In ((Yoga)), you do not move your body. You move into your body. What’s the difference? To say, “it’s the difference between night and day” will not suffice. But what holds a starker contrast than night and day, you ask? Black and White? Up and Down? Imagine that all those paired opposites are married. “Don’t think negatively! Think Positively!” Still married.
Think of it this way. There is a part of you “choosing” all day long what to do or not do. “I choose to have a smoothie this morning.” “I’m going to take a different route to work today.” “I’m choosing to do the dishes.” We’re “choosing” all the time. But that choice between “right and left” is not the level of choice I’m talking about.
There is another level of choice that is much deeper and much more indicative of a human being exercising free will. This is the choice to be. The choice to stop. The choice to feel. The choice to remember. It’s the difference between ((Being)) and /doing/. I sometimes call this kind of /doing/… /auto pilot/ (marked with single brackets to indicate the more machine like, black and white, either/or logic we are used to). Because in a huge way it is a kind of predetermined mode of living where one goes through the motions but yet is not fully present.
We all have had the experience of saying or hearing, upon the standard /auto pilot/ greeting, “how are you”, and responding with countless variations of “eh, hanging in there”…”Just another day, ya know!”…or the all too familiar /auto pilot/ utterance of the the answer “good, how are you” which rings of a kind of mechanical call and response. The evidence is glaring, we go through our days able to go through the motions but without the authenticity factor that is characteristic of a Human… Being.
But we all carry on with it because it is safe. Familiar. No one seems to mind… so… “whatever.” Then maybe… just maybe… in a brush with death or some other earth shattering even that forces one out of /auto pilot/ we stop and think, “man I shoulda _____.” Fill in the blank… but I bet it feels more authentic!
Stated plainly and starkly, we’re /alive/ but not ((Living)). We know this. There are certainly times in which we all grant ourselves permission to be present fully but as part of our /auto pilot/ programming it always requires some external circumstance in order for us to give ourselves the green light to be ((Present)) the way we are meant to be always. Like say it’s surfing a giant wave for you. Or maybe it’s the act of making passionate Love with someone. Or maybe it’s happy hour. Or maybe it’s the Game. Or maybe it’s being with your child. What are the circumstances which you give permission to give you permission to Be?
The choice is not on the level of, “what am I going to order off the menu for lunch today.” Cause in a way, your choice is already predetermined by the laws of cause and effect and you are not actually exercising your free will. The ((Real Choice)) is on the level of “/auto pilot/ on or off.” Call a spade a spade… the normal default mode of life across the board is /auto pilot on/! Just face it! Then you can start exercising your free will to turn it off. How?
When you start to notice how your life is basically one knee jerk reaction after another based on the deep conditioning we all endured growing up in our given culture, you begin to gain the awesome power of observation. In order to observe oneself, one must be present… one must stop… one must have the courage to witness instead of react. This is the practice of yoga… on or off the mat.
I call this process of strengthening your abilities of sustained Presence, “Opting out.” Every time you notice the knee jerk reaction (and at first, it’s non stop) you begin to exercise the choice to participate (again) in giving your life force energy to this mechanism of the mind which has control of your body, OR, quite simply… ((Not))… It’s the ((Not)) choice that is the “opting out” of being choiceless, which is /auto pilot/ (double brackets mark a higher kind of ((doing)) which is born of ((Presence)). In other words ((Not)) /doing/ is ((Doing)). And that is the formula of ((Rehab)) for the masses. It's like kicking the mother of all addictions. It’s like going on strike. And I hope you can already sense the power of ((opting out)).
Everyone is looking for enlightenment like it’s a bunch of bells and whistles and fireworks and a ticker tape parade… (and the ability to levitate of course) Meanwhile, it is the ever deepening, humble and quiet process of giving up the addiction and it has no need to call attention to itself. The “reward” of opting out is the enLIGHTenment that is our natural and peaceful state of being which has only been corrupted and eclipsed by /auto pilot/. Don’t let the /idea/ of what yoga or enlightenment are supposed to bring you block you from what it really is… Your True Natural State.
This is the first picture that pops up when you Google "enlightenment"... I rest my case.
So why is doing yoga the number one cause of yoga injury? Because to /do yoga/ in
/auto pilot/ is the same practice that has already objectified the self and body. And just because it looks like yoga (aka asanas etc.) doesn’t mean it is! The way we talk about the body and
/instruct/ the /body/ to /move/ into an /asana/ is the problem. We are using an artificial technology of mind to address the most ((Real Thing)) in our lives… our ((Bodies)).
