enlightenment (or something like it?)

Posted by on Jan 8, 2013 in Blog | Comments Off on enlightenment (or something like it?)

enlightenment (or something like it?)

The other night I watched the yoga documentary called Enlighten Up!  It’s a film that follows a New York City journalist as he commits to a 6 month-long yoga experiment.  For half a year, he practices yoga regularly, tries out different styles, reads about the philosophy, speaks with yoga luminaries, and travels to India.  He is particularly interested in finding a link between the asana practice and experiences of enlightenment or elevated consciousness.  At the end of the film, when his trial period is over, he is asked if he has felt any shifts or transformations.  He replies that he doesn’t feel transformed.  Then he pauses, and says that he has noticed that it is as if he now has a second opinion on his thoughts, one that is more compassionate and sees things more objectively.  It was also interesting that, despite not feeling transformed, he quits his job and leaves New York City, moves to Colorado where he could be closer to his mother (someone he had an awakened yearning for during the process), and begins making documentaries about his passion, rock climbing.  Yoga may not have granted him spontaneous enlightenment, but it did elevate his consciousness.  He develops an ability to see his own thoughts for what they really are, and he makes an insightful shift to align more closely with his authentic values.

I recognized myself instantly in his story.  It wasn’t until I developed a regular yoga practice, when I was immersed in the teacher training program, that I started to notice a shift.  I had been working for a few years as a high school teacher, and to the outside world it may have seemed like a reasonable fit for me.  On the inside, however, I felt stuck, suffocated even.  Only a few years into the job I started looking at the great benefits and pension as the only reason to stay in it for the next 25 years.  My daily existence was negative and stressful.  I had glimmers of satisfaction when I felt connected with people, when I would have meaningful conversations with students, when I would see lightbulbs of inspiration go off in their eyes, or when I felt a sense of community with other teachers.  But everything else was a slog.  And I could have stayed there until retirement if yoga hadn’t happened.

There was something kind of otherworldly that came from practicing daily, from eating nutritious food, from spending every morning in meditation.  I started to notice a difference in my way of thinking about everything.  I was becoming more positive, so much so that it became a kind of joke among other students in my training program.  I felt such a full heart, I mean I literally felt like I was bursting, that I could see with clarity the contrast to my daily life back home.  And it wasn’t just the recognition that I was going to have to do something about my path, I suddenly had the feeling that the status quo was no longer even an option.  I emailed my employers from the rainforest of Costa Rica and told them I wouldn’t be coming back, and rather than feeling panic (a typical thing for me) I felt completely at ease that I was now, finally, on the right track.

Much like the journalist “seeker”, I also noticed the second opinion voice developing in my head.  I would feel an emotional reaction growing inside of me, and rather than simply letting it erupt, I would start to hear a commentary.  I would have a moment to think about my reaction and decide how I was going to move forward.  This isn’t to say that I no longer acted out in anger… sometimes I would hear that second opinion and promptly push it away because my desire to hear myself yell and carry on was too tempting.  But sometimes I would make a more compassionate choice and take a deep breath and allow it to pass.  Passing on the drama was becoming a more common choice.

I really saw the power of this “second opinion” when my husband and I were contemplating a move from our small Northern Ontario town to Toronto.  Our son was a year old and we had been talking about raising him with more opportunities, we had been talking a lot about my husband’s dissatisfaction with work.  When moving was officially put on the table my first reaction was to say no way, to cling to things that were comfortable and familiar and close the book on this conversation.  Instead I found myself pausing, actually considering the possibility.  Then a thought popped into my head: “my happiness is not determined by where I live.  If we can be happy here, we can be happy anywhere.”  I trusted this feeling; it felt more true than the fear, the clinging.  We sold our house, bought a new one, and shifted our lives to the city.  My husband’s job is now more calm and organized, and he is more satisfied living in the plentitude of the city.  My son is now surrounded in children, in activity and opportunity in every direction.  My ability to shut off my instinctive fears and turn towards possibility with the trust in good things was because of my yoga.

I don’t feel enlightened, I’m not even really entirely sure of what that means, but there is no doubt that I am transformed.  The physical practice, the dedication to the movement and the breath, makes room for something more.  It just does.  Whether you’re looking for it to happen or not, there’s a space created for good things to move in.  I don’t understand the how or why, but if you commit to a regular yoga practice you do become more compassionate, more aware, more prepared to move away from the parts of yourself you know deep down are inauthentic.  I’m acutely aware (and a bit self-conscious) of how new agey this may sound, but that doesn’t make it untrue.  Transformation is profound. Yoga is profound.  First there is a curiosity, then there’s the consideration of the possibility that your life could be better, maybe even a realization that too much time has passed living your life according to some external measure of “should”.  Next is a fading of the fear that holds you in the wrong place.

And then?


All content by Lisa Veronese. Please do not publish or copy my material without my consent.