No Mat Real Life Yoga Through Family Relationships

Holidays and clearing out things is sometimes like opening up a Pandora’s box of memories–good and bad. We dare not open and look inside the box.

We want to hold on to the “good” and avoid the “bad” but the negative has a way of clinging like a limpet in the mind and growing well beyond its origin. It occupies so much space and consumes so much energy in some minds that like a patch of soil, filled with overgrown weeds, there is no room for anything else to germinate and bloom.

Yoga is psychotherapy. Yoga is not a limited mat practice of bending, twisting, flipping. The real practice is life with all its relationships and circumstances.

In the last post, I mentioned avoiding difficult relatives where possible. This is not necessarily running away. We don’t have to deliberately walk into every storm or raging fire. There is nothing wrong in self-preservation, giving yourself and others time out from mutually destructive emotional cycles. Yoga does not mean letting others walk all over you and take advantage of you. We can deal with the situation objectively, firmly, dispassionately, without being consumed by it. To help move back to the stillness that lies right within us, try Calming the Storm and the breathing practice of bhramari.

There are some relationships that will not be resolved by avoidance. They will fester and provide no peace until they are seen clearly, objectively, with some compassion, forgiveness, and humility. This does not have to excuse the wrongs done, but holding on to them does not create a more positive path forward either. By forgiving ourselves as well as others, we are able to free ourselves from the torment of the troubling past and move on.

Often, children continue to hold the hurt, anger, resentment against parents and relatives long gone. So it is no longer the physical presence of the person that hurts but the thoughts in our own mind. The source is the thoughts, our own thoughts that are hurtful and cause suffering–and not that person. The person is just the trigger. It is our own reactions that we nurture and feed with constant attention, illusions, and additions that are hurtful to us. We energize, feed, and grow them.

Yoga and many other styles of meditations require paying attention to our minds–not avoiding the painful and not seeking the pleasant. We watch objectively without labels, and watch the labels (if they appear) without judgment.

This means developing the attitude of a witness (sakshi) and watching with detachment (vairagya). The process leads to an understanding of human suffering and compassion for all beings (karuna), even those who hurt us (Forgive them Lord as know not what they doeth). We don’t hold our young children’s sometimes hurtful behavior against them; we know they are kids and don’t always know what they are doing. We continue to love them! Most of us are very young and immature spiritually.

The detachment of vairagya is also close to non-acquistion/non-possessiveness (aparigraha). Nothing is “mine.” The two help reduce or stop the cycle of desire, aversion, attraction, and that constant production of karma. Equanimity is stopping that cycle or vortex.

Learning this is tough and the only way is to live life with awareness. Life and its pleasant and unpleasant relationships, and varying circumstances, is the learning ground of yoga. We make mistakes constantly and hopefully learn by keeping the ego in check. The equanimity we experience is the sign of progress in yoga. It is so much easier to see the wrong in others and so much harder to see it in ourselves.

Confronted with a tough parent, sibling, child, in-law, we keep the wisdom and teaching of yoga philosophy in our awareness and make an effort to implement it. We do it to seek our own peace.

I do recommend this moving article (A Caregiver’s Guide to Compassion in Yoga International) of a daughter coming to terms with her father after many years. Most of us who have come to yoga will be able to relate to it; most of us have arrived where we are to heal ourselves. Our hurts have been the blessings to peace.

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