There’s the /body/, which is a construct of all the things we’ve been told about the body, the issues we inherited from our parents, ancestors, and culture, and the piecemeal, dissected anatomical medium that our schools and medicine have used to /talk about/ the body. And then there’s the ((Body))! This is the ((Actual Body))… the ((Real Thing)). The Body that we have not even begun to truly understand because our normal modes of understanding themselves deny us true access to our ((Bodies)).
And we use this same old tired technology of mind to move ourselves through /yoga/ practice. We may gain strength and flexibility but we never gain ((Access). Therefore, we are painfully impeded and prone to injury. We are still /objectifying/ the ((body)). And it’s the same thing that’s killing us. So it’s not ((Yoga)) until we face this. And it is not ((Life)) until we face this.
When we are moving through our yoga postures (in whatever sequence and whatever level), just as when we are moving through life, we can haul this piecemeal version of ourselves from pose to pose (appointment to appointment), which is the heart of all the undue stress and strain that leads to aging and disease, or we can continuously ((Encounter)) the moment which by its very nature happens to be continuously dismantling the very structure of the /auto pilot/ self that plagues our ((Real Self))… that is, if we can be brave enough to ((Opt Out)).
Most people don’t realize that when we even utter the word “body” we are instantaneously imposing an /artificial mental construction of the body/ which is by its very nature an imPOSEition on the ((Real Body)). So when we are in a /yoga pose/ which is automatically transmitted by the instructor using the same piecemeal technology of describing the /pose/ as the sum of its /parts/ in sequential, compartmentalized, broken, and therefore un-((Yogic)) fashion… How the hell are we NOT going endure a brutal journey… or get a /yoga/ injury?!
So what does opting out ((Look Like)) in ((Real Yoga))? Simple. Just as I opened up with “…you do not move your body. You move into your body…” the difference is ((beyond))
/night/ and /day/! The difference is /body/ and ((Body))… /yoga/ and ((Yoga))… /posture/ and ((Posture))… /life/ and ((Life)). Hopefully by now you are beginning to sense the distinction.
One way I often open up this kind of space in class is to remind everyone that we are not trying to /do something/ to our /bodies/, which yields the tug-and-push, stretch-the-rubberband,
/get flexible/ experience that deters so many from coming back and injuring many that stay. Rather, we are ((Feeling)) our ((Bodies)). Which is an act of ((Presence)). The ego can’t feel. The ((Being)) feels. Only the ((Being)) has access to the ((Human Being Body)). Real Yoga is a continuous opting out of the familiar practices of /self objectification/ that we may gain ((True Access)) INTO our ((Body)). ((Feeling)) is the gateway. And suddenly, everything makes sense.
In any given moment you are prioritizing and delegating your attention (aka life-force energy) based on your prioritization structure. So if you place something like “getting flexible” at the top of your priorities your whole experience of yoga and body organize differently than when you place ((Feeling)) at the top of your priorities. When you do this, it stops feeling like you are hauling yourself to or through yoga practice. You stop /moving/ your /body/ and begin to ((Feel Into)) your ((Body))! Discovering a body you didn’t even know was waiting for you!
Once you make this shift, EVERYTHING CHANGES!!!! I can’t emphasize that enough! Just as one example, I have discovered that prioritizing ((Feeling)) the ((Body)) over the popularized /getting flexible/ lends itself to slowing down… If even just a little. Try it… you can’t slow down without having to become more present and feeling more. Furthermore, it’s much easier to catch the insensitive /auto pilot/ tendencies before they kick in… and then ((Opt Out)).
It is this simple practice that turns the ossified and hardened body (which, in a way, has become so in mere self-defense against the brutal, mechanical, insensitive /auto-pilot/) into the ((Warm)) ((Receptive)) ((Sentient)) ((Intelligent)) ((Power House)) of ((Healing)) that ((She/He)) is meant to ((Be))! That’s ((Yoga)). And that’s ((Life)). Remember it’s not just something we do on the mat. But in every moment of our lives. How many things or people do you objectify (including and especially yourself) as you move through the world?
It’s the simplest thing in the whole world. The challenge is in remembering. As you begin to improve in “catching” the /auto pilot/ tendencies before they “grab the wheel” you ((Open Up)) the space to ((Real Yoga)) where one gains ((Access)) to the ((Body)) and the ((Healing Begins)). The choice is not, “should I do Hot Yoga or Kundalini today?” It’s also not, “should I do a yin class or a vinyasa class?” Whatever class you /choose/… even if you choose no class at all… ((Choose Yoga)).