The Way it Is
by William Stafford
There’s a thread you follow.
It goes among things that change.
But it doesn’t change.
People wonder about what you are pursuing.
You have to explain about the thread.
But it is hard for others to see.
While you hold it you can’t get lost.
Tragedies happen; people get hurt
or die; and you suffer and get old.
Nothing you do can stop time’s unfolding. Y
ou don’t ever let go of the thread.
I suppose it sounds a bit trite to say that I am grateful for my practice, given today is the day before Thanksgiving and expressions of gratitude are somewhat obligatory, but I do feel grateful for my relationship to practice. Keep in mind that for me, the notion of practice is not limited to asana but includes those actions in which I repeatedly engage in order to participate in the process of Self-remembering. From lifestyle choices to formal practices to the cultivation of bhav or mood, practice is multi-faceted.
Like any relationship, my relationship to practice has gone through many seasons-- from zeal to avoidance and back, from hope to disillusionment to acceptance, and from externally-referenced to internally-oriented. What I feel most grateful for today is that I have stayed connected to the thread of practice during the various seasonal cycles.
Staying connected to the thread of practice might mean being honest about the fact I am avoiding a life pointed toward consciousness. Staying connected often looks like doing some small thing in the face of seeming futility. Staying connected often means facing boredom, difficulty, and resistance in its many forms. And, of course, there are seasons when my commitment is renewed, when I can savor the sweetness of the fruits of my efforts and I want for myself those things that my practice requires and offers.
In a recent business meeting, I was talking about why I call my programs Live the Light of Yoga and how the name has evolved for me over time. I am no longer interested in living the prescriptions of yoga, in being defined by any one asana style, a set of dietary protocols, a style of meditation, or by notions of what real yoga is or isn’t. Don’t get me wrong, this level of practice is important, but to me, the do’s and don’ts of practice are not an end in and of themselves, but are in service to the awakening of the Light within so that I can truly live the Light.
So, I have landed this consideration smack in the middle of the great paradox of yoga practice— I can’t realize the fruits of practice without the practice and yet, the practice is not the only point. And yet, practice is the thread upon which so much hangs. Personally, I am in a season of finding my various practices enjoyable and enlivening. I feel a congruence with myself as I sit in the mornings for meditation, chant the sadguru arati, and do my simple puja ceremonies. I am enjoying time with my journal, time with my mat and the way these practices give me time with myself. Teaching, too, as many of you know, is another practice and when engaged in a certain way, offers a tremendous transformational pathway.
I am grateful I held onto the thread of practice during the darker times so that I am still in place now that the Light shines more fully. There is no easy formula for it other than to do some small thing, even if that small thing is simply telling the truth that you aren’t doing much of anything. And, as times has passed, one thing I have learned is that while a certain amount of force may be useful at times, that approach is not sustainable over time. I simply can not force myself into something— be that something a pose, a protocol or a perspective— that is not authentic without experiencing some kind of backlash. At some point, I stopped using practice to work on myself and started using it to work with myself. As obvious as it sounds, the pathway toward Love works best when it is, well, loving.
So, that’s what I have today. I know holidays can be a mixed bag for folks for various reasons so I wish for you your own love in the midst of whatever they are for you. I wish for each of us that we hold on to the thread of Love and that we keep practicing in whatever way we can.
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"There is a light that shines beyond all things on Earth, beyond us all, beyond the heaven, beyond the highest, the very highest heavens. This is the light that shines in our heart."