In his book Meditations on Intention and Being, Rolf Gates writes, “We start out thinking the peace that yoga has to offer is special and only found after years of arduous practice. It is and it isn’t. I have found far more peace than I thought was possible by applying the principles and practices of yoga consistently over the course of decades, but that peace was always there.”
Gates is speaking to a fundamental concept in yoga – yoga is a methodology in discovering and rediscovering goodness, compassion, peace… always there, that just is. These extraordinary experiences may sometimes be buried under conditioning and habits, hibernating in dormant form, or feeling silenced by the voices of others. From a yogic perspective though, these qualities are present whether circumstances, or our yoga practices, are extraordinary or not.
Some of us were talking in the back offices of 8 Limbs this past week about how, well, things are gettin’ kinda freaky out there. People want more peace, in the world and within themselves, and are frequently experiencing everything but. For some folks a wash of fatigue takes over. For some yogis the discomfort fuels a drive to bring extra-ordinary force to asana practices – if our on-the-mat practices can just be strong enough, focused enough, in-the-flow enough… we might just get a taste of that peace we’re so thirsty to feel.
Bringing full presence and attention to formal yoga practice is a beautiful thing. And this is not the same thing as forcing more rigor, concentration or pristine conditions than are organically present. And, none of this, it turns out, squelches moments (or micro-moments) of peace, goodness and compassion there to be felt, even if just briefly.
Rolf Gates goes on to say, “We think peace is found in the extraordinary – and it can be, only because it is already there in the ordinary. The extra—ordinary, the peak moments, just bring a sharpened focus to what was there when we were doing nothing special.”
What are some of these ordinary, nothing-special moments? Tuning into ambient noises, pleasant or unpleasant, as we settle onto our mats to help us arrive fully into real-time. Taking time to acknowledge the person setting up a mat next to us, introducing ourselves with presence. Sensing into where we do feel ease and peace, even if only in the tip of a pinky toe. Making eye contact with someone after class, and then thanking them for practicing with us. These sort of regular opportunities, taken up over time, do tend to reveal genuine experiences of peace as Gates says, even if fleeting. When we begin racking up spontaneous gifts born out of the ordinary, we also begin making way for a few other extraordinary sensations – tastes of inner enoughness and confidence in shared humanity – also conducive to feeling peace.
What are some ordinary practices you include in your full yoga practice? What simple acts help you abide with peace? Please feel free to share with me at firstname.lastname@example.org.