with my abilities and inabilities. I felt deliciously empowered with knowledge of myself. No question, that empowerment spilled into other areas of my life.
Then, as my studies deepened, I learned the alignment principles in theory. It was from that place of theory that I first started teaching. Can you just imagine? Miss teacher says, “Blah, blah, blah, lifeless cue, blah.” The intention wasn’t bad; I wanted to do this yoga teaching thing right. What I ended up figuring out is that when the purpose was to empower people with their own self-knowledge and their own magic, those alignment principles became an instrument. They become secondary. My purpose grew from flat to full.
Anyway, I digress. Purpose. We crave it. We intuitively know it makes us feel alive, worthy, meaningful. The aforementioned article’s first question to ponder on the quest for life purpose is, “What struggle or sacrifice are you willing to tolerate?” Manson truthfully states that everything sucks some of the time. Why do something, anything, that’s going to put you face-to-face with the one thing you are least willing or even able to handle? I mean really, who wants discomfort, much less pain? Good point, my friend, but this one question he asks of his dear readers, is the one question I very much disagree with.
On this journey of life we are meant to face our fears. That is why the journey of becoming is called the hero’s journey (thank you, Joseph Campbell). It is not called the walking-through-the-field-of-daisies journey. The degree to which you can take a nice bold look at your worst fears, the darkest corner of your psyche, the ugliest aspect of yourself, is the same degree to which you will live your fullest life. Of this, I have no doubts, kiddos. It’s not for the weak. How bad do you want to live? How bad do you want your most beautiful picture of success? Because, loves, if you can imagine it, it is available. How’s that for a greeting card phrase? Seriously, your own personal off-the-wall imagined success, the feeling that you get from it, that’s what you are worthy and capable of receiving. Take that in for a second. However, it doesn’t come without a price. That price is you sacrificing something and the gateway to that release is fear. Because fear at it’s core is holding on to what is, as it is. Whether it’s our sense of self, our comfort with the way things are, or a myriad of other status quo realities. Even if the status quo right now isn’t serving us in any way whatsoever, it’s God-damn familiar at least! I just hope for you, me, and everyone, that our longing for that feeling of whatever it is we want is just a little bit, just the tiniest bit, stronger than our fear. Because the two are irrevocably married and if you want one, you have to befriend the other.
And that’s where yoga comes in. Each time we step on the mat something is asked of us. Whether that is to hold a pose just a little longer than you want, to hug your muscles in a little more than what you think your capable of, maybe even to relax when all you want to do is scream. Yoga, sometimes gently, sometimes not, walks you into becoming familiar with facing discomfort and becoming the better for it. Specifically discomfort within yourself. Sure, we’ve all been known to throw a steely glance at a teacher who says, “celebrate your asymmetry” or “just two more breaths,” but at the heart of our blame is our own experience of self. It is those experiences that present the richness of yoga. Then, after we face ourselves, after we feel the ability of our own precious bodies, we rest. We soak in the juice of the practice like marinating portabella mushrooms. And we become all the better for it. We become. Like magic.