Wed Dec 27th, 2017 NYC
EXPERIENCE: Use Your Will!
I see that feeling comfortable is what my mind believes to be a primary source of happiness for me.
There was a time in asana class when I was told that I should do a headstand. I had been practicing asana with the Mission since 1996, and many of my fellow practitioners had practiced the headstand already, but to confess, I had been trying to avoid it. I was comfortable with my asana practice and felt fine. I was around 58 years old at the time and my body was not slim. I should stand upside down on my head? I didn’t believe I could even begin the pose.
I noticed that when new asana would be introduced to other students, even though they did not know the pose, they would take on the challenge willingly without complaints or resistance. I probably should have been inspired and followed their example but I did not have faith. I was afraid that I would look bad or fail, and so I masked my fear with anger. I did not trust the teacher of the class, nor did I trust myself. Thank heavens though that she knew me well and paid my behavior no mind, saying unyieldingly – “You have a strong body, so physically you can do it. USE YOUR WILL Kamalakshi! USE YOUR WILL!” For a few weeks I would cup my hands and just put my head between my hands. The teacher kept saying this phrase to me in different forms class after class.
Time went by and then one day I saw her standing in front of me and in my mind’s eye I saw Swami Vivikenanda’s face. I had been reading Raja Yoga around the time so when she said the word “WILL,” I remembered reading somewhere in his writing that one quality a disciple must develop is “great power of endurance.” And I also remember him saying that we should tell ourselves – “Go forth, be bold, you are strong!” and so with that I lifted my legs off the floor just a little. Needless to say, we worked on that headstand pose, lifting bit by bit, each and every class. Sometimes I practiced only that pose, again and again, throughout the entire hour and a half asana portion of the class. At times the mind would whimper and I fell many times over and over again. But I got used to falling, and I kept focusing on the breath. I moved from one stage of the pose to the next, and then one day, my legs went straight up into the air, and I held the pose. I couldn’t believe it! I felt my spirit soar. That was about six months later.
Being comfortable does not equal growth. Sometimes comfort is when one actually just holds tightly to limiting beliefs. I believed that my age, weight and maybe past ideas set the parameters of what I could and could not achieve. The mind can build barriers and we must consistently try to break them down. From this experience, I came to understand that even when I don’t think I can achieve something, I should at least try. Now I apply this when asked to perform an unfamiliar task, whether it is for the Mission, or in other circumstances. I try to remind myself that there is a reason I have been given the opportunity to learn some new thing that might be outside of my comfort zone. The truth is that I don’t always know what is possible or what may come as a result. The mind in its struggle and fight to resist must be tamed. It is important to hold on and pull the reins until the mind becomes quiet. For me, in these moments when I doubt myself, I bring to mind the words of the Holy Ones, just like when I brought to mind the words of Vivekananda that day. I find that these words of Truth offer the inspiration and strength to overcome my fear, to overcome my complaint of momentary discomfort or dislike and to steady my mind and heart. Then I am more able to simply gather the mind and just begin.