The other night I was doing the dishes and my youngest son came into the kitchen bouncing a ball. Without looking up he asked me, “how long are our lives?” My impulse was to say, “a very long time.” Instead, I said, “Nobody really knows how long their lives are.”
He continued ball bouncing and seemed un-phased.
I tried to imagine from his perspective what “not knowing” feels like.
We wake up every day not knowing so much. Not knowing the big things like whether we will be alive tomorrow, or lose our jobs or our spouses or God forbid our children. Every day we learn about an unexpected loss or shift in a person’s life. We don’t know what life will bring no matter how much we plan and organize ourselves around what we think we want. Our expectations of what we think will happen so often fall short of the reality of what does actually happen.
It’s no wonder we savor and cling to our practices: to have something that provides us with tools to feel safe amidst a world that can be so uncertain.
What can we know?
We can know our bodies. We can know that our feet are touching the ground. We can know our senses. We can know when we are present. We can know when we need support or guidance or a hug or space. We can know how to ask for what we need. And we can know how to listen better.
No matter our preferences of poses or places or people and no matter our differences, we are bound by the mysteries of the lives we share. Remembering that, wouldn’t it be wondrous if the one thing we could know is that we could depend upon each others’ kindness at all times and in every time?
Once upon a time my love teacher and I traveled to Mexico to spend some days living in a thatched hut, swimming in the sea, and soaking up some sun. We lived in a community of yogis who dressed mainly in loose shawls, which they dropped to the sand when they wanted to swim, entering the sea naked.
I’m going to stop asking the question most often asked of yogis after an asana class: “How was class?”
I’ve asked this question hundreds of times to hundreds of yogis, because it seems harmless enough a question to ask. We might even think of it as a caring question. We want you to be happy, we want you to have a good class, we want to find inspiring classes ourselves, so… how was class?
Many of the best-known writers on non-attachment are men—such as Anthony de Mello, who explains how attachment destroys love in his little book, “The Way to Love,” and Eckhart Tolle, who distinguishes love from “normal addictive relationships” in his passage, “Real Love Doesn’t Make You Suffer.”
I’ve shared these challenging teachings with fellow yogis, and some have pointed out the gender of the writers.
It’s one thing for a man to be non-attached, they’ve told me, but it’s another thing for a woman—because women create beings in their bodies and send them out into the world.
People who’ve known me for decades will occasionally say, “You’ve really gotten into yoga.” That sounds so funny to me. To me it sounds like, “You’ve gotten really into being” or “You’ve gotten really human.” What you get into when you get into yoga has always already been there. Yoga is just a clearing of obstacles, obstructions, obfuscations, a vacuuming of the dust bunnies that have been suffocating the you that was always you. You’ll recognize the you that you become when you get into yoga. Oh yeah, there I am. I remember me. It’s the you that was born. Get into being, get into being human, get into being unobstructed.