Why yoga: Fear of, or Longing For, Oneness

I’m going to try a new blog thing: I’m going to write articles every once in a while that address “why yoga?” I’ve had the idea for some time now (and I have a few drafts waiting to be finished), but I wanted to send this one out already, even if it might not be the most introductory… Oh well. It stems from my previous post regarding globalization and individuality.

One of the reasons I do yoga is because of the new truths that it introduces me to. I have learned so much about myself and the world around me because of my practice. I have also learned about other lessons… like, I’ve learned about states of deep concentration and meditation – but, let’s be honest, I haven’t actually attained them yet.

I’ve learned about the potential reality that we are all connected; we are all part of a Divine Source of Energy; etc… Sometimes it’s a cool concept, and I feel like I can see it through a microscope in myself. And sometimes it scares the poop out of me!! Anyway, here we go:

In another post I wrote: “Every moment is unrepeatable and impermanent. Objects, people, and moments in time possiblymaybe can be perfectly replicated – but the experience will always be a new one.”

Sometimes this sentiment helps us to relax and chill out about things; but taken on a bigger scale, it can be quite terrifying. We humans really REALLY want to just HOLD ON to things! But as Stephen Cope explains it, there is “suffering inherent in wanting to possess people, places, and things;..[while there is] true delight in simply knowing these objects…” (The Wisdom of Yoga, p. 260).

Our immediate human nature believes that if we possess things, we will be happy – we want to possess our unique landmarks, our Cathedrals of Junk, our individuality, our uniqueness… It seems to me that the ultimate finding of yoga is that we cannot possess these things.

The fact that we cannot actually possess anything is why we are able to have individual experiences, though! Because, as Octavio Paz so eloquently put it once,

That is the paradox of our condition…Our experiences are not historical, but we are. Each of us is unique but the experiences of death or love are universal and repeated.

Indeed, what a paradox! Just like every time I get onto my yoga mat, or every time I stand up to teach a class, or every time I send a new job application… It is doing the same thing repeatedly – and yet, it is different. I have different emotions, I see reality differently, I have new students, I am more or less nervous…

As Cope discussed in his quote above, we can delight in “knowing” objects – but doesn’t this mean that we “know” things by finally realizing our oneness with them? And isn’t oneness often discussed as the ultimate truth and/or a goal of enlightenment?

Ultimately, there may be *no* uniqueness, individuality, separation. Sometimes that sounds appealing to me; most of the time, it sounds terrifying!

2014-03-16 16.21.56OMG!! I cant handle it!!

The only way that I am able to deal with this fear is by reminding myself that just because “no individuality” may be the truth doesn’t mean that I have to immediately start believing it. In fact, the practice of yoga is a practice to prepare me for reality. I don’t have to start acting as if everything is already okay all the time. I don’t have to start acting as if we are all one all the time. The individual self is not something to be despised and disregarded. I don’t have to start acting as if I’m not afraid of death, or of losing my “Self,” or any of that. In fact, I don’t even have to accept that that is the ultimate outcome! It might be. But it might not. Practicing yoga not only teaches me truths about reality, but it also helps me become capable of handling them. Thank goodness, right?


Photo by Maggie, taken at Asian Art Museum, San Francisco, CA

 

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