Discovering The Courage To Be You
How many times do you hold back expressing what you know to be true?
Do you find yourself consciously adapting yourself in order to fit in?
Do you have a fear that if the real you were revealed then people wouldn’t accept it?
Most of us at some time could answer “yes” to these questions. From a very early age we learn that certain behaviours get us approval or disapproval from those important to us, particularly our parents.
As children we want to receive love, and we develop strategies to get it from those in our lives. We do things to please them and bring them closer, or perhaps we become invisible to escape their anger and violence.
Pretty much everyone carries this pattern through their childhood and into adult life. We behave differently depending on the situation and who is around.
A lot of this behaviour is based on a lie – I am not lovable, exactly as I am.
So where does yoga come into all of this?
Yoga isn’t about being flexible, and being able to touch your toes. It’s not even about being healthy in your body. Those are wonderful benefits we get along the way.
The true goal of yoga is to dissolve the identification with the “me” (the little self) and live consciously in the experience of Oneness with all that is. This has been given different names by different cultures – Enlightenment, Salvation, Samadhi, Satori. The name isn’t important, but the experience is.
So as we develop through yoga, the process is akin to a stripping-away. As we let go of every false idea of who we are we are the space those ideas occupied within us is filled with an experience our true nature, the main characteristic of which is Silence.
As this inner peace blossoms within us our mind becomes quieter, the contradictions and pressures to impress and to conform that have run the show begin to wither. We increasingly experience what the ancient yogis called Samtosha – Contentment.
Contentment is not a passive experience, it doesn’t mean sitting in a corner with saliva drooling from your mouth, idiot-smile fixed on your face. Not in my experience, anyway(!)
What I increasingly experience is that when I act within the world and when I interact with others then it comes not from a place of judgement, but from compassion and acceptance.
One of the things I struggled with for much of my adult life was the need to control others. I would subtly (and sometimes not very subtly) manipulate situations and conversations to get others to act in a way that I felt was beneficial to me. Of course, what I now see, was that this control of others was just a representation of how little I trusted myself, of how rigid my inner life was.
As I have grown to accept myself, exactly as I am (yes, complete with all of my faults), then that has been out-pictured as an acceptance of others, just as they are.
What has been interesting in this is that I have become much more honest. As I have am less bothered by what others think about me then I don’t hold back on saying or expressing what arises in the moment.
This can take different forms, from sharing my appreciation or regard for someone, to making choices about my lifestyle that may look different from what is expected (but are enlivening and inspiring to me).
If I had to sum this up then it would mean living life less carefully, not afraid to make “mistakes” and with more of a sense of aliveness – embracing and welcoming unpredictability and mystery into my life.
None of us were never meant to be a copy/paste of someone else – not of our fathers, our brothers, anyone. Our individual flavors are needed in the world, and our lives and those of everyone around us will be more magical as our uniqueness expresses itself.
A great Teacher once said, “The greatest gifts you can give others is the example of your own life working.” Think about it; who inspires you? It’s probably not the conformists, but those who do and say extraordinary things, those who are committed to their own truth, regardless of what others think of them. Those are the people who have inspired and changed the world. And all that is in them is in each one of us too.
It’s just a question of letting it come out. And that is where we are very fortunate to be the modern inheritors of the science of yoga. Through regular practice the false self can unravel – gently, easily, and permanently.
And what’s left? You are. The real you, the Divine you, the fearless you, the you that knows that it’s here to play, the one that doesn’t hold back.
That’s what yoga is about.