I have been practicing and teaching yoga, meditation and mindfulness for over twenty-five years. At first, I was open to trying an unconventional form of exercise. What I found was so much more.
Always a “sensitive” person, I didn’t have a solid strategy for managing my moods, the success or failure of my relationships or the vagaries of everyday life. I was either in a good frame of mind if things were going my way or in a negative mindset if my circumstances disappointed me. I had little concept of personal happiness or fulfillment. I figured that would come later, when I had everything I wanted.
What I found, in yoga, was a completely different experience of being me. Practicing yoga poses required concentration, leaving little room for the torrent of thoughts, emotions and feelings that paraded inside my head.
The process-oriented nature of yoga emphasizes non-judging. It is an invitation to turn toward self-acceptance, rather than self-admonishment or comparison. I had always been self-critical, often to the point where I was hesitant to try something new, lest my efforts fall short of perfection. Extending compassion toward myself felt new and radical.
In my early days of practicing yoga and meditation, I would look around the asana room at classmates striking poses that seemed totally unreachable. Yet, over time, through intention, effort and persistence I found myself achieving those same postures. I surprised myself: I had never before stuck with anything long enough to be challenged by it, to fail at trying it, and then, to hang in with it and succeed. I began to understand resilience, and its essential place in life.
With yoga there was no real reward, no external recognition, just the discovery that that I was capable of more than I thought, and that my own perspective of myself was not always true. I woke up to a new way of seeing and being in the world. I had arrived at my own door.
I didn’t know it then, but that was my introduction to awareness, to the quality of being present.
Todd Felker © 2014