These days, I’ve noticed myself turning into an introvert. Anyone who has known me for any length of time would be surprised by this. I have always been exceptionally extroverted. I have always found energy in people and crowds and events. For most of my life, too much alone time would leave me feeling drained and even slightly depressed. But these days even a simple dinner party takes me a few days to recover from. It’s quite strange and feels foreign. And I’m not sure how to understand it.
What I do know is that I’m in a different place in my life than I’ve ever been. I’m settled—in all sorts of ways. Before I made my recent cross-country-move-back-to-my-home-state, I thought this feeling of settledness would be scary, would feel like being trapped or stuck, but it’s turned out to be surprisingly calming. I’m happy to be “in my place.”
My twenties were hard, filled with harbored hurts of childhood and a searching for healing in all the not quite right places. My thirties (which are slowly nearing an end) have been hard too, but in a totally different and good way. I searched for healing in better places. And in many ways I found it. I became a minister. I became a yoga teacher. I opened a yoga studio. I fell in love with my students. I deepened my study and practice and teaching. I gave every last part of me to it.
And now I’m here—happy, no longer desperately searching and in the part of the world I hope to make my home. And I’m blessed with enough time and space to fill myself back up. Maybe I’ve become introverted because I’m tired. Or maybe it’s just because I’m getting older. Or maybe it’s for no particular reason at all. It’s simply what is.
I’ve been putting my new found introverted energy toward the deepening of my yoga practice. And I have discovered some remarkable things. I can often take a scholarly approach to my practice. I study and study and study. I like to take a small point and dive deeply into it, trying to understand it all the way back to the beginning. I want to know the root of the word. I want to know the history of things. I want to see ideas from the perspective of different traditions. But lately, I have been gifted with a few experiences in my practice that have brought my study to life—experiences that lift ideas off the page and open up my heart.
These types of experiences are a gift, but they can also be scary. They open up the world of yoga and show the breadth and depth of what’s possible through practice. I feel more connected to my practice than I ever have. Yet I also feel a sense of resistance building within me. Yoga practice changes us. I know this, of course. I teach this! And I have felt the truth of it in my own life. But I have the feeling that I’m being called to a different level of change in my practice right now. I don’t know what it is. And I know the only way to find out is to keep on practicing. But I have to humbly admit that this lack of control, this not knowing what will be asked of me, has me putting up walls of resistance. I can feel myself building roadblocks even as I’m simultaneously filled with gratitude for the profound experiences I’ve had in the past month.
Yoga Sutra 1:30 reads:
So what do I do? I want to go deeper, but I’m apprehensive. And I have found my nervousness being acted out through avoidance. On the one hand, I’m practicing more than I ever have. I get up early and practice for 2-3 hours (integrated practice including textual study), but I have slipped into the habit of practicing only on weekdays. I seem to have turned it into a job! And I’m letting myself slide while traveling or while I have company or when I’m recovering from an extrovert style calendar of social engagements. I can see myself willingly falling into the obstacles that Patanjali teaches us about. And, of course, freeing ourselves from them has a cyclical problem. In order to build and maintain the discipline to practice, we need energy. In order to build energy, we have to practice.
So where does the motivation—the kind that cuts through fear and resistance—come from?
I don’t yet have the full answer. As I search for it, I’m taking Sutra 1.14 as my prayer and mantra:
I have the practice. I have the time. I have the devotion. I just need the courage to let go of the breaks. For my heart, when I step out of the fear and the clinging to control, craves the foundation within which my soul can firmly rest.
Have you ever built roadblocks in your practice? How did/do you deal with them?
These pictures are from a recent foggy day on Bellingham Bay.
The Sutra translations are from Swami Hariharananda